Earlier this year, we wrote about the high cost of staff turnover and the importance of staff retention. Now, as an increasing number of people return to work after a prolonged time away from the office, employers are facing a new challenge – how to re-build workplace confidence and ensure that, once again, it’s a great place to work.
As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, feeling safe and cared for has overtaken much of what we would term ‘perks of the job’ such as gym memberships or Pizza Friday.
Pre-covid, company culture would most likely involve activities that lighten the spirits of employees. This includes social activities after work, or long weekends, and early finishing. All notable parts of the employment package but, of course, for many members of staff, especially those working from home, this has been their experience for the past 12 months.
The problem with trying to define company culture is it means different things to different people. A positive shared culture can lead to lower staff turnover, less absenteeism, and a higher calibre of recruitment – all vital ingredients of a return to ‘normal ‘working.
It’s probably best described as the personality of the business. This, of course, depends on the type of organisation, e.g. fast paced and dynamic (sales and marketing) or more methodical and static (professional services).
It will also include company policies and procedures, and the organisation’s management style, as well as the way employees feel about working for the company, along with their responsibilities.
It’s this shared ethos that determines whether current and potential staff feel they are a good fit and, of course, vice versa. We are aware that a high percentage (over 40%) of job seekers would not apply to organisations that did not possess their shared values.
We also know that staff who currently work for an organisation that has a company culture that aligns with their own beliefs and mind-set will work harder and stay with the company for longer. On the other hand, conflicts with their personal feelings will reflect on their work performance or result in them leaving.
Company culture is, therefore, high on the list of considerations for new job seekers. But as we said before, building the right employment package based on a single culture style is no longer a guarantee of high calibre recruitment.
Employers need to fully understand what makes their business a great place to work and of course, as we say, it will be different things to different people. For those that have been working from home over the past 12 months, a priority could be the office working environment. We’re not suggesting replicating their home layout in the office, but it is certainly worth discussing if there is anything that can be done to improve their respective workplace. We do, after all, spend almost a third of our life at work!
It could be simple things like more comfortable office furniture, a personalisation of the work desk and a selection of greenery to bring the outside in. Other considerations could be transparent windows that open, rather than relying on air conditioning, to create a brighter and less intimidating environment, as well as a comfortable and acceptable (to other colleagues) temperature etc.
Over the past few years, we have seen significant changes to the office environment. From closed doors and narrow corridors to open plan workplaces able to adapt to the needs of the business, something where employees can influence the layout.
Of course, despite further lockdown easing, there is still a great deal of uncertainty and concern regarding practices such as hot desking or shared kitchen facilities, but this will become clearer as time goes on.
There is no doubt, that the values of a company culture are driven from the top down. Also, the one thing that has become clear over the past 12 months is the fact that the word ‘care’ keeps recurring when we asked recruits what makes a company a great place to work.
Even before the pandemic, LinkedIn reported that 66% of job seekers consider the culture of the prospective hirer to be a major consideration when looking for employment. It was also reported that businesses who actively manage their company culture achieve 40% higher staff retention.
This means that having a transparent company culture that goes beyond a basic job description, as not only does it help to attract high calibre talent, but also goes a long way to retaining the staff you have already.
If any of your staff have been furloughed or working from home, they will have become used to flexible working practices. Therefore, flexibility becomes a valuable component of the ‘culture of care’.
The one thing that returning staff will have appreciated whilst remote working, is being able to manage their own work-life balance. This could be flexible working hours, juggling childcare duties, or avoiding peak hours if travelling.
Reflecting on this, the one key influence of the pandemic is that working hours don’t have to be the traditional 9-5 if the style of employment can accommodate these changes. With the advancement in technology, it could even include hybrid working with a mix of office and remote working that suits both the employee and employer.
A great place to work is, therefore, a place that puts the individual staff member at the heart of the business. This includes a recognition that an emphasis on competitive performance might now be undervalued by employees, and rewards based on a team spirit might be more appropriate.
And talking of rewards, traditionally, social activities and fun events have generally been the backbone of company culture. In addition to Pizza Friday’s, this includes simple things like chats around the boiling kettle, interaction between colleagues, and celebrating occasions such as birthdays etc.
OK, some of this could be done over Zoom but this is definitely something that remote workers have missed, so it becomes an important part of the company culture as things get back to normal.
Building or re-building a company culture that inspires employees and encourages increased job satisfaction and productivity, is absolutely crucial as we work our way out of the covid pandemic.
As we said earlier, what makes people happy at work is very individualistic, but there are several steps employers can take to create an environment that will inspire an employee to feel secure with their employment.
One of the main reasons for leaving a company (and no, it’s not money) is because employees don’t like the work environment. A negative workplace culture leads to a toxic workplace, which results in high absenteeism rates, increased staff turnover, low productivity, and unpleasantness between colleagues.
On the other hand, a positive culture fit with the individual encourages an atmosphere that leads to a happy, fulfilled and more productive workforce.