Corporate culture is that secret sauce of shared values and relevant behaviors that binds your team together in good times and bad times.  A strong, strategically driven corporate culture should be designed, nurtured and protected because it’s a key part of your value proposition, what makes you important to your customers.  For most of 2020 and now in 2021, remote work, social distancing, new safety rules, social unrest and economic disruptors challenged our corporate cultures in unprecedented ways.  How will you ensure that your corporate culture will, not only survive, but thrive as we move to a new normal?

Let’s look at some of the culture traits that will have an increased importance.

  • Decision making – With key staff working from home or on different schedules to ensure social distancing, gaining consensus on key decisions is a challenge.  Clarify or re-define levels of authority and responsibility throughout the organization to ensure efficient decision making that does not increase risk.
  • Planned communication – Proactively replace the casual communication routes with planned conversations individually and in teams.
  • Situational empathy – Acknowledge that the lines between work, home, children, and parents are now blurred.  Promote acceptance of flexible schedules and balanced priorities.
  • Re-define Performance Evaluations – In light of the new ways of working, changes to performance metrics and goals may be needed.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!
  • Innovation – Every disruptor challenges the status quo but also creates new opportunity.  Fill your vocabulary with words and sentences that stimulate innovation such as “How else could we look at this situation?” or “How would our best competitor respond to this?” or “What have we learned?” or “How do we take advantage of this?”.  Be open to challenge your own status quo and reward out of the box thinking.
  •  Tolerance – Obviously “that’s the way we always did it” won’t help.  Finding new ways to be successful will involve risk and possible failure.  Accepting and learning from failure will be critical to finding your new normal.
  • Progression Planning not Succession Planning –Succession planning assumes that we can define our needs and plan on how to fill them.  We can’t predict with any degree of certainty what our organizations will look like or need in the next few years.  Progression planning projects how our organizations may be different in the future, what new or different capabilities may be essential and how we can access those capabilities.  Progression planning is based on options and alternatives that create an agile organization that can pivot to succeed in the new normal.
  • Core Values – Re-emphasize your core values, vision, mission statement and goals.  These tenets are the grounding principles for your organization that will give you the tenacity to succeed.

We are hopeful that 2021 will bring the end of the pandemic, but we should also acknowledge that it will not bring back life as usual.  We are different now. Our organizations are different now.  Re-design your corporate culture to excel in 2021!

Stephanie Olexa, President of Lead to the Future, LLC advises privately held and family owned businesses in the areas of succession planning, sustainability and governance.