The culture and values of any business are vital to its success. They provide the framework and structure that supports, informs and guides everyone in your team as they go about their everyday work, and ensure that your clients understand what motivates your business and what you stand for.
It is in challenging times such as during the recent coronavirus pandemic that we find out how deeply embedded our values are, particularly as teams are scattered away from the office and working remotely from each other. However, I am pleased to say that the changes that the lockdown has made to our working processes at Morrisons have gone extremely well. We are fortunate that with just a few adjustments, our entire operation has been able to operate remotely as if from a desk in the office, wherever we are.
With our teams focussing on adapting to their new working environments, it would have been easy to forget about promoting, reinforcing and living our core values of integrity, dedication, insight and community. Instead, this period has clearly demonstrated to me that these values are at the centre of our organisation. There are numerous examples of staff across all of our teams and offices demonstrating our values in the ways they have adapted and delivered our services to our clients, and in how they have found ways to support, motivate and encourage each other.
It is clear that many of the changes implemented over the last few months will continue long after the lockdown has ended. There is no doubt that we will see more remote working, more flexibility around working hours, less travel, alternative and more efficient ways of holding meetings, and different ways of communicating internally.
These changes pose challenges, particularly for those of us who have previously enjoyed and invested time in regularly visiting different offices and spending time “walking the floors” and chatting to people across the business both formally and informally.
Inevitably it raises several questions, including:
- How do we collaborate across teams and offices effectively?
- How do we best integrate new joiners into our culture?
- How do we identify and deal with behaviours that do not adhere to our core values or match the standards we expect?
- How do I and others become strong “remote leaders”?
The answers will be unique to you and your business depending on its size, shape and nature. There is certainly too much to cover in a single blog…in fact, I am sure we can expect a whole host of new books in the near future dedicated to helping answer these questions, but here are some practical steps that I think will help to protect and affirm the culture and values of a business in future:
- Embrace change – fighting it will leave you trailing behind the organisations that have used this time to be innovative and adapt to the new working world. Pandemics have historically accelerated change and we certainly want to be leading the way and not playing catch up.
- Take every opportunity to articulate and communicate your values and the behaviours you expect in a positive way – Do all of your staff know what you stand for? Can all your staff recall the company’s core values? It is hard for people to act accordingly if they are not regularly and effectively communicated and reinforced. I constantly reaffirm our values in my communications with the firm whether by my monthly internal blog, videos or face to face meetings. I find that telling stories, particularly testimonials that illustrate our values is a good way to do this.
- Openly recognise and reward behaviours that demonstrate your vision for your culture and core values – champion your team and in turn they will champion the organisation’s values.
- Share and celebrate successes and good news – There has been so much bad news in the media of late and it can be hard to keep motivated during these difficult times. Remember to share small reminders of positive news as often as you can.
- Create ways for your people to “mix” and collaborate outside of their day-to-day teams – at Morrisons we have hosted Zoom quizzes and social events, organised virtual coffee breaks and created a dedicated wellbeing Facebook group to help our people continue to feel part of a firmwide community. This is particularly important as the team is inevitably more isolated from each other.
- Be inclusive and give opportunity for your team to discuss creative and innovative ways to improve – this is a new experience for all of us, so no one person has all the answers. This will ensure that everyone is reminded that they are not on their own but are part of something bigger and builds trust.
- Be even more particular about the character of the people you recruit – it is better to recruit those who already share your values and will fit your culture from the offset. Trying to get people to change is much harder.
- Use technology – technology has allowed businesses to continue operating almost normally where previously many may not have survived a time like this. These technologies will continue developing to help us adapt to the new world of business and will be essential from here on. In larger meetings, for example, we have used breakout rooms in Zoom and Menti.com to facilitate participation and interaction.
These are unprecedented times and a new challenge for all of us. Inevitably some businesses will do better at this than others – but without a doubt, spending the time to get this right should be high up on the “to-do” lists of most leaders. It is the steps that you take in these challenging times that will affect how your organisation is viewed internally and externally for the foreseeable future.
Ensuring that these steps are aligned with your business’s core values will help you retain and attract the people you want, and will put you in good standing with your clients, suppliers, and everyone with whom you do business.