Want To Know How The Pandemic Changed Your Company Culture?

Finding the balance between empathy and performance
June 26, 2023

You are not alone if it feels like your culture has become ‘too’ empathetic and accommodating and you believe that you need to bring the pendulum back towards higher performance and a more results driven culture. Many organizations have changed visibly as a result of the pandemic and hybrid work. Organizations have also undergone less visible and more subtle changes. It is critical to understand and bring these changes to the surface. You can find a better balance between empathy, caring and higher productivity once you understand where you culture is.

Culture has changed, dramatically

Many leaders are concerned that their organization’s culture will suffer or change in a hybrid work environment, and are not sure how to maintain their culture when employees don’t consistently work together in one place. These leaders are missing the point. Their culture has changed dramatically - FACT -and it is their responsibility to understand HOW it has changed and adapt to those changes because we are not going back to pre-pandemic work.

The reality is that before the pandemic, culture development  in many companies  happened by default, as a by-product of in-person interactions at the office. People learnt through osmosis about what was expected, acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Over time, a new joiner would learn about the way the company operated, dealt with and solved problems. They would learn about how the company communicates and collaborates by meeting and interacting face-to-face with different people from different teams or departments. They would get a sense of the underlying currents of the company's culture, from what they sensed, experienced themselves and saw happening to others in the office. 

We can no longer rely on the osmosis that happened in our old offices to do the culture development heavy-lifting in a hybrid environment, whether we mandate office attendance, or not. The office may be one of the important tools for collaboration, social capital and culture development, but it won’t be the driving force for the development of your culture like it was before the pandemic.

When people work remotely there are fewer opportunities to connect in the ways that we did regularly in the office with the result that culture doesn’t flow organically through the company anymore. Those in-office interactions we relied on so heavily are a casualty of the pandemic. They are simply FINISHED. In a hybrid work environment this can result in teams becoming siloed and people becoming disconnected. So we have to make up for this by being focused and deliberate about developing a sustainable hybrid work culture. 

How the pandemic has changed organizational culture 

The hybrid reality is that We are excited to announce that we will be launching the CultureGene Build a Hybrid Work Plan in October. An online course to help you build a comprehensive hybrid work plan in as little as 12 weeks!where different employees have different experiences in the workplace – some remote, some in-person, and many in a hybrid model. 

Leaders need to review the company’s values and expected behaviors. With the new realities of a hybrid team whose needs, demands, and expectations have changed permanently, what made the company successful in the past may not make the company successful in the future. Our values and behaviors may well have to be adapted or re-invigorated. 

Patterns of culture change

Hybrid work leaders should understand how their culture has changed, specifically with regards to their values and behaviours. Leaders should look at  which values were ignored or suppressed during the pandemic and need to be reinvigorated. Also which new values have been adopted by the organisation organically, given the circumstances, and are worth maintaining and building upon, now that we are normalizing around hybrid work.

As I mentioned earlier, many leaders feel that their culture has become too empathetic and accommodating and they now need to bring the pendulum back towards higher performance. 

This feeling is actually backed up by research. A team from Berkeley-Stanford conducted a study of 2,771 individuals from over 40 organizations to identify patterns of culture change across a diverse range of organizations by assessing the culture that existed before the pandemic versus the organization’s current culture

The study identified key changes in company values resulting from the pandemic.

Pandemic emphasized values

The five company values that organizations placed greater emphasis on during the pandemic were

  • Flexibility
  • Transparency
  • Supportiveness
  • Decisiveness
  • Confronting conflict. 

Looking at these values, do you resonate with the study and which ones stand out for you as emphasized in your company?

Pandemic de-emphasised values

The five cultural elements that organizations de-emphasized in response to the pandemic were: 

  • Results orientation
  • Customer orientation
  • Individualism
  • Detail orientation
  • Collaboration. 

The Berkeley/Stanford study concluded that organizational cultures in the pandemic era have generally shifted away from a high performance orientation to one that prizes empathy, understanding, and mutual support. I have heard this from many of the COOs and CPOs I have spoken to. 

Some of these values are now a permanent feature of work for most people. Most companies have to be more flexible than they were, whether they like it or not. To get their heads around how their culture is changing leaders need to look in more detail into these values exploring aspects like:

  • Which were suppressed and which if any would you think should be re-invigorated to strengthen the company’s competitive edge? 
  • Which of the new values could become a source of strength for your company? 
  • Are any of these values hampering the business because the organisation has pushed too far in that particular direction?

Hybrid work is a huge challenge, getting an understanding of how your culture has changed is one of the first steps to building a hybrid work plan and strong effective hybrid culture.

We are excited to announce that we will be launching the CultureGene Hybrid Work Solution Online Course in October. An online course to help you build a comprehensive hybrid work plan in as little as 12 weeks!

Let us help you develop a hybrid work culture that unlocks the full potential of your flexible work environment. Get in touch today to learn how we can help your organization thrive in the new world of hybrid work.