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Whether it’s on your radar or not, culture is the building block of every successful company. If your employees are happy and content in their workplace, they can become your company’s biggest and best advocates.
Culture is at the heart of positive employee experience, and inevitably, great employee experience results in increased revenue and return on investment (ROI) for your company. For example, a recent collaborative study by IBM and Work Human Analytics & Research Institute shows that organizations that score in the top 25 percent on employee experience double the return on sales compared to companies in the bottom quartile.
It’s critical for companies to proactively define and develop their workplace culture, especially during times of rapid growth and change. Undoubtedly, culture is what strengthens the company structure and becomes your most significant competitive advantage.
Let’s look at how executives and team leaders can more consciously define and develop workplace culture. We gathered insights from leading remote work industry experts who participated in the FT Future of Work: The Workforce Webinar, including Nicole Sahin, CEO and Founder of Globalization Partners; Angela Cretu, CEO of Avon; Katarina Berg, CHRO of Spotify; and James Fulton, Chief Learning Officer and Global Head of Talent at Goldman Sachs.
The post-pandemic inside scoop into workplace culture
Spotify (approximately 9,700 employees globally) and Globalization Partners (on track for 1,000 employees globally by the end of 2021) are two companies experiencing major hypergrowth. On the other hand, you have Avon, an established global cosmetics company with over 70,000 employees and growing, and Goldman Sachs, a world-leading financial service provider with over 66,000 employees and growing. Their company size difference is prominent, but their global company culture strategies are complementary and word class.
What’s interesting about workplace culture’s challenges and opportunities is how similar they’ve been for each company over the last 18 months. When looking at culture during the onset of the pandemic, and even now as companies slowly emerge from the crisis, one thing is for sure — companies that invested in their culture have gained a competitive market advantage and their teams are thriving.
“Company culture is the glue that brings us together. Company glue is very important and part of the DNA and what sets us apart from other companies, and we had to double down and invest in culture overnight,” said Berg, speaking of Spotify’s unique culture.
Change has been the only constant for global companies since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, and employees and employers alike have had to hone and develop flexibility as a key skill. Overnight, employees were no longer commuting to their regular 9-to-5, jobs but instead working remotely and taking Zoom calls from their kitchen or living room, often while balancing work and home life.
“We had to quickly change the way we engage with professional values while considering the human connection inside of the organization. We adapt quickly to the flexible ways of working and understanding, as well that the large proportion of our employees are women, and women had to juggle being cooks, at-home teachers, as well as being outstanding professionals,” added Cretu.
How to effectively foster and manage workplace culture
During a time were 72 percent of employees would prefer a mix of the remote and hybrid working models, fostering and managing workplace culture can become difficult. Face-to-face communication is undoubtedly the most effective form for team brainstorm sessions, problem solving, and building informal team relationships. It was also easier for team leaders and executives to manage their teams in person at the office. So how can companies best manage teams today in the post-pandemic business world?
#1: Focus on human experiences and values
Employee needs and wants have evolved and moved past just monetary rewards. According to McKinsey & Company, the main drivers for positive employee experience and fostering a healthy company culture including work security, building trusting relationships, good social cohesion, and developing one’s individual purpose and contribution.
At Globalization Partners, individual experiences and stories are greatly valued — it’s not just about achieving goals and objectives. Team members are encouraged to practice informal communication and take time throughout their day to connect with their colleagues.
“When we focused on storytelling and sharing our human experiences, that was really helpful. This might be challenging, but we’re all in it together and we’re going to survive and thrive coming out of this and always continue to be really nurturing,” explained Sahin.
Apart from fostering great connections, Globalization Partners started a company-wide initiative called the “Global Rockstar Awards” during the midst of the first lockdown. These awards were created to celebrate and recognize employees who embody the unique “Dream Team” company culture.
“Our virtual awards are like an online party that helps us recognize and show gratitude for each other as people. I think people really appreciate their colleagues and the connection that they feel with other people from all over the globe. And that was a really wonderful thing to come out of going digital,” said Sahin.
#2: Invest in future global talent
A successful work culture is all about the people who comprise it. Therefore, the ability to continue training and securing new global talent is key to fostering a positive culture in the remote work era. Adjusting traditional apprenticeship and recruitment processes can be challenging, but more young international talent is looking for work now than ever before. According to a recent report by the United Nations the crisis is forecasted to push global unemployment over the 200 million mark by 2022.
However, Goldman Sachs continues to hire and mentor new global talent to invest in the future of global remote work. Their apprenticeship program focuses on people who are nearing five years in the workforce post-graduation, as this is a great time to learn and get a good start in their careers. Mentoring has become significantly more challenging due to remote work — new employees can’t just walk over to someone’s desk or office and ask for help or have a face-to-face check-in with their mentor. Therefore, Goldman Sachs had to reinvent their apprenticeship program to continue building their mentorship culture.
“We were anxiously thinking about, how do we keep that apprenticeship culture going? It’s all about creating more sympathetic but, nonetheless, impactful moments where you can come together, whether it be in a week or a day. For example, [we have] standup meetings or team huddles every day just for 5 minutes to make sure that teams connect and have the opportunity to ask somebody else questions,” said Fulton.
#3: Reinvent your global onboarding strategy
Spotify has focused on a more digital approach to workplace culture since its founding 15 years ago. However, since entering their hypergrowth stage, Spotify has hired over 150 people every month, making virtual onboarding for new global remote talent challenging for the team. To ensure Spotify’s unique culture remains at the forefront of their virtual onboarding strategy, the team had to pinpoint critical pain areas:
- How to continue to embrace people and company culture?
- How to bring new talent to the company and make sure they can navigate the day to day?
- How to encourage team communication, specifically with the learning and development team, and also hiring managers?
The team at Spotify reinvented their entire onboarding strategy by learning from their pre-pandemic onboarding process set in a normal office environment. They translated that into a digital virtual onboarding strategy, by choosing digital platforms to help their HR team achieve this.
Spotify is also looking forward to team off-sites as part of their new onboarding process to support the building blocks of their culture.
“One of the things that I think we will bring back, once it’s a much safer society, is what we call the inter-days, where every quarter we bring 350 new team members to Stockholm to meet the founders and the CEO and key people, because that really also helps us with the culture and builds on the community that we call Spotify,” explained Berg.
Globalization Partners also relied on remote tech tools to reinvent and modernize their virtual onboarding strategy.
“We use Lessonly, which is an online training program that helps new talent spend time chatting with different people across the company to get to know the key players, understand who the people are, and how you are going to work with them,” said Sahin.
To further effectively foster and manage workplace culture during onboarding, Globalization Partners actively uses 15Five, a performance management software, that continuously monitors global remote teams on a weekly basis. “It’s vital to keep track of how our teams are feeling on an ongoing basis. Which is where 15Five comes in. This tool allows people to check in once a week. It’s a pulse check of what’s going on, anything you want to raise, how are you feeling about your workload this week, and, how you are feeling working from home,” explained Sahin.
#4: Boost positive company culture with flexibility
In a recent study, 97 percent of employees reported the following as major advantages of having a remote-hybrid work option:
- Time and money saving
- Less stressful working environment
- More leisure time
- No commuting
- Improved work-life balance
The team at Spotify considers work flexibility a priority for a blossoming company culture, which encourages team members to stay motivated knowing their company supports them.
“People love the flexibility and freedom of choosing either remote or hybrid work — choosing what makes sense for them, where they are in life, their family situation. And also, I think it’s the feeling of safety — it’s okay not to be okay and stay at home one day and not necessarily come into the office,” said Berg.
The era of global remote-hybrid work is here to stay. Company culture is dynamic, and to continue to consciously define and develop culture, companies have to change with the times and listen to their employees. Offering the option to work from home, the office, or both while paving the way for professional growth ensures employees feel nurtured, trusted, and taken care of.
Grow with Globalization Partners
If you are a company looking to hire new global talent while retaining your organization’s culture, partner with a trusted global employment platform. Globalization Partners’ AI-driven technology simplifies international growth by making it easy for companies to hire anyone, anywhere, within minutes, and without setting up subsidiaries.
Leverage our platform to onboard your employees, and take care of payroll, taxes, and HR-related matters, so you have time to define and develop your workplace culture. Take a tour of our platform to explore its features and benefits.