Last week, Philippe Urbain wrote an article in Bloovi about the changes in a company by Covid19 mainly about the influence on “the workplace”. Remote working became standard and we may evolve towards a hybrid working form, where the employee decides how to work from home, from an office. Today’s workplace is between the people. Todays workplace is ruled by culture.
The workplace has changed, but the workplace strategy has been omitted. Time to change that!
What about your corporate culture before Covid19?
The IT applications and platforms were adapted and in the best case some guidelines on ergonomics and burnout prevention were given and with a “daily standup” the stocking was done…. BAM! Not so … As a corporate anthropologist I was often asked: “How do you keep motivating your people?” How do I ensure that my corporate culture survives this?
I invariably answer this question, was there a real corporate culture before? I don’t mean branding or a mission and values that are written down but that nobody knows? Was there culture and was it known, tangible? If it was not polite or tangible before, it will be difficult to grasp it now.
No focus on data exchange but on connection
In too many companies the focus is on data exchange, a good example is the daily standup, okay you know from each other what you are doing, that’s it. People feel separated? Because culture, yes, that arises between people, so if everyone feels isolated, it crumbles away. In companies where people work remotely, explicit attention must be paid to culture, to the interaction between people. You know the time for stories, time that was sometimes spent at the coffee machine or rituals where victories, for example, a new customer, were celebrated. Rituals, stories… these are not data, they are interacting.
Cognitive and affective trust
In culture, “belonging” is important, belonging, this has to do with trust. Trust comes in different forms. You have trust that is based on expertise (cognitive confidence) and you can indeed build this up through data exchange and achieving or not achieving results. You know, that which is measurable… Another important form of trust is this in the sense of relational, affective trust. Work on the first is not enough on the second.
Without trust, you cannot build belonging and therefore not a strong culture. We always try to model cognitive trust based on mission, goals, and strategy… These are all things that can be strongly influenced by the environment, context. But they are also seen as objective. The affective trust lies in the relationship between the people, and where there are people it is maddened. This is actually about internal agreements.
Now let’s take these findings together when we look at Schein’s model.
Culture arises through the interaction of people. This group of people will make adjustments to the environment, the external adjustments and attunements in the group are needed to work together, to live, … Internal agreements. Internal agreements and external adjustments influence each other and together determine the culture.
You will soon see that a lot of attention is paid to the left side: the external adjustments. Be careful on the right side, some matters were described at many companies, but these are “official” guidelines that unofficially have some freedom of interpretation.
- The power structure: who becomes a manager or when do you receive a reward or not?
- What about status in a company? Does someone in production get the same reputation as a salesperson or not?
- How do people deal with gossip?
- Who belongs to the group or subgroup and who does not? Do the interim and freelancers belong to the “us” in the “us-them” border or not?
If everyone works remotely, new internal agreements have to be made, many old agreements will expire. If you had no clear agreements, they would disappear completely and the internal bond between the employees would weaken … together with the physical isolation, this leads to a disintegration of the culture because the affective trust is not built up or maintained …
How to adapt your culture? Cross-pollination is worth a look!
Positive note both the external adjustments and the internal attunements influence each other and the culture. Moreover, we also speak of cross-pollination. By this, I mean that a problem on the one hand if you dig deeper can originate on the other side of the Schein model!
If there is a problem with, for example, external adjustment, this can often be solved by tinkering with internal coordination.
For example, there is a disagreement about the budgets that are spent (resources, external adjustments). These discussions and meetings can take up an enormous amount of time, but if you dig deeper you can end up with a problem that can be solved by clear internal coordination, eg a power struggle between two managers.
Or conversely, suppose there is a lot of gossips (language and humor) you can continue to complain about it, but this can be solved by creating clarity in goals and drawing up clear result agreements.
How do we ensure affective trust in remote working – some examples
We see all kinds of solutions popping up. Some companies include extra group moments where little or no talk about work is allowed to build or maintain ties and trust. Or you are randomly placed every week with a different colleague or in a small group to get to know each other better. This is called Fika, after a Swedish coffee break moment. It’s a new ritual built in to preserve the culture.
There are also apps, eg Cultr.works that you can use to write missions for your team. A gaming element is built-in. Such tools are strongly substantiated through nudging. The team members take on the missions individually and answer them with visuals, photos, or videos. Examples of missions:
- If they work remotely, a first entry-level assignment could be to photograph the view from their desk or their desk (untidy tidy, lots of little light … then the others can empathize.
- Mirror, mirror: show a moment of self-reflection from the past week
Culture creation off and online is formed by looking for answers to fairly banal questions and this crisscrossing each other, which is why it is difficult to comprehend, to catch.