I believe it was the English philosopher and economist John Locke, who coined the phrase “When shit hits the fan, company culture is there to wipe the walls clean with disinfectant.” *1
Just like Johnny-boy prophesied ahead of his time, the importance of company culture becomes more evident than ever in a time of economic turbulence. Culture, strategy and values should be the guideline throughout the life-cycle of a company, in both good times and bad. This new reality in which we are living, is a true test to ensure that company culture is not a glued-on accessory, but rather the solid foundation of the organization.
Here’s my tips for staying true to your company values and culture, and hands-on tips on what you can do for the wellbeing of the company during this time of turbulence.
Live by your values
Being true to your culture, means making decisions based on your values even when faced with challenges.
- If transparency is an important value to the company, be transparent about the economic state of the company and all major changes that a new situation might bring with it. Don’t be shy to tell bad news either.
= VALA’s Operations and Business Director Teemu posts a weekly detailed description of VALA’s current business and financial status on our general Slack channel. This way, everyone is updated on how our business is doing on a weekly basis.
- If wellbeing is an important value to the company, make sure you take extra special care of people during this period.
= Since we can’t continue with our weekly NB Training’s collective training sessions, Nelli shares NB’s weekly remote trainings for people to do at home:
- If empathy is an important value to the company, do your best to reach out to people and emphasize in their specific life situations. A simple way to do this is to offer help to those who have fallen ill: can someone within the organization help with grocery shopping, and offer guidance to people who might not speak Finnish and struggle with the ins and outs of the healthcare services.
= We also organized a workshop on the topic of “wellbeing during remote mode”. People were able to share tips, experiences and concerns with colleagues about their daily life and work. It was useful for people to hear what type of challenges others face in their daily life and this way they can take each other’s needs into consideration during the work day. Although we are all faced with social distancing and full-time remote work, our challenges can be very different:
- People living in families might have trouble organizing time for themselves and be strained by living in a constant rush and multi-tasking mode when trying to combine work and kids school work.
- People living alone might have more of a challenge with the feelings of isolation and social distancing at a time like this.
- Couples or roommates might have difficulty with being constantly in a shared space with someone, and this can be straining for the relationships.
Sharing experiences can strengthen the feelings of empathy and understanding toward each other.
- If autonomy is an important value to the company, you‘re in luck, because this is a time when you have no chance but to trust that people take leadership and responsibility for their work.
= VALA is a self-directed company and people work more independently now more than ever. Because the foundation of autonomy at VALA is built on trust, there is no anxiousness about worrying whether people are doing the best they can in the circumstances. By offering trust and autonomy, people take the responsibility of working together to emerge from this challenge stronger than ever.
This is a time when cultures and communities are put to the test, and the difference between a shiny employer brand, and a truly sincere company culture are made evident. By staying true to the values that have made your company prosper prior to this setback, can make the difference of overcoming this new challenge you face. Turbulence and turmoil have the potential of strengthening the culture, even though the long-term investment to staying true to your values might feel risky at the moment. Trust your values, now more than ever.
VALA’s hands-on tips for maintaining wellbeing
People make the business. Therefore, taking care of personnel is as important as ever in a time of turbulence. Listed below are VALA’s People Operations’ tips for maintaining wellbeing. These tips are useful for HR, managers or anyone interested in the wellbeing of the people:
1. Grab the phone
Phone everyone in the company to make sure how they are doing. This can take days, weeks or even months, depending on how busy you are, how many people there are and how much they have to say, but it is definitely worth every moment. Make sure people know you are there for them and you are sincerely interested in what their life looks like at the moment. Upheaval has the potential of bringing people closer together. By grabbing the phone and investing a dedicated time on colleagues’ wellbeing might even take your relationship to a deeper, more sincere level, when the discussion turns to topics such as concern about loved ones, hectic family life, economic anxiety and favourite quarantine-time recipes.
2. Encourage open communication
When there is uncertainty in the air, communication can dramatically weaken in an organisation. People can often be so busy and have so much on their minds, that they forget to communicate their expectations, visions, fears and plans of action with others. Therefore it’s important to make sure your team and your organization are on the same page about: 1. what is happening, 2. how this is affecting our business, and 3. what our plan moving forward is. Make sure no one in the team is left out of these conversations.
3. Update objectives and priorities
Make sure everyone has a chance to re-evaluate their objectives, plans and priorities related to their work. If the turbulence has affected your core business heavily, it might not be the best time to keep planning that new hire, scouting for new office spaces or researching international expansion. Or maybe it is, but make sure you re-evaluate these plans together with your team, so people don’t spend their time and energy on matters that are not top priority at this time. Ask yourself what is the most important objective for your work now, and update your short and long term goals accordingly.
4. Take care of yourself
Gotta put that oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. No matter what your role is, no one can bear all the responsibility on their shoulders, if they themselves are not strong and sound. If you tire yourself out, you not only suffer yourself, but your team, organization, family and friends also suffer the consequences. Especially now, taking care of yourself, means looking after the wellbeing of others as well.
Take care and stay safe.
*1 No truth to this, what so ever.