Even before the pandemic upended workplace culture, we were experiencing widening gaps due to growing demands around diversity, equity and inclusion, the changing expectations of millennial employees, and concerns about work-life balance.
Frustration about the limited progress corporations have made to create inclusive and equitable workplaces was capturing much attention, with frequent headlines about racial injustice.
As organizations recuperate from the pandemic, they will need to examine the daily experiences, relationships and resources needed to reframe a workplace culture for a new era. A healthy corporate culture can only be achieved by a constant focus on nurturing employee relations that factor into recruitment, retention, and customer loyalty.
Underrepresentation Got Messier
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt unequally. Black workers face higher unemployment, lower wages, and worse prospects than other workers, according to the 2021 McKinsey & Co. study on diversity and inclusion at work.
Hispanic Americans saw the steepest layoffs initially and still have the most ground to make up to reach pre-pandemic employment. At the same time, many women of all backgrounds have put their careers on pause to fulfill caregiving responsibilities during lockdowns.
The result is that entire industries are reexamining the lack of minority representation at all levels of the workplace. The debate has intensified around the need for companies to critique their hiring practices and commit to changes and accountability, while management needs to take ownership and demonstrate action with empathy.
Culture Not Translating to Virtual
Years before the pandemic, we began to see rifts in workplace culture, and now there is no going back. The Katzenbach Center found in its 2018 Global Culture Survey of more than 2,000 people in 50 countries that 80%t of respondents believe their organization’s culture needs to significantly evolve for their company to succeed, grow, and retain the best talent.
The pandemic was a major culture disrupter and changed the way employees communicate and collaborate with each other and their customers. This resulted in a disconnect between colleagues and partners, especially if workplace culture wasn’t translating well to the digital world.
As popular and persistent as remote work has become, it’s beginning to feel as though we don’t only work where we live, we live where we work, and that’s having a huge impact on the atmosphere and culture that was once understood as a critical component of productivity and business results.
Culture Defines Relationships
The days of organizations focusing solely on employee output are over, and there is a new sense of urgency to address employee welfare, inclusion and equity. Leaders need to foster transparent communication to identify and expose gaps and lost opportunities, and to invite open conversations about improving workplace culture.
When companies view their employees as “internal clients” who need to be understood, satisfied and inspired, this translates to a relationship-oriented culture where managers focus on supporting employees to succeed. These values transfer from workers to customer relations by highlighting listening and empathy, personalized service, and meetingcustomers where they are.
Workplace culture is no longer limited to employer-employee teams but has evolved to influence the established bond with customers, underlining that a strong corporate culture will translate into a strong relationship between a brand and its stakeholders. This little-discussed phenomenon requires recalibrating factors integral to workplace culture: internal and external communications, activating leadership, bringing company brand and values to life, and embedding the culture into practices, policies, recruitment, recognition and rewards.
Cultures don’t change quickly, but tangible initiatives that drive diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and internal mobility and advancement are the first step. We can challenge the work culture gap by shifting our attention to the intersection of brand, values and workplace culture that inspires innovation and celebrates uniqueness.