August 30, 2022

Virtual Culture Needs a Boost of Authenticity & Connection

There is a reckoning happening in the world of work. Maybe you’ve noticed. 

There seems to be a power struggle between employees and managers, and we’re not exactly sure who will win- or if there will be any winners at all. What’s clear is that the old way of work is no longer working, and likely hasn’t been working for quite some time, even before the pandemic sent us all into remote work silos in early 2020. The reasons behind this reckoning are multifold; over the last two and half years, people have been reassessing what’s most important to them, and any small abrasions at work that they were able to look past may have become unbearable under the increased stress and pressure of this ongoing pandemic era. One reason for seeking greener pastures has risen to the top- employees are escaping toxic work cultures. 

According to recent research done by MIT Sloan, toxic work culture was the number one reason for The Great Resignation. There are dozens of different approaches to cultivating strong work cultures that create environments where employees can thrive and it’s easy to get lost in them. Instead of falling down the rabbit hole, make these three small adjustments to improve your hybrid and virtual work cultures.

Make the most of virtual meetings

Turn weekly meetings into daily stand-ups. Motivation and collaboration can wane when we only see our coworkers once a week to sync on what needs to be done. When colleagues come together on a daily basis, they are reminded that they’re a team. As with any team, accountability is key. By meeting every day, employees will feel included, connected to their work, and will reconnect to their purpose and the bigger picture more frequently. 

Keep these meetings relational by giving employees the opportunity to share their real feelings, be open and honest about their capacity, where they’re at on any given day. You can give this a try with a game of “rosebuds and thorns”- each participant has the opportunity to share something that is going well, their rosebud, or something that has room for improvement or is giving them pain or a blockage, their thorn. By making this a consistent part of your daily stand-up meeting, managers can build trust and show a commitment to creating pathways for bidirectional feedback. 

Maintain weekly one-on-one meetings to communicate any organizational changes and go deeper with employees. Even if you don’t have anything specific to touch base on, hold the space and show that this time is a container for whatever might arise. Weekly one-on-one’s are essential to building deeper, trusting relationships between employees and managers. 

Read about how Bravely supported Autodesk through a major culture transformation here. 

Adjust Your Approach to Performance Reviews

Historically, there has been an emphasis placed on equality. But, as organizations open themselves up to practicing true inclusion, many leadership teams are learning bout what it means to prioritize equity. Equity is not always equal. To build equity into our work systems, leaders must take the individual into consideration. For example, when approaching performance reviews with an equitable lens, leaders must recognize that each individual has different needs, depending on their personal circumstances. Working parents, for instance, have been hit hard with a lack of childcare since 2020. Expecting employees who are also parents to meet the same success metrics pre-2020, would neglect the reality of the employee’s capacity. Leaders are being called to be generous with their assessments and to operate from a belief that everyone is doing their best with the resources they have. 

Individualized support for employees can increase efforts toward a more equitable workplace when we acknowledge the differing circumstances of our employees and respond accordingly. Tools like coaching for employees at every level can support efforts for equity in the workplace and set new standards for workplace culture. 

Make Connection Time Sticky 

Are the leaders of your organization prioritizing time to get to know their employees? Participation from leaders at the top of an organization is essential in creating a strong, healthy work culture. When leaders participate in taking the time to connect, employees are more likely to carry those values, strengthening the trust and authentic relationships within the organization and furthering a healthy work culture. The same rule applies for having a strong work-life balance: the behavior modeled at the top will flow through the rest of the company. If leaders do not prioritize taking time off, or are not transparent around the need to maintain their own personal boundaries, employees understand that balance and rest are not a priority of the company culture and will perpetuate the issue by following suit. 

If your organization is staying fully remote (and there’s good evidence out there that it should), reallocate budgets for leases and in-person perks to carve out significant connection time. Identify your key culture influencers and galvanize connection time by asking those representatives to lead a connection event. During these dedicated connection times, celebrate employees and team members publicly! Shout them out on social media! Show people that you value their time, their effort and their authenticity. When you bring people together in a space where they can have fun, they will feel more motivated to go back to work and put their energy into the organization’s big picture goals. 

Improving work culture can feel elusive, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Prioritize connection, authenticity and trust and you will have invested and contributed to a healthy, thriving workplace where employees feel valued, purposeful and connected. 

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