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How to Better Manage Corporate Culture During Times of Transition

Culture can be a differentiating factor in driving business success, attracting and retaining top talent, and offering stability and encouragement for employees.

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Change and corporate culture are factors that have significant impacts on businesses generally, employees specifically. After experiencing one of the most tumultuous times in modern history, entrepreneurs and business leaders quickly gained first-hand knowledge of the correlation between change and company culture. For better or worse, these cultures took center stage as companies navigated the challenges of an evolving environment, and soon recognized the key role culture played in facilitating (or hindering) change. During times of transition, it can be a differentiating factor in driving business success and attracting/retaining top talent, and in addition offers stability and encouragement for employees, as well as serve as a North Star to guide a company through change.

However, corporate culture can easily be jolted during times of transition — and in the process overlook the needs of its people — failing to maintain personal interactions, ineffectively handling communications and straying from the company's mission and core values. But with an emphasis on proper attention and management, it will not only support changes, but be a major factor in making an enterprise flourish.

Savvy entrepreneurs and business leaders realize this — that corporate culture may become fragile or neglected during times of transition — so it is crucial for them to identify and implement strategic ways to better manage it throughout the process. Some key ways include:

1. Putting people first

The number-one priority for employers should be taking care of employees and addressing their needs and concerns — determining how changes will affect their people and being prepared to offer solutions and choices. For example, many employees are still playing the waiting game with regard to returning to the office, leaving staff members in limbo and distracted from their work. When employees feel unsure about the future and left without direction, they can become disengaged and disconnected from the culture, so leaders should offer a more immediate and concrete solution and timeline, so employees can reconnect and see a clear path forward.

In all situations, leaders should be proactive and transparent, taking the time to share any changes, explaining how employees will be affected, offering choices and solutions and providing needed updates to help pave the way for smooth transitions. These efforts should have a positive impact on employee morale and engagement, leading to effectively implementing change, increasing productivity and preserving the culture.

Related: 10 Examples of Companies With Fantastic Cultures

2. Maintaining personal interactions

Personal interactions among employees are essential — not only those in meetings and group activities, but also during chance encounters in elevators, hallways and break rooms. When change alters or reduces these channels, it's critical for leaders to identify ways of replicating them. For example, although casual/chance conversations are rare or non-existent in a remote/hybrid work environment, there are creative ways of fostering them that include: reserving time during videoconferencing for employees to chat; setting up a virtual coffee break with pre-assigned "topics of the day"; arranging weekly "get to know the family, pets, hobbies, etc." virtual events; and scheduling more one-on-one time via videoconferencing for face-to-face interaction.

3. Reinforcing a common purpose

During times of change, it can be easy to overlook the reasons why a company exists. Managing its culture requires continual reinforcement of this common purpose, so that everyone is on the same page and moving in the right direction. For example, although employees may be dispersed and utilizing new technology, the company purpose likely remains the same, so managers should encourage employees to rally around it. Clear and consistent communication supports reasons why decisions are made, and helps departments and teams understand the value their efforts bring. When employees strive toward common goals, it helps build relationships and strengthen the culture.

Related: How Agility and Resiliency Help Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Succeed

4. Leading by example

Arguably, one of the greatest impacts management can have on corporate culture is leading by example — inspiring others to follow similar behaviors through thick and thin. Culture is often a reflection of leadership practices, attitudes and actions, which are particularly critical during transition periods. For example, managers set the tone by embracing the company's change initiatives and guiding employees in a positive direction based on its core values. It is essential for leaders to embody the company mission and values during all meetings and through all other form of communication, in the expectation that they will be further emulated in the workforce.

Savvy entrepreneurs and business leaders who implement strategic ways to manage the culture during periods of transition are positioning their companies to successfully weather any storm. Not only will it become stronger as a result, but will also solidify its culture.

Related: These Are the 100 Best U.S. Companies to Work for, According to Employees

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