Digital Marketing Strategy

Navigating the looming virtual culture dilemma

Learn how levity, authenticity and transparency can help employees thrive—and possibly save your business.

As the threat from COVID-19 abates, companies are at a vexing crossroads.

Is it time to call everyone back into the office? Should you pursue hybrid scheduling? If you plan to keep everyone remote, how will you maintain some semblance of culture and cohesion?

Regardless of how your business is planning to proceed, managers are vital linchpins who have an outsize effect on your bottom line. They hold immense sway over your employee experience, which directly shapes productivity, morale and engagement.

Unfortunately, the post-COVID era presents new and unique challenges for managers. Most leaders, according to recent surveys, don’t believe their staffers have the necessary skills to operate effectively in this new environment. And managers are often the ones left holding the bag.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: Communicate the Change You Want to See in the World] Watch this free workshop recording from Ragan and the Peppercomm Employer/Employee Experience team to help you set managers and employees up for success amid tumultuous times. You might even figure out how to have a bit of fun along the way.

This free, 90-minute free workshop will help you:

Gauge where your managers are currently versus where they need to be.
Assess and plan the actions that are essential to creating the optimum hybrid culture.
Discover the role that humor plays in building bonds and creating resilient workforces.
Identify ways to train your managers to become true leaders.
Build rewarding, satisfying and fruitful employee experiences in a hybrid work environment.
Understand how HR and communication (along with IT) can and should join forces for better employee engagement.
Develop messaging, assets and tools with all employees and communication styles in mind.
Create strategies to overcome expected challenges.
Learn best practices from experts in the field.
Have fun practicing new skills.

Anchors in an unsettled sea

Ann Barlow from Peppercomm; Bumper Carroll, former VP of content at Second City Works; and Courtney Harrison, CHRO of OneLogin; all shared helpful guidance on empowering managers to succeed even in the rough waters ahead. Barlow shared a quote from Taranjeet Singh: “Managers must be anchors in an unsettled sea. Without them, we become untethered to what’s important for our organization.”

How can you empower managers become a rising tide that lifts all the boats in your harbor? Barlow says that employees and employers must experience a mutual “shared benefit” for your workplace to thrive. This “psychological contract” must be aligned, Barlow says, noting that employees must feel they are getting a fair deal. Change can quickly throw everything out of alignment, but that’s where managers can save the day.

They’re the ones who can fill the “values gap” or “disengagement divide” between a company’s “aspirational” values and its actual “practiced” values.

“Managers are at the center of bridging this gap,” Barlow says. “Managers dramatically affect the balance of shared benefit.”

Managing relationships—mindfully

In a remote world, managers must go from being supervisors of time to managing relationships. Managers today must be more mindful, empathetic and collaborative, Carroll says. That requires training and support to help managers adapt. It also requires a mindset shift to culture being viewed as “co-equal” to strategy

According to Carroll, applying the principles of humor can help lighten our stressful milieu—and it can help you collect more substantive connections with remote workers. He notes that when people are laughing, they feel relaxed. “And a looser environment is conducive to psychological safety,” he says. This sort of transparent, open workplace vibe drives authenticity and genuine sharing, which is precisely what you’ll need to successfully navigate the choppy waters ahead.

To get the sort of raw employee feedback you want, you must be intentionally inclusive, Carroll says. You must be deliberate about soliciting feedback from the bottom up.

Peers are perhaps the most persuasive “influencers” inside your company, so make sure to pay close attention to what they’re saying.

Listen to your employees

According to Harrison, if you’re not willing to give your employees autonomy, flexibility and freedom, you have plenty of competitors that will.

Leaders are being pushed and pulled into impossible positions. Everyone has different opinions on how, when or if they want to come back into the office.

Unfortunately, there are no “right” answers or “correct” way to proceed. Harrison says the best advice is to listen closely to your employees, and to do what they want to do.

Harrison notes that during this time of massive turmoil and confusion, people are desperate for more control over their lives. This precarious situation calls for managers who are willing and able to prioritize relationships, people, empathy and compassion. This is now the name of the game to surviving in a volatile world.

“Managers must be more than a megaphone,” Harrison says, adding that, “Every employee can see through inauthenticity.”

Listen to the rest of the wonderful, enriching discussion here.

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