With rare exception, it looks like home as workplace will remain the norm for much of the corporate workforce well into 2021, and the culture-inducing accouterments of the modern collaborative office will continue gathering dust. But company culture can live on, even when nobody is together in one place, thanks to digital counterparts.
Just what that digital platform might be is up for you to decide. If you approach the challenge of sustaining corporate culture among a far-flung workforce from an IT perspective, a collaboration app such as Microsoft Teams or Slack no doubt comes to mind. These apps can help establish camaraderie among team members and facilitate one-to-one chats to keep the banter flowing, even if their core purpose is productivity.
Video will be a close follower, if not a leader. From small team meetings to all-hands-on CEO broadcasts, the video meeting/livestream broadcast has proven invaluable in helping companies sustain culture during this period of working from home. Recorded video missives from executives are quite useful for this purpose, as well — a reminder delivered in digestible soundbites of the corporate mission, cultural values, and leadership recognition of how important keeping employees in the know can be during troubling times.
For HR, the workplace culture platform seems to be increasingly what matters.
A July 2019 HR Technologist article
refers to this as “culture technology,” defined as a “compilation of one-stop solutions that combine the many facets of company culture — for example, engagement, performance, recognition, and communication — on a single interface.” It highlights these four benefits of this type of technology:
- Cuts down the time and effort spent on employee surveys, a traditional means of helping to define company culture
- Creates a sense of unity among employees that crosses departmental or team silos
- Allows opportunity to discuss sensitive questions without compromising privacy
- Provides an audit trail for investments in culture initiatives
So, while HR might recognize collaboration apps as serving a good purpose, that purpose is perhaps more as a point of integration for tools that place people ahead of productivity. That’s the experience workplace culture platform provider Bonfyre
has often had in working with its customers, as I learned in a recent briefing with Rob Seay, VP of people and culture at the company.
Bonfyre’s ethos is that people need different sets of engagement tools in the workplace just as they do in their personal lives with, say, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Seay said. As important as productivity tools are, “for organizations that really want to focus on culture and focus on workplace engagement, having a dedicated space to build those relationships [sitting] side by side those productivity tools is also essential,” he said.
HR has its pick of a wide variety of such culture-building and engagement platforms. Bonfyre’s pitch is its ability to provide a “dedicated digital space for a kind of watercooler social interaction between employees.” In turn, the workplace relationships established around this virtual watercooler drive culture, Seay said.
Bonfyre itself, for example, has seen and itself hosts a “Watercooler Wednesday” to spur conversation about random topics like favorite foods, best teachers, ideal vacation spots. In this forum, workers can share something more on the social side that isn’t work-related and that doesn’t fuel burnout but does help build relationships, Seay said.
That might not seem like much, but these are the types of exercises that can give people — and corporate culture — lasting power throughout the pandemic.