It’s no secret that COVID-19 has impacted company culture in the hospitality, tourism, and travel sector. For some, this has resulted in anxiety, insecurity, and tension. On the other hand, businesses with a culture strategy aligned to current times have kept their employees engaged and maintained their team spirit despite the pandemic.Before jumping in, we will take a look at the definition of company culture.
What is Company Culture or Workplace Culture?
“Workplace culture defines the proper way to behave within a company. It consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviours, and understanding.” (Definition provided by The Society for Human Resources Management)
This article describes 10 easy ways for reinforcing your company culture in a crisis. With these steps, you can worry less about the pandemic's adverse effects and focus on retaining the healthy culture you have built over the years.
1. Hire and Promote Based on Culture Fit
While it sounds counterintuitive, hiring a change agent to help you through unprecedented times can reinforce your workplace culture. Ensure that you hire candidates based on culture fit by asking them how they demonstrate your company values. Promoting existing employees who step up and continually empower others is another option. They are the true ambassadors of your values and the ones that will help navigate through crises with their resilience and adaptability.
2. Live Your Values
A strong culture is shaped by consistently putting your company values into practice, especially during a crisis. For instance, in August 2020, Accor illustrated their “People first, always” commitment by putting employees who lost their job on a training program. They also promised to keep about 200 employees with salaries of less than €50,000 on their payroll for at least two years.
3. Communicate with Openness and Transparency
A crisis often pushes us to make particularly hard changes on the work floor. Communicating these changes to your workforce is vital during crises: your employees would rather hear about new protocols, layoffs, work reductions, and other measures affecting the business directly from leadership instead of reading about it in the news. An effective way to invest in openness and transparency is by hosting virtual forums. In these forums, leaders can talk about changes, listen to employees’ doubts, and answer their questions directly. These interactions will help reinforce your corporate culture while increasing trust and transparency.
4. Support Your Leadership
Leaders have a particularly hard job during a crisis. They have to make tough decisions, face the challenges that come with those decisions, and manage employees’ responses to the changes. How you treat leaders in a crisis will directly reflect on the rest of your workforce. Try supporting your leaders instead of blaming them for decision-making or mistakes. Ask what they need to be successful and give them those resources and tools. Fostering trust and responsibility in your leaders will help them find solutions to problems and steer the company ahead.
5. Make Employee Contributions and Roles Visible
Focusing on employee contributions can help with reinforcing your hospitality culture. Dorchester Collection, e.g., beautifully expressed how their employees contribute to and are held accountable for COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Employees are trained on the protocols and taught how to sensitively communicate the measures to guests and act as guides at hotels.
6. Strengthen Your Branding Efforts
Nowadays, customers and job seekers turn to social media for news and updates. Highlighting your company's efforts on social media in terms of safety, workplace culture, employee and guest wellbeing is a good way to show solidarity during this time. You can post about solidarity just like Vienna House did. Or, you can let employees share their work experience as the Mandarin Oriental does. When you foster excellent company culture, employees will be happy to share honest views and opinions while acting as brand ambassadors for your company. For more ideas on leveraging social media for your company, please look at our 6 tips for Employer Branding.
7. Invest in Employee Wellbeing
Investing in employee wellbeing shows that you genuinely care about your employees. Besides reassuring your workforce, you can allocate resources to improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Accor gave yet another example by starting an employee wellness fund, giving access to counselors and wellbeing apps, and positive mindset training programs for their employees this year.
8. Create More Opportunities for Social Connection
If your workforce is feeling disconnected or missing the daily chats with colleagues, you need to help them feel connected again. Besides WhatsApp Groups and Slack Channels, you can boost social connection by hosting informal team get-togethers such as work lunches and dinners. Some websites allow you to organize a meeting and order food for your team in one sitting. Team brunch, anyone?
9. Set Clear Expectations and Provide Guidance
Employees can easily feel confused with the new safety measures and what is expected of them in a crisis. You can resolve these problems by setting clear, simple targets, assigning mentors, and giving constructive feedback regularly. Creating Employee Resource Groups is a great way to allow employees to support each other and ensure alignment between company culture and employee behaviour.
10. Focus on Reward and Recognition
Now is the time to honor employees who are resilient, promote your work culture, and give guests and colleagues a feeling of safety and hope. Sending them a handwritten thank you note with a small gift or praising their efforts during team communications are simple methods. Team members nominating each other for their exceptional efforts will also foster togetherness while reinforcing your company culture.