Opinion: Create a great culture with a flexible workforce

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2022 was dubbed the year of workplace culture by Forbes, and it was not wrong, writes Louise Harris. We’re still feeling the impact of Covid-19, learning to integrate societal leadership as a fundamental part of business, and experiencing the high competition for top talent – all of which isn’t going away any time soon. 

But there is an unlock, and that’s workplace culture. We all know that culture is the foundation of employee attraction, engagement, retention, and productivity overall – meaning a better performing business. But creating a great one is easier said than done. 

Creating company culture

Culture is created in collaboration with everyone in your company, and let’s be honest, it can be subjective, vague and difficult to measure. Although you need big intentions and promises from the top to kick start important culture work, it’s the smaller, day-to-day actions that make a real difference when it comes to truly cultivating the right culture.

Complexities of culture and flexible working

On top of the lack of clarity, there are more complexities that a flexible workforce will bring. We’re still on a journey to figure out how we move away from traditional working styles, focus on output and impact rather than input, and create better social capital when working in a hybrid way.

It’s easy to see how things get complicated quickly for communications and engagement teams who have a flexible, disparate audience. 

At Connected Comms Society, we’ve pulled together a list of our most successful strategies and tools that we’ve worked on with our clients over the last couple of years so they can create a great culture with a flexible workforce. 

Know your culture drivers, and how they sit with your company purpose and strategy

This seems pretty straightforward, but misinterpretation between communications teams and leadership is more common than you might think.  

Be explicit and share with others regularly

Have your cultural drivers written down in one place that everyone can access at any time, so there is one version of the truth. 

Share accountability

One way of doing this is to create a workbook or workshop for leaders (and others) that go through your cultural drivers and asks them to identify their commitments to foster aligned behaviours. This can happen online/offline/IRL or at a time that suits colleagues. 

Create a rhythm of communications that helps your people access need to know, should know and nice to know information 

You can share an engagement map, so everyone knows where to go to get certain types of information, and when, or be involved with specific events and topics – regardless of time or place that they are working.

Link and tag business stories, updates, and projects with your cultural drivers so everyone can see it living and breathing in your day to day 

Ensure your communications delivery aligns with your culture and you are sensitive to flexibility

If you have core hours, share all need-to-know information within those times. If not, be mindful to regularly change key times of announcements and townhalls (or other ways you deliver key information) so everyone has the chance to view it live. 

Make communications accessible to all as early as possible. Record and share live events or provide write-ups to certain meetings as soon as possible. Add subtitles and opportunities for people to engage with later (giving them an appropriate engagement timeframe).

Look at technology solutions that help people navigate important information when working at different times and places. Simple things like using app notifications, screen savers or automatic intranet sign-on when going online can help you get information across quickly.

Develop a universal tone of voice that helps your culture grow. For example, if you’re looking to cultivate a culture that challenges the status quo and encourages diversity and debate, it may be worth creating some safe language that can be used to aid those discussions.

Segment different parts of your organisations and target them with opportunities to get involved to shape your culture.

Don’t be reluctant to share where you are on your culture journey or highlight when things happen that are misaligned with your culture. It’s a great way to learn.

Keep listening and learning. Using a number of different feedback and engagement mechanisms, keep a quarterly pulse on how the culture is embedding and adapt communications as needed. 

Louise Harris is an award-winning marketing communications consultant and founder of Connected Comms Society. Through her 20 years of experience working with organisations such as Unilever, ASOS, UCL and National Deaf Children’s Society, she believes in the power of connecting meaningfully with people that matter most – customers, colleagues and communities. Connected Comms Society provides hybrid marketing communications services through tools, training and talent to help companies grow authentically with purpose.