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Organisational culture matters

There are some key techniques to help an organisation’s culture survive despite staff working remotely, Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville of Cambridge Judge says in MIT Sloan Management Review.

Abstract image of people connected online,.

There are some key techniques to help an organisation’s culture survive and endure despite the mass move to working from home due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, says a new article in MIT Sloan Management Review by Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville of Cambridge Judge Business School.

Organisational culture includes the “largely taken-for-granted beliefs and practices that underpin how people work together,” and these are harder to maintain when not working in an office, says Jen, Diageo Professor of Organisation Studies at Cambridge Judge.

Here are Jen’s suggestions:

1. Make culture visible by calling it out

Managers should call attention to aspects of a firm’s culture that are on display in online interactions and remind people why these matter, and invite others to do the same. It’s also important to censure practices that depart from the firm’s desired culture.

2. Welcome modifications to the cultural “tool kit”

As workforces are now scattered, we can adapt practices learned through diverse new sources including insights learned through Zoom conference calls. “With your workforce now scattered and working from home, other practices might be more readily at hand,” the article says.

3. Use disruption to bolster the cultural core

Times of disruption presents an opportunity to remind employees of the firm’s founding ideals and commitments that have shaped its culture and identity. Conversely, the move to remote working could open the door to long-overdue changes such as decentralisation.

Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville.
Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville

“Not all organisations will emerge stronger from the current pandemic and the devastating health, economic, and social impacts it is unleashing, says the MIT Sloan Management Review article, entitled “How to sustain your organisation’s culture when everyone is remote.”

“But managers and leaders with a firm sense of what their organisational culture is – a common tool kit that enables their employees to act, and the beliefs and commitments brought forward by acting in certain ways – can help their employees navigate the current environment in a way that is authentic to the organisation’s history yet flexible to the realities we all face.”

Jen will present a webinar on this topic on Wednesday 22 July, 13:00-14:00 BST, entitled “Keeping Your Organisational Culture When You’ve Lost Your Office” as part of the series What’s Next? How to Survive and Thrive in a Post-COVID-19 World.