July is the new January is more than a catchy headline – for most of us, it’s a reality. With COVID cases spiking again in many parts of the country, companies like Google, Microsoft, Target and others are delaying a return to the office until the summer of 2021, and others, like Zillow, are opting to work remotely for the long-term.

As a result, we’re starting to see businesses getting creative with what they consider perks. While once touting extras like onsite gyms, dining services and “fun” spaces, companies now are offering employees benefits that are more relevant to the times – extra paid time off to care for children or family members, laundry services, gifts mailed to their homes and stipends for home office supplies, to name a few. These are all nice to haves, but at the end of the day, the reality is that the foundation – what really drives recruitment, retention, engagement and, ultimately, company performance – is company culture.

Now is the time when companies are thinking about priorities for the coming year. And as we look at continuing to work remotely well into 2021 – completely reshaping the entire employee experience – if company culture isn’t on your list, it should be. Cultural assessments can be a good first step in helping you identify where your organization is currently, where you’d like to be, and how to get there. To get started:

  • Review your organization’s values, vision, mission and purpose. Together, these help to shape your company culture. These should all be aligned, clearly articulated and, ideally, tied to your business.
  • Talk to leaders and employees at all levels within the organization to understand how they describe the culture, values and behaviors within the organization. Do leaders and employees explain the values and vision the same way? Do leaders walk the talk? And do employees understand how the values guide everyday decision making? Consider one-on-one interviews, employee surveys and focus groups with a cross-section of employees from all different levels, departments and tenures to get feedback from across the organization.
  • Observe the day-to-day. Culture can be best observed through behavior. Often times, we find organizations talk about the values posted on the wall, but in reality it’s the “shadow values” – those that lurk beneath the surface but are not articulated – that are more telling of the way the organization actually operates.

Lastly, understand culture is a marathon, not a sprint. Great company cultures are built and sustained over time, and it takes commitment and resources. Accessing and understanding your culture is the first step.

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