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2021 Roundup: 10 Articles Reflecting the Impact of Company Culture

By Candace Coleman, CultureWise Content Manager

A host of metaphors come to mind as we try to sum up 2021. Whether you look at it as a roller coaster, a marathon, or a calendar of Groundhog Days with news on a repeat cycle—it was a unique year. Beyond the adjustments everyone made in their personal lives, organizations had to adapt and evolve in an environment of unprecedented disruption.

Yet, one thing remained a constant throughout 2021 in the business world: the indelible influence of company culture. And as its significance became increasingly apparent, culture gained traction as a top focus for CEOs last year.

A Look Back at the Year’s Top 10 Culture-based Topics

Culture Matters covers the gambit of news and information relating to corporate culture. Here’s our shortlist of topics about how strong culture benefited companies this past year and why it will remain a vital element of every business in 2022.

1. The Difference Between Values and Behaviors

Most company leaders think carefully about the image they want their organization to project. Many CEOs try to capsulize what they want their company to stand for by identifying and prominently displaying formal values. Their goal is to inspire their staff to embody these principles and inform the public about their company’s high standards.

While this can be a worthwhile endeavor, there are two reasons why merely creating company values isn’t sufficient to make them effective.

  1. Values are abstract ideas that are almost impossible to coach and effectively reinforce.
  2. If employees don’t routinely live up to the values, everyone internally and externally will know they’re meaningless.

CEOs need to think beyond values to drive a meaningful and sustainable image. Instead, their focus should be on the behaviors that can bring these principles to life. In “Corporate Culture: Why Values Aren’t Enough,” we explain the critical differences between values and behaviors and how leaders can leverage both to bring the best out in their team.

2. The Role of Rituals in Company Culture

Think of the many rituals woven into the fabric of our society. They’re intrinsic in almost every aspect of our lives, from symbolic collective rituals like playing the national anthem before sporting events to practical individual rituals like brushing our teeth. Rituals are so pervasive because they work. They sharpen awareness and engagement in the things we do.

Most companies hold meaningful rituals that commemorate events like hitting a goal, someone’s retirement, or opening a new location. These rites signify important milestones and are unifying experiences. 

But leaders who also incorporate behavior-shaping rituals into their organizational culture take their companies to the next level. To maximize their impact, they devise strategies to reintroduce them on a loop so that their effect isn’t forgotten.

We explain the positive change they have on a workforce in “5 Powerful Ways Rituals Improve Corporate Culture.”

3. Winning More Business Through Culture

When a business owner or CEO seeks to differentiate their company, they develop one or more qualities that set it apart from rivals. These distinctions go beyond creating effective marketing and branding to attract buyers and prompt them to remember a product or service. Real differentiation is in the end result for the customer.

Once in place, successful differentiators provide consumers with a value they can’t find elsewhere. Two tactical areas for potential distinguishment are:

  • Pricing
  • Goods & Services

But since what companies sell and how much they charge are areas easily duplicated or bested by competitors, these are not sustainable means of winning business. The one truly unique thing that an organization can hone is how they do business.

Once people are attracted to a company’s product or service, the culture embodied by the workforce can be the factor that makes them lifetime fans. We explain how companies can gain a cutting edge in “10 Ways Company Culture Can Differentiate your Business from the Crowd.”

4. Culture: HR’s Secret Weapon

Professionals whose careers focus on the people within an organization understand the importance of culture.  Most HR managers coordinate with their CEO to foster a culture that helps employees grasp the company’s overall vision and improves team members’ work experiences.

But many people may not realize that corporate culture can have a much more powerful impact than cultivating team spirit and making the workplace more enjoyable. When a culture initiative is planned and structured correctly, it can generate overall success for a company and give it a competitive advantage.

What’s more, a high-performing culture isn’t just another human resource initiative to manage; it can help cure many of the biggest HR headaches.  In “How to Solve 5 Tough HR Problems with a High-performing Culture,” we outline the biggest hurdles for human resource professionals and how they can use culture to address them.

5. Making Accountability Part of Your Company Culture

Lack of ownership can reduce employees’ potential for achievement.  When leaders don’t factor accountability into their business model, an assortment of negative workplace traits can take hold:

  • Weak collaboration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Ineffective communication
  • In-fighting over mistakes
  • Hiding errors
  • Procrastination
  • Distrust

In short, a lack of accountability is a recipe for a dysfunctional workplace. In the big picture, an absence of staff accountability limits a leader’s ability to execute critical plans and initiatives. The condition curtails progress and affects the bottom line.

But the sky’s the limit if accountability becomes every team member’s default mindset. That one characteristic empowers them to succeed at a higher level in every undertaking. When leaders weave accountability into their company culture, it’s clear to everyone that taking ownership of their actions is “the way we do things around here.” It’s a priority, and it’s something to be proud of.

Learn more about this vital characteristic in “Why Accountability is the Most Important Part of Your Company Culture.”

6. Battling “The Great Resignation”

Epic turnover continues to roil an already beleaguered business world, and the trend is predicted to continue into 2022. Many business leaders have addressed the phenomenon by offering more competitive salaries and new work models with broader flexibility.

But the companies that will win the latest talent battle offer something more than attractive compensation and benefits packages. They’ve also developed the kind of organizational culture that people crave.

Today’s job candidates are enticed by work that makes them feel purposeful and look for employers whose values and ethics mirror their own. Increasingly, they want to be part of organizations that make a positive difference in the world. And they want to grow professionally on the job—not just stagnantly fill a role.

Essentially, people are looking for organizations where they can plug into what’s important to them and excel. In “Want to Win the Talent War? Make Company Culture Priority #1!” we explain how a thoughtfully created company culture can provide the work environment so many seek.

7. The Challenges of a Remote Workforce

When the world hunkered down to weather the COVID storm, business leaders formed strategies to keep things going until circumstances improved. One of their first hurdles was to figure out how staff could operate on a remote basis. As challenging as the transition was, an interesting thing happened over the past few years. After the pandemic forced the virtual work model on businesses, many people discovered that they preferred it. 

Management benefitted from reduced overhead and could redirect their savings into other areas. Scaling was less expensive, and companies also gained access to deeper talent pools not limited by proximity. Employees appreciated reduced commuting expenses and time, and they also enjoyed greater flexibility with their work and personal lives.

As a result of these advantages and the continued health concerns imposed by COVID, many companies are considering a permanent remote or hybrid work model. But along with the plusses, there are potential downsides to this emerging new workplace structure.

For example, remote employees are more susceptible to distractions, feel disconnected from the organization, and experience erratic communication. And management faces the daunting task of keeping a far-flung staff zeroed in on organizational goals and operating as a team.

If the remote or hybrid workforce is here to stay, a strong culture is vital to achieving teamwide success. In “Remote Company Culture: How to Thrive with a Virtual Team,” we discuss how the potential problems of this new dynamic can be addressed and solved.

8. How Technology Factors into Culture

For most business owners, the practical uses of technology are obvious. Enterprise resource planning, accounting, payroll, customer resource management, and inventory control are examples of concrete areas where IT can systematically raise efficiencies. But technology doesn’t just facilitate nuts-and-bolts operations.

One of the biggest lessons that COVID taught us was the value of business communication platforms. Some companies had already jumped on the Zoom or Microsoft Teams bandwagon before the pandemic. But by April 2020, everyone was clamoring for communication methods that would allow a remote workforce to function effectively. 

Now, business leaders recognize the lasting value of these communication tools, and they’re a permanent part of strategic operations for most companies. We examine the tech tools that have redefined communication in the business world and how they are simultaneously impacting culture in “Corporate Culture and Technology: What’s the Connection?

9. Onboarding Remote Employees

As many companies shift towards hiring more remote team members, they face a new hurdle: how to onboard people who aren’t physically in the office. The good news is that technology offers excellent tools to conduct highly effective onboarding sessions that can potentially have a more substantial impact than old-school methods.

Yet even though techniques are evolving, the reasons why successful onboarding is important haven’t changed. The onboarding process sets the tone for an employee’s relationship with their new organization. When done well, onboarding establishes a strong bond between all parties and a runway for the employee to succeed. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

For virtual onboarding to be effective, hiring managers must be even more intentional than ever before in leading remote recruits through the process. We explain why in “Virtual Onboarding 101: 5 Tips to Engage Remote Recruits.

10. How Culture Can Fortify Your Company—No Matter What Lies Ahead

There’s a different mentality building as we head into 2022 than there was two years ago. Business leaders have realized that the recent upheaval probably wasn’t an aberration, and they’re taking the lessons they’ve learned over the past few years to heart.

In addition to being more pragmatic, more leaders are planning to double-down on getting ready for any turbulence that may happen in the future. They may not be able to predict what the next crisis will be, but they’re putting systems in place to make their businesses as resilient as possible under any circumstances.

Along with fortifying operational infrastructure, many CEOs recognize that strengthening their company culture will equip them to evolve, rebound, and endure. Specifically, they’re looking for ways for their teams to be more prepared, innovative, and collaborative.

We break down why it’s crucial for companies to embody these characteristics in “A Culture of Resilience: Is Your Company Ready for What Comes Next?

Have a Healthy & Successful New Year!

Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we’re optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead as we close the books on 2021. At CultureWise, we’re looking forward to continuing our mission to help clients develop high-performing organizational culture that will position their companies for success.

Visit our website to learn more about David J. Friedman’s innovative online system to create and sustain exceptional culture or book a call to see what CultureWise can do for your company. And subscribe to Culture Matters to stay in tune with culture news in 2022.