Jabian’s Human Capital Management team recently facilitated the Fall session of our People Strategies Executive Roundtable (PSERT) and celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the group. Leaders from across the Atlanta market came together, virtually, to talk about how their organizations’ culture has changed in 2020. Overwhelmingly, we agreed that it has been a hard year, but one of empathy and understanding. For some, it was even more difficult as the global pandemic and social unrest led to turmoil and inconsistent organizational practices.

Here is what we discussed:

  • When asked to describe “2020 Culture” in their companies, these words came to mind:

o  Resilient, Optimistic, Caring, Determined, Upheaval, Magnified, Connected, Contradictory, Graceful, One Team, Togetherness, Sacrifice, and Accelerated.

  • Culture has become a differentiator for some companies this year, for better or for worse.

o  Culture has kept teams together, reinforcing the importance of connectivity and relationships in remote times. Leaders have gone above and beyond to connect with employees (direct reports and skip levels) through one-on-one meetings, social hours, “mandatory fun,” and regular shout-outs at company town halls and through emails and texts.

o  For leaders who want to maintain a pre-COVID on-site working environment, the misalignment of values has come to light; for example, when leaders say they want to keep employees healthy and safe but require them to physically come to the office.

o  Employees who are productive and enjoying the flexibility of a remote working environment are not as apt to return to the way it was at the beginning of March. Leaders are starting to understand that not offering that flexibility will feed the competitive talent market.

  • Necessity is the Mother of Innovation…or so the saying goes.

o  Companies are doing things that they thought were unimaginable pre-COVID. Creativity and out-of-the-box thinking have increased and will likely continue when we get back to whatever normalcy becomes.

o  The use of technology to collaborate has allowed innovation and creativity to continue even though we’re not working side-by-side.

  • Maintaining culture is key now that most employees are working remotely – some for the foreseeable future.

o  A huge component of culture this year has been “giving grace” and displaying empathy. Although we have been given a bird’s eye view into our colleagues’ personal lives (thanks to Zoom), we shouldn’t make assumptions about what they are experiencing. The increased focus on culture within one company represented at PSERT grew out of a concern for employees’ well-being.

o  Most companies are increasing employee touchpoints to keep the pulse on engagement and maintain culture. Leaders and managers are investing more time in making sure their teams are connected to each other, to their work, and to the company’s purpose and strategy. If first-line managers aren’t able to nurture, support, and empathize remotely, they will need upskilling (training) or be transitioned to a non-supervisory role. In remote-working, individual contributors are more likely to disengage if they do not remain connected to their team and leader.

We are always looking for new members to join our PSERT group. If you are a people-minded Vice President or Executive in Atlanta and would like to participate with your peers in insightful discussions twice a year, please reach out to me. We’d love to have you!