Engagement Success

Today’s socially-distant culture challenge

07 May 2020

We're very pleased to welcome legal technology specialist Nigel Stott to our guest blogging team

I sit here and gaze out into my back garden through the study window, watching the bright blue-sky fade on what has been a glorious warm spring day.  In my small study, I have been attending a series of video conference calls with colleagues and team members. 

When I’m responsible for building an IT team, I’ve always tried hard to build a culture centred around a strong work ethic, but also one that can have fun and be relaxed around each other. The video calls have been central to maintaining this culture - but that’s only part of the picture.  

The thought crept across my mind how pretty much everything I had done today, would have been impossible to do from my warm study just 15 years ago. Back then, we simply didn’t have the means to “jump on” to the corporate IT systems from home. If I needed to work, I really had to be in the office to do that. Yes, there were very rudimentary ways it could be achieved, through a clunky dial-up connection on a 56k modem. But it was unreliable and cumbersome. If we’d have faced this situation in those times, maintaining that team culture would have been even more difficult.  

Over the last few years, everything I wished for has come true. The office technology experience can be faithfully replicated from the comfort of our own homes. Most businesses, by now, have overcome the initial hurdles of home working. Laptops have been found and purchased and we’ve helped everybody connect over the company VPN. 

So here we are…“the new normal”...but that begs the question how have we adapted to ensure we are truly engaging with our workforce to maintain our company culture and support them during this time of isolation? Isolation

Some companies have invested a huge effort in developing a culture centred around a mission and core values. Traditionally, a large part of developing values was done in the office environment: team meetings, presentations, fun events and colourful wall art depicting imagery that resonated with the workforce to create that overarching culture. 

What now? And what next?

What now? Is the building of our company culture on hold till we can once again return to the office? Are the values we worked so hard to instil waning as our team members sit at the dining room table, trying to focus as family life goes on around them? What about those living on their own, who valued their social network in the workplace but now feel out of touch without the physical presence of their colleagues? 

I believe this is a time where the transactional technology we use to hold our video conferences and collaborate on our projects has come into its own. But we also need to focus on how we maintain and develop the culture we work so hard to build in our organisations. The technology that facilitates a video conference may not always be the best tool to socially engage a whole workforce.  

This is particularly true for those joining our companies for the first time. Starting a new job is exciting but as soon as we step through the door, we are observing others and learning the culture in order to fit in and bond with our colleagues. These times have shown us that we need technology that can help us deliver an experience to those new colleagues that supports them and gives them an experience of the company culture, without them setting foot through the office doors. 

This is truly a unique time, where technology has already proved it can facilitate a normal working day without stepping foot in the office. The culture of a business though is based on the overall experience we provide to our people. This requires a different toolset to help our businesses emerge with an engaged and positive workforce, ready to succeed.