Long before the COVID-19 crisis, which has put companies to the test, companies have been facing challenges owing to the evolution of digitization and globalization. Continue reading to find out how a positive corporate culture can ensure stability in times of change and uncertainty, and how it can contribute to the motivation of employees.
What Challenges Do Companies Face Today?
Generation Y is well on its way to revolutionizing work culture. The key theme here is a work-life balance. Most employees are estimated to work an overtime of 9,655 hours throughout their professional lives, with the figure for managers being up to 15,390 hours. The same cannot be said for generations Y and Z as those under-20 work an overtime average of 1.74 hours a week, which is below the average.
For 20 to 29-year-olds, the overtime hours are at 2.48 per week. These figures are based on a study conducted by Compensation Partner, which surveyed around 215,000 employees. The results evidently show that jobs have a different meaning for younger people. They are no longer solely about earning money, but rather about the value of work, self-realization, and self-determination.
Crises tend to be the driving forces behind change, and the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digitization. What would take decades of evolution to develop, has taken place almost overnight thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.
The ability to freely work from home was a futuristic dream for many companies. That is until COVID-19 came along with its ultimatum: work from home or don’t work at all. And just like that, home offices became the one and only way for businesses to survive.
Now, companies are faced with the question of how to deal with this in the long term: should everything go back to the way it was originally, after the pandemic is over? Or is this irreversible? After all, the opportunity to work from home and the flexible working hours that come along with it increase employees’ self-determination, and thus their motivation.
In addition to demographics and digitization, globalization brings along other challenges. The complexity of operations is heightening, as is the speed with which companies must react to changes. These challenges can be easily overcome with a strong corporate culture, as it can take the form of a protective shield for the company, as well as a source of employee motivation.
What Does Corporate Culture Mean?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines corporate culture as “the beliefs and ideas that a company has and the way in which they affect how it does business and how its employees behave”.
A study conducted by the German Federal Ministry of Labor has proven that a positive corporate culture impacts productivity, thereby also increasing profits.
This makes sense because, after all, employee motivation has an influence on corporate culture. If employees identify with the values and goals of the company, which can be achieved through a strong corporate culture, they are more motivated and perform better. Motivated employees are an important success factor. Companies should not underestimate the detrimental consequences that unmotivated employees can have on the company’s success.
Examples of company values are good conflict management, working conditions, and communication. The way in which superiors receive ideas and deal with criticism also impacts employee motivation. Flexible working hours and the right to have a say are almost taken for granted these days, especially amongst the younger generations.
Involvement in the Company: How It Works
There are various options to encourage involvement, engagement, and participation. The key point is that companies should listen to their employees and be receptive to how and where they want to have a say in the business operations.
Bring a Friend: Many companies already use recruiting via referrals. Through this, employees suggest friends or acquaintances that they deem suitable for a particular position. This leads to a win-win situation: employees receive a bonus as a reward, whilst bringing people that they enjoy working with into the company.
With employee referrals, the company can be assured that the person recruited shares similar values and attitudes, making them a good fit with the company’s culture. Referred candidates have been shown to stay longer with the company.
Find out more in our guide: 10 steps to a successful employee referral program.
Flexible working hours: According to a study conducted by Stuttgart Fraunhofer Institute for Work Management and Organization (IAO) and the German Society for Personnel Management, almost half of the companies in Germany want to continue offering home offices post-COVID-19. It was also found that only a minuscule number of companies want to lessen the opportunity for home offices in the future.
Around 90% of those surveyed stated that an increase in working from home is possible, and without any hindrance to business operations. Allowing employees to have a say in how, when and from where they want to work can significantly increase motivation, and also doesn’t bring along any disadvantages for companies.
Transparency: New developments, personnel decisions and any other changes in the company should be clearly communicated. It is essential to keep employees in the loop, especially when things are not going as planned. Owning up to mistakes is a testimony to employees that there is an open culture of acceptance.
Companies should also listen to their employees, whether it’s praise, criticism or new suggestions. This is the only way to foster an open corporate culture in which everyone feels seen and respected. Transparent communication is important.
Personnel development: It pays to invest in your own employees. Further training opportunities have been shown to increase job satisfaction and ensure that employees stay with the company longer. It doesn’t always have to be in your own area of expertise!
For example, an editor in a large company could be given training in search engine optimization, IT or management- depending on the employee’s own development goals and desires. It’s not an issue if the company cannot offer these training courses itself, as there are plenty of external providers.
Common values and goals: There are no disadvantages to setting values and goals. After all, this is also a way for company owners to reflect on what values and goals they are pursuing.
Clear communication of the company goals and values to employees enables them to connect with the company, internalize the values, and sense a deeper meaning in their work. This increases motivation, improves the working environment, and unites the company.
Examples of Great Business Practices: Promoting a Positive Corporate Culture
Recruiting via referrals: Obi, Telekom, Volkswagen, Ubisoft and Deloitte are just some of the many companies that use this technique to recruit new employees. This includes the Arvato Bertelsmann Group, which works closely with the provider Firstbird in the area of employee referrals.
A simple and promising alternative to an internal bring-a-friend program is working with industry experts such as Firstbird.
Fostering motivation through trust: At the start of the millennium, industry giant Google established a new concept with the 20 percent rule and placed a great deal of trust in its employees. With this, employees spend 80 percent of their working time on core tasks and projects, and the other 20 percent is spent on projects that pique their interest and they believe to be of benefit to the company. This level of trust and belief in employees promoted creativity, innovation, and motivation.
Results of the 20 percent rule include Gmail, Google Maps, Google News and Google AdSense. AdSense alone now accounts for about a quarter of Google’s total revenue. The bottom line is that motivating employees through trust is about giving them freedom, which, when combined with a solid corporate culture, can be used to better the company.
Greater autonomy: Ecosia is a company that is committed to employee autonomy. The company offers full-time and part-time, as well as home office and general remote work over a prolonged time period.
The company has also introduced “no-meeting” days, on which employees can go about their work undisturbed. This ensures a high degree of control and autonomy in terms of working hours, and improves motivation.
Shared vision and values: Ikea is a company that excels at establishing shared beliefs and values, according to Glassdoor. IKEA confirms this by stating the following: “We believe that every individual has something valuable to offer. We are a diverse group of down-to-earth, straightforward people with a passion for home furnishings…We are guided by the IKEA vision to create a better everyday life for many people. ”
The company’s core values are:
- Caring for people and the planet
- Renew and improve
- Different with a meaning
- Give and take responsibility
- Lead by example
Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of the company, details his very personal goals and values in “The Testament of a Furniture Dealer“. In it, he sets out the vision of his company. According to Glassdoor, employee satisfaction at IKEA is 4.6, well above average.
Kamprad founded the company in 1943, and nearly 80 years later, the furniture giant remains successful. This is thanks to his clear vision and strong company culture, which have lasted beyond his lifetime as the founder passed away in 2018.
A Positive Corporate Culture is the Key to Success
These examples prove that new approaches are always possible. As the companies mentioned are extremely successful in their respective industries, it is evident that the introduction of the practices has played a significant role.
A strong corporate culture with which employees identify means a greater level of satisfaction, thus making motivating employees easy. It also leads to employees staying longer with the company, and perhaps even referring it to friends or acquaintances. A win-win situation for employees and the company!