Reshaping company culture in a digital and hybrid age

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Picture of Rupert Coghlan
Rupert Coghlan

I recently shared a session with Sonya Poonian from Simply Communicate, and Paula Grant, People Director at the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to discuss how company culture can be reshaped in the digital and hybrid age, and why going digital first can give a company that competitive edge in the marketplace.

Like many businesses, the pandemic was transformational for the RFU in terms of hybrid working, with much of the workforce moving to this model. One of the key things Paula said which really struck me, was that any working scenario must be about creating energy—whether that is at home or in the office.

Creating (and maintaining) that energy requires forethought. It requires a well-planned approach to communications and engagement. Most importantly, it requires that employees feel connected.

Working toward a common purpose and feeling like the work we do has an impact is critical when it comes to building a strong culture, and there is no doubt in my mind that effective communications play an integral role in this.

Moments that matter

The employee lifecycle is peppered with key points, or “moments that matter” that are important to recognize: Onboarding, anniversaries, promotions, birthdays, becoming a parent, to name but a few. There are also significant whole-company-related events—a new CEO, for example—that need to be recognized.

How we communicate at these moments is important. Done well, it has the potential to make a truly positive impact on the employee experience. We all know that feeling “seen” is critical when it comes to feeling valued—which in turn has a direct impact on engagement and even productivity. Get communications in those “moments that matter” wrong…well, you get the picture.

Using a digital platform to make some of the process-driven elements around these moments can smooth the way to effective communications. By making the process autonomous, the focus can then be on the quality of the human interaction and depth of conversation.

Everyone is part of the story

Everyone wants to feel heard. People need to feel involved, and there is an increasing expectation—particularly from the younger generations coming into the world of work—that they are part of the creation of the company culture.

And that isn’t the only changing expectation that businesses now need to come to grips with. Surrounded by customized, interactive social media and shopping experiences has raised all of our expectations as to how we are engaged with. One-size-fits-all just doesn’t cut it any more. Employees today need (and expect) to be able to access communications in a way that suits them, when it suits them.

This digital employee experience (DEX) isn’t just about communications, though; it is the sum of all our interactions of technology and tools we use to do our job and how well they perform. A positive DEX has the potential to make employees feel connected and, subsequently, drive a common purpose.

Here at Firstup we work across lots of different sectors; and, while every organization has its nuances and differences, there are some constants—and one of those is the direct correlation between DEX and employee retention.

Being aware of what employees need and want requires asking questions (and listening to the answers). Different groups and even generations will have different priorities and will require different approaches. Using a digital platform to both inform and then act on these will not only provide a tailored multichannel approach but will also give valuable metrics that allow further refinement.

Keep it genuine

Gone are the days of a formal announcement from the CEO every now and again. Today employees expect a much more authentic approach to engagement. Creating a shared open environment that celebrates culture truly helps everyone feel as though they are “in the boat”—be that through regular townhalls, company social media apps, or the use of video.

These low-key, less-produced communications can go a long way in generating more genuine and transparent communications and building trust in leadership.

Facilitating dialogue with two-way communications channels not only helps keep the dialogue going, but also engages employees in a way that helps them feel part of the story. Enthused and engaged employees are more likely to live, represent, and celebrate a company’s culture—and this is when it really becomes ingrained.

Time is money

A positive work culture holds many benefits. Lower sick rates, higher retention, greater recruitment options, and, indeed, higher productivity.

There is no doubt in my mind that employers want to create a positive culture, and employees want to be more immersed in that culture—but one of the main things that gets in the way of this happening is time.

We often think we can just communicate and it will build culture, but problem solving and saving time can also make space to build culture.

Booking holidays, on-boarding new employees, logging time on tasks—sometimes it can feel like we have an endless checklist of things to complete. Automating tasks or even easing certain processes can be incredibly powerful when it comes to freeing up time, which can then be used to engage in that culture.

The way forward

In addition to working out where you want to go, it’s also important to work out what you want to measure. One of the things we at Firstup are encouraging is to move away from assessing past actions (click-through rates, for example) and start focusing on measuring future actions—what is the behavior you want to see, and how do you measure that?

It’s really exciting to see how many companies want to put their employees at the center of their communications, but good intentions alone aren’t enough. This desire to create a positive culture, to meet employee expectations of an excellent DEX, and to develop a productive workforce that is easy to reach, must be backed up by the goods—and that means putting in place mechanisms that facilitate meeting every employee where they are.

Want to learn more?

Watch as Paula Grant, People Director at the RFU, and I dive into these topics and more on a new Simply Communicate webinar hosted by Sonya Poonian.

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