When the global Covid-19 pandemic hit, companies with hundreds, if not thousands of employees working remotely from a laptop, faced a unique challenge: keeping their far-flung employees connected, focused and happy.
The question of how companies can foster their culture, create loyalty, and stay purpose-driven and productive was explored by featured guests at The Trade Desk’s Groundswell Digital Marketing Festival, which included Jon Fee (global head of marketing for Salesforce.org), Vina Leite (CPO at The Trade Desk), Laura Probert (VP of global talent at Xaxis) and moderator Maria Katris (co-founder and CEO of Built In). Here, we share three takeaways from the discussion.
Shared activities on virtual platforms help employees feel connected
Meditation classes, dance classes, how-to-cut-your-own-hair classes. These are just some of the ways companies are trying to engage their employees with activities that foster a sense of community through virtual-only means.
The challenge is to motivate and connect workers who can no longer meet for a quick cup of coffee or build rapport over lunch. For a forward-thinking company, such cultural activities are an important part of engaging employees via this kind of virtual camaraderie. But they also serve another purpose by keeping the group aligned to the company’s core values. Increasingly employees and prospective employees are looking for a professional environment that places value on a positive workplace culture, says The Trade Desk’s Vina Leite. For the first time in her long career in tech, Leite explains, she has created an engagement team for “that specifically focuses on cultural aspects of our company and how we leverage our great place to work.” In effect this is one way a company can take the pulse of its relationships with its employees.
“I fundamentally believe culture, corporate cultures, team cultures will be the most important thing to unify, rethink, reimagine and [help companies] go forward,” says Jon Fee.
Purpose-driven companies must live their values
In this time of a global pandemic and social unrest, companies and brands are rethinking the story they want tell. There’s a renewed interest in the notion of the purpose-driven company, says Jon Fee. He adds that the brands leading by example are the nonprofit brands —the Surfrider Foundation or the Red Cross, for example — who have long been focused on “driving good in their community.” Fee says this momentum for purpose-driven profile will only build from here and move into e-commerce.
To hear Fee tell it, brands must be prepared to answer questions on what their values are, how those values are being implemented and why they’re in place. Ideally, employees want their values to map to those of their employer. But it goes beyond just a mission statement, or words written on a corporate site, says Xaxis’ Laura Probert. “I don’t think employees actually read [a company’s mission statement] and really believe it until they come into the organization where they see it living out through the culture and how the business does things,” she says.
Working from home is redefining traditional employer/employee relationships
It’s harder than ever to segregate home life from work life. While this no doubt can create stressful situations as people juggle personal and professional needs, it may also have a humanizing effect. “The work life balance is getting redefined,” says Jon Fee, referencing the fact that he is sitting in his bedroom, which is his office, and also the place where he homeschools his children. It’s important, he insists, for companies to acknowledge this new paradigm and “just understand that everyone’s going through it and just be a little bit empathetic, be a little forgiving.”
In doing so, companies are more likely to build loyalty from their employees, says Laura Probert. “I think [managers] have got to relax a bit because some people just can’t deliver right now,” she says. “You know it’s physically not possible for them to do that to the normal standards when they’ve got young children.”
“You have to let it go,” says Probert, who adds that it’s vital for employers to be cognizant of the mental health and wellbeing of their workers.