9 Ways to Build Company Culture Muscle during COVID
By Brian Giese, CEO of True Influence.
The greatest long-term asset of any business is its people, and that’s never been more true than now. First and foremost as a leader today, do what you can to ease the pressure your people feel every day. Because without the buy-in of your teams, no CEO or management team is going to win this fight.
I want to share some of the things we’re doing with the True Influence team to stay connected and build our culture during COVID-19. We know we’ll come through even stronger because of these efforts. I believe you’ll find this useful.
Idea #1 – 90-day No Layoff Pledge
One of the most impactful things we’ve done was the 90-day No Layoff Pledge. On March 27, I told our CFO we needed to assure our hundreds of full-time employees that True Influence will not lay off anyone for the next 90 days, regardless of the impact COVID-19. At the time, we didn’t have a clear picture of what the quarter would look like. We just believed in making a promise to our people to relieve the stress and we got their attention and commitment.
We committed to a 90-day pledge to not lay off any of our full-time employees, and we’ve challenged other companies to do the same. (We’re offering a supporter downloadable pin, and we’re nudging site visitors with a promotional pop-up.)
It’s proven to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. But it’s not the only thing. We’ve experimented with a number of other ways to engage and inspire employees. If employees aren’t “healthy” nothing else about the business is either.
Idea #2 – Weekly Stress Relief Emails
We’ve been sending regular “Stress Relief” emails from the CEO as a company-wide communication to help our team stay focused on self-care. When employees are stressed out, they can’t be effective at their work. We also include inspirational stories, both from our own team and from around the world. Stress Relief emails went out 6 days a week at first, but now once or twice weekly as got into a cadence of less stress. Now we’ve passed the baton on to line managers to be primary communicators. Try sending a branded, regular communication to your team if you haven’t already. They appreciate and trust a sincere, direct, connection to leadership.
Idea #3 – Stress Relief Page – Our Most Popular Website Destination
At True Influence, we focus on sharing positive, useful information with our team, our customers, and the public in general. The Stress Relief page we launched (tied in with our branded Stress Relief emails) quickly became the most trafficked on our site, and we continue to regularly post positive stories about people coming together in this fight. We’ve also changed our market-facing messaging and customer relationship strategies to embrace the fact that COVID-19 is the real story right now. This page also makes a good focal point for social sharing by employees across the company.
Idea #4 – Building Our Social Skills
And that leads to another critical piece of our COVID plan – developing the team’s social media skills. Think about it. Your team is one of your best channels for promoting positive messages to broader audiences. We’ve held weekly LinkedIn training hosted by some of our own employees, plus everyone shares great resources for more about social media. By working together as a unit, our employee community becomes a powerful, united communication force. Everyone is asked to post regularly and share and comment on other posts. We celebrate our wins and our winners. We encourage people to post about what’s going on in their personal lives as they blend with their business ones.
It’s had positive results through increased connections and views. In this time of social distancing and isolation, people want to feel a personal connection to everyone, including their business partners, and social media meets that need. After we get through COVID, we plan to continue building our social muscle and our employee advocates. You might want to also consider launching a focus on social skills and activity for your team.
We’re bragging about the great things our people are doing during this pandemic. A few weeks ago, one of our senior customer success managers, asked about making cloth breathing masks from TI t-shirts. Her post has become something of a viral sensation — we’re challenging companies to do us one better. And that’s just one story. Build personal connections to help everyone get through this together, and illustrating how you and your people are contributing to the cause is essential.
Idea #5 – Have a Framework for Themes, Brand and Messaging
We realized early on that it was important to define and communicate our brand response to the crisis and make adjustments as we moved through the different stages of the COVID-19 crisis.
As it became clear how completely COVID-19 is changing the way the world does business, we got behind the hashtag #WeAreBuiltForThis. And it’s true. We are built for this. We’ve been virtual from the beginning of the business, and we have an agile, get-it-done mentality as a team.
To help keep us on track, we created a one-page brand message sheet. Now we all have a common understanding, so people communicate consistently and on message. The core messages of this branding also extend to our emails, webpages, webinars – any way we communicate. It provides our people with a viewpoint and a source of truth. What is your company’s brand message? Do your employees know what it is?
Idea #6 – Create a Task Force of COVID Messaging and Ideas
What started as a messaging group quickly morphed into an idea incubator. This team has met daily for weeks, first thing in the morning, and it pulls members from all areas of the company. Every meeting, participants bring ideas to the table for making greater connections, supporting customers, and overall stress relief. Our idea for the employee survey below came out of this task force, along with many others. You probably have an equally smart group just waiting to be tapped in your organization.
Idea #7 – Employee Survey
A few weeks into the COVID-19 experience, we decided to take the pulse of our employee community and get a sense of what obstacles they struggled with, did they feel informed, were they connected with colleagues? The survey only took a few minutes to complete, and we’re compiling results as I write this. We’ll take the insights and modify where needed in our communications. The responses will show what resources are missing so we can get those in place. Surveys are easy to do, so this is an easy idea to consider for your organization. We plan to continue doing these surveys as benchmarks for developing our company culture.
Idea #8 – Frequent Companywide Virtual Town Halls
Being a virtual company already, we know the power of meetings to connect decentralized groups. To rally our business around the COVID-19 fight, we ramped up our regular town hall company meeting schedule to every other week. Thanks to digital transformation, we can come together as a community, see each other’s faces and hear our voices. Questions are encouraged, and we actively collect them in advance. Employees are encouraged to submit short videos of themselves asking their questions. It’s a way to meet other True Influencers from California to India and hear what they think. It’s also how we build connections that make us stronger.
Put Your People First and Culture Will Follow
As a business leader, I have the luxury of complete confidence in my team’s ability to execute in these difficult times. That confidence comes from knowing we’re doing everything possible to help them succeed.
COVID-19 will be for a while, it’s tail is long. The question for you is: what are you going to do about it? How are you helping your people stay strong and inspired? Let me know if you’d like to talk about any of the things we’re doing.