Maintaining a positive company culture when things get tough takes deliberate, intentional, creative work.
As I have been reflecting on the year 2020, one of the things I am proudest of as a CEO has been ThirdLove’s ability to maintain a positive company culture. In fact, I would say the ways in which we communicate as a team today are even better than they were before the pandemic. This past year taught us all how to be more understanding, compassionate, flexible, thoughtful, and balanced–despite the challenges we faced as a business, as well as the wide range of obstacles we all faced in our personal lives.
Here’s how the pandemic brought us closer together, and how you can continue to improve your company culture even during challenging times.
1. Measure your company culture the same way you would a business objective.
What are you trying to achieve and why? How are you measuring success?
At the end of 2019, we conducted an employee survey. We wanted to understand where the biggest opportunities for growth were, and then establish a goal plan for the year. For us, the two biggest things we wanted to improve were team satisfaction–which in essence is an NPS score for your employees, the same way you’d have an NPS score for your customers–as well as leadership communication.
As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets improved.” For example: Our teammate satisfaction score increased more than 30 percent year over year from 2019 to 2020, pretty incredible given the ups and downs of the year.
2. When times get hard, communicate 10 times more.
2020 was a difficult year. The uncertainty and being remote meant we had to double down on other types of communication since there was no more bumping into each other casually in the office, or seeing each other at regular meetings.
We moved to weekly “All Hands” meetings where the entire company came together virtually, to make sure everyone was aligned on what was going on in the business and had a way to ask questions. I also started sending weekly emails to the entire team spotlighting key projects and customer feedback. Our “People Team” started doing monthly updates to make sure our team was aware of upcoming events and training sessions, as well.
This goal didn’t require a monetary investment, but it required all leadership members within the company to step up and communicate what was happening, why, and what this meant for the future of the business.Our goal was to improve leadership communication, and we achieved a year-over-year lift of more than 23 percent.
3. Invest in people’s well-being.
First, we started holding one-on-one well-being check-ins each quarter with each employee, where we learned about their concerns and needs. We realized that what our team needed most wasn’t career education, but support for their own well-being. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, research suggests that 42 percent of employees have experienced a decline in mental health since the pandemic began.
Based on those learnings we hosted our first-ever wellness week, where we had sessions on galvanizing grit and managing anxiety, and content about how to stay healthy, unique ways to work out at home, etc. We hosted six mindful Monday sessions (yoga, meditation, etc.) and created five well-being days where our entire company had the same day off to relax and recharge.
As a result, our team had the tools and space to prioritize self-care, and we focused on making work a place where they could find tools, support, and camaraderie.
4. Develop an ongoing D&I strategy.
During Q2, in response to the civil unrest, we knew it was essential to create a diversity and inclusion strategy that acknowledged that systematic racism exists in our world. Our team took a belonging and inclusion survey to examine where in the work experience we could make existing systems more equitable. Our leadership team began the work of implementing strategies to create an even more inclusive community and develop paths of opportunity to teammates and candidates who may not have had access to them.
This included quarterly training on topics like unconscious bias, allyship and microaggressions, enhancing our recruiting best practices and piloting a new mentoring program. Additionally, we created fireside chats with internal speakers at ThirdLove who shared their experiences for Hispanic Heritage Month, clerking for Thurgood Marshall, and other relevant topics where we could learn from our team members’ own experiences.
5. Create a refreshed “culture club” and come up with creative ways for people to connect.
Internally, we have five people who talk with the broader team and come up with new, fun, and engaging ways for people to connect with each other. There are many lightweight ways to do this, like creating a channel in Slack to recognize teammates’ birthdays and anniversaries. We shifted our custom of monthly assigned “random coffee chats,” moving it from in-person to a virtual matchup, to continue fostering connection across teams.
In 2020 our team had to get creative in planning virtual events. For example, one day we had a National Avocado Day Happy Hour on Zoom, where people showed how they used avocados to create unique at-home recipes. Another was Pride Happy Hour, where we asked the team to watch a documentary and then come together to discuss what they learned, what the film meant to them, etc., before creating Pride-related drinks together.
The importance of your company’s “culture club” shouldn’t just be the events themselves, but also finding ways for people to learn something new about each other during each and every event. People should walk away feeling closer to one another, and having a newfound understanding of who they work alongside day in and day out.
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