Organisational Culture in Times of COVID

(GA, Apr 13, 2021)

By Giovanni Angelini

Organisational culture in times of COVID:

Are you surviving or thriving?

Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Good companies survive them.

Great companies are improved by them.” – Andy Grove

Organisational speed is an essential ingredient for sustainable business growth in times of unprecedented change. Global crises happen. They disrupt. They destroy. And as the present pandemic has proved, they bring seismic shifts in the ways we go about our daily lives and work.

The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Not only has the pandemic resulted in the most prolonged drop in demand on record, but it has changed practically everything about our business – from how we run our daily operations to our interactions with guests, customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders.

Most hospitality-related organisations have been deeply affected by the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. And with performance and cash flow severely impacted, the blows just keep coming.

This unprecedented situation calls for unprecedented measures, and any company seeking to move beyond surviving to thriving must assess their organisational culture and ensure they are resilient enough to go the distance.

How has your whole team reacted to this crisis? Has the pandemic brought out the best or the worst in the organisation? What needs to be done, redefine, overhaul, and/or adjust your business? What are your priorities? And what can you do to differentiate your organisation in the future?

In times of crisis, the world sees what companies are really made of. Leaders across all sectors have been truly tested by the pandemic, and they have had to up their game through increased communication, empathy, agility, empowerment, collaboration, alignment, cost-containment strategies, and a more humane approach to business. Risk management and company survival have been critical elements of each leader’s test.

In principle, an organisation’s core purpose – including its DNA and company values – may remain unchanged. But during these trying times, leaders (and owners) have to seriously look at their organisational objectives and redefine their company’s mission, strategies, and actions.

Which components of the culture should be transformed, and which should be kept? Identifying the ‘pivot point’ and creating a diverse, inclusive, and incentivised high-performing team is essential.

When we finally emerge from this pandemic, the travel and tourism industry is likely to be even more competitive than what we’ve experienced in the past. With all segments of the lodging spectrum fighting hard for business, hospitality leaders will need to leverage their organisational culture for marketplace success. Act now, and you can come out of this crisis stronger – and ahead of the competition.

Remember that a ‘business-as-usual’ approach in this environment is simply a fast-track to failure. Instead, you must be bold, innovative, proactive, and willing to take carefully calculated risks.

Organisations that successfully foster a culture of agility, flexibility, innovation, experimentation, speed, and productivity will be the ones that go the distance. 

Culture – a key element of company success

A company’s culture, values, and philosophy impacts every aspect of its business. Organisations that have strong cultural identities are proven to have higher employee engagement, higher productivity, higher accountability, and, of course, higher performance than those that don’t.

Companies that build a culture where people feel trusted and protected, aligned towards a common purpose, and fully empowered to make decisions will reap the benefits when team members take ownership of issues and work to resolve them positively. And when companies reward that attitude and behaviour, they create a positive cycle that results in better customer experience overall – and greater loyalty.

On the other hand, organisations that fail to foster a strong culture and which are not aligned are subject to lower productivity, higher turnover, and slower growth. Companies that want to succeed in the post-COVID era must make sure their people are engaged, productive, motivated and not seeking to switch to an organisation that promises a better culture. Usually, good talent doesn’t leave jobs; it leaves bad company cultures.

Leaders should set the example and drive employee engagement and performance through a solid and well-defined culture. A culture that enables the organisation to attract and retain the best and brightest; a culture that is understood and fully accepted by everyone in the organisation (especially in terms of mission/objectives); a company culture that motivates and inspires people; and a culture driven by a common core set of values that employees are proud to make their own.

In the words of Simon Sinek, author of the bestselling leadership book ‘Start with Why,’ “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

Commit to your culture. Commit to your core values. And by leading by example, you will always have a great shot at achieving this.