Coronavirus and company culture: Six principles about culture and how it spreads

How are coronavirus and company culture related? Our experience dealing with this virus can inform us about company culture and how culture spreads.

Think about your culture using these six principles:

Principle #1: Be aware of what exists that you cannot see.

coronavirus and company culture - iceberg image of cultureThe coronavirus has been described as an invisible enemy.

Similarly, many describe company culture as an invisible force. Some compare it to an iceberg with a substantial portion below the surface. The beliefs and assumptions that are the foundation for the company’s culture may not be visible. But they are powerful. They influence employee behaviors and actions.

Principle #2: Seek people who will naturally spread the culture.

coronavirus and company culture - spread of culture

The virus has moved quickly and is often undetected. One of the reasons is due to asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spreaders—people not knowing they are infected. Therefore, it is difficult to manage an outbreak.

Similarly, there are people in an organization who live the principles of their culture without realizing it. They are like asymptomatic spreaders who naturally promote your culture. When you hire individuals who are a natural fit with the company’s core values, they inherently practice those principles. Their instinctive behaviors support the spread of the culture.

Principle #3: Use the power of super-spreaders.

coronavirus and company culture - super spreadersAs we have seen in the spread of the coronavirus, there have been super-spreaders who have exposed a larger than expected number of people to the virus.

Similarly, in an organization, you have individuals who are super-spreaders. Due to their influence, these super-spreaders are valuable people to spread the company’s culture.

Principle #4: Build trust by leading with honesty and openness.

coronavirus and company culture - trustThe aim is for citizens to trust their leaders. When that trust does not exist–due to dishonesty or a lack of openness–the results can be detrimental. It can affect citizens’ health and well-being. To sum up, distrust drives fear and uncertainty.

Similarly, in an organization, when employees do not trust leader messages, the outcome is fear and uncertainty. The result is neither a healthy organization nor a strong culture.

Principle #5: Let science guide action.

science guide organizations

The way to understand and respond to the coronavirus is to take action based on science. Speculation and anecdotal comments can take you off track. It can lead to more illness by promoting unhealthy actions. To sum up, science-based action is key to an effective response.

Similarly, science-based action is essential for effectively managing culture. When companies use research-based principles to guide them, actions tend to lead to better results.

Principle #6: Build a culture that supports connection, collaboration, and caring.

Most countries have practiced social distancing to minimize the spread of the caring in the workplacevirus. But the preferred focus is to practice “physical” distancing. No one seeks the reduction of social connection.

Similarly, many organizations have implemented work-from-home policies in their efforts to support physical distancing. But they understand the importance of maintaining a connected workforce. They use virtual meetings, phone conversations, and a number of digital tools to stay connected. Connection, collaboration, and caring promote a culture of employee engagement.

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