What’s Keeping CFOs Up at Night? Sustaining a Virtual Culture
Here it is mid-June, and the U.S. economy continues its recovery.
What’s most likely a CFO’s highest priority?
Keeping current employees from moving to competitors
But what does that have to do with sustaining a virtual culture?
Many employees who have been working from home for the last several months enjoy doing so. So much so that most of them have indicated in surveys that unless they can continue working remotely most days of the week, they will leave their employer.
Finance and accounting professionals are no different: in its Q2 2020 CFO Signals, Deloitte found that 72 percent of survey respondents said they anticipated that more finance work would be conducted remotely post-crisis.
In fact, the latest CFO Signals, for Q1 2021, reported that the remote work expectation hadn’t changed much: a bit more than 75 percent of CFOs expect that their finance work will be completed remotely post-pandemic compared to pre-COVID.
Most CFOs also expect many finance department employees to work remotely
Just 31 percent of CFOs said they expect most of their finance team members to work four or more days in the office. Forty-five percent expect on-site work to be three days per week.
And it doesn’t matter the type of industry: 38 percent of financial CFOs said they expect team members to work virtually at least four days per week, while 39 percent of “services” CFOs expect four days of remote work. Even manufacturing/technology CFOs expect their finance staff to work from home four or more days a week.
It IS harder to create a collegial corporate culture when working remotely
There’s a definite downside to having employees work remotely: camaraderie and team cohesion does dissipate.
Slack surveyed what it calls “knowledge workers” in April 2020 and found almost half of them who had just recently started working remotely full time said that doing so had a negative impact on their sense of belonging. One-third also said working from home affected their productivity: it went down!
These responses were for remote workers who had just started working from home in spring 2020. Have things changed for them? Yes.
They’re no longer as lonely/feeling disconnected
Statista surveyed remote workers again earlier this year and reported having “fewer difficulties with collaboration and communication.” (Statista figured this was due to the “quick cultivation of skills” honed last year that allow them to “effectively communicate and collaborate” with others.)
This is, of course, good news for CFOs when it comes to sustaining a corporate culture with remote workers.
Still, challenges remain in building, and sustaining, a virtual culture
Onboarding new hires, for example, is still difficult, especially in cultivating a company culture with new employees who didn’t work for the company on-site and therefore have no sense of the culture whatsoever.
Or, as Forbes put it, “[i]t’s impossible to onboard a new hire virtually using an in-person methodology.” It’s imperative, therefore, that CFOs and their team members find a way to engage with and connect new hires as soon as possible, no matter where they may work.
And how does anyone stay connected, with a sense of teamwork, when they come to the office only one or two days a week?
Some culture sustaining strategies in a remote-work world
- Understand that you can’t sustain a corporate culture if you don’t already know what it is.
What does leadership believe the culture is, and what do your employees (and even customers/clients) believe it to be? Does employee experience of the culture match leadership’s?
- Ask your employees.
If you say you’re a values-driven culture, what are they? And do your employees agree? How has the pandemic affected your corporate values? If they have changed, how so? Did they change a little or completely?
Ask them if they feel their manager acts in ways in sync with your company’s values? If they do, how? If they don’t, how?
- There’s no such thing as too much communication in a remote working world.
This is going to take some work – and some mistakes – to get right. If you don’t already have them, consider real-time collaboration tools, live surveys, mobile video webinars, and apps.
Ask your team members if they feel communication and if collaboration is working. If not, what needs to change? What tools do they love, and which do they loathe? Do the tools actually help employees feel connected?
- Provide lots of feedback.
Build virtual “catch-ups” into your and your team members’ schedules. These can be “all hands on deck” meetings, team meetings, and one-on-one check-ins.
For real connection, encourage quick conversations among individuals as well as with their managers. This could be started with a quick email: “Got a minute for a chat? Curious how things are going and if there’s anything I can help with.”
If a conversation entails a critique or correction, make sure to do so as kindly as possible (and never in a group Zoom session).
The focus should be on caring about your employees’ needs, wants, and especially challenges.
Focusing on team members’ well-being and remembering how each person’s life affects their work (caring for children or parents, for example) is critical.
- Find ways to build team camaraderie and connection.
Many people say they dislike participating in team activities such as retreats and training. But once they’re in the thick of the online murder mystery event as a team-building exercise (for example), chances are great that they’ll lose themselves in it and start to feel connected to their remote colleagues.
Bottom line: it’s up to leadership to build and maintain the corporate culture
While all employees contribute to a company’s culture and cohesion, those in leadership positions are the ones to ultimately decide what they want that culture to be and to instigate its creation.