Today, company culture is more important than ever. With a new generation entering the workforce, companies are experiencing more competition for top talent. They’re quickly discovering that culture is one of the most important aspects of attracting employees.
For example, a Glassdoor survey from last year revealed that 77% of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job, and more than half (56%) said that culture is more important than salary for job satisfaction. These survey results align with Glassdoor’s research into the top drivers of employee satisfaction across the US, UK, Canada, France, and Germany. The researchers found that an organization’s culture and values, senior leadership, and career opportunities were the top three most important predictors of employee satisfaction.
People want to work for companies with positive and supportive company cultures. And as company culture has progressively become more important, technology can help facilitate it. As two executives for Workday wrote in an article in Harvard Business Review:
“We’ve found that you can’t create a culture just through values, new processes, or an organizational restructure. Those things are necessary, but we like to think of values as the beating heart of culture, processes and organizational structure as the brain, and technology as the nervous system that makes sure heart and head are working together to move us forward.”
So how can companies leverage the benefits of technology to improve their company culture? Here’s what you need to know.
Clear and effective communication is an essential component of establishing a positive company culture. If employees don’t feel heard and understood, or if they feel like they’re kept in the dark about what’s going on in the organization, morale is likely to be low.
Even before the covid-19 pandemic, increasing numbers of employees were working from home—remote work has increased 159% since 2005 in the US, according to a 2019 report by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs. Now millions more are working remotely.
Communication is an essential part of keeping remote workers feeling motivated and engaged in their work. It’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected from your coworkers when you’re not physically together. Relationships are made and reinforced in the many unplanned interactions and conversations that happen organically throughout the day in a physical workplace.
That’s why technology for communication is so important. Applications like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams give distributed teams and remote employees the opportunity to connect—whether to discuss business or just chat.
This underscores another point: it’s important to give remote employees an avenue for personal conversation, whether or not it’s directly related to work. Remote teams can collaborate on projects and carve out time to chat about their weekend plans on the same platform. That’s one of the bonuses of Slack and similar applications—you can create different channels (chatrooms) for different conversations, so there are designated places to discuss projects and others to socialize.
It can be inspiring to read the creative ways many remote teams are using virtual chats, videoconferencing, and simple email to bring people together and reinforce culture. For instance, this roundup includes: .gif battles in a Slack channel, collaborative playlists on Spotify, “messy desk” photo competitions, icebreaker games, and virtual lunches on Zoom.
Training, Onboarding, and Professional Development
Employees often associate a positive workplace culture with opportunities for professional development and advancement. Recall that the 2019 Glassdoor survey found that availability of career opportunities was a top predictor of job satisfaction.
Even basic training and onboarding for new employees is important to culture and the bottom line. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) described onboarding and training as an opportunity to “win the hearts and minds of new employees,” and this is a fair assessment. It’s a chance to introduce newcomers to the company culture. SHRM also reports that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with an organization if they experience a great onboarding, while organizations with a standardized onboarding program see 50% greater productivity from new hires.
Technology makes it easier for organizations to deliver effective onboarding, training, and other learning programs. Keep in mind this isn’t about losing the “human touch” or replacing HR staff. However, the larger an organization grows, the more difficult it becomes to deliver the same high quality, cohesive learning program to all employees. Technology can ensure a more consistent experience for all—and this itself can reinforce culture. Delivery methods might include everything from social media to virtual or augmented reality.
It’s easy to see how virtual reality (VR) might be used in fields like aviation, which already use simulation programs extensively. But VR is also being used for training in industries you might not expect—for example, NPR reported that Walmart is using VR to train employees in the use of a machine that retrieves orders for online customers, while Verizon uses the technology to train workers how to deal with armed robberies (a problem in the wireless retail sector.)
Technology can also be used to facilitate professional development. Organizations can leverage career pathing software to help employees visualize different career scenarios, understand their strengths, and identify skills gaps or areas for improvement. This provides a more comprehensive, data-driven way to support employees’ career advancement.
Rewards, Recognition, and Meaning
Today, people want to find meaning in their work, perhaps even more than in previous generations. HBR reports that 90% of people would accept lower pay in exchange for more meaningful work.
Meaning is not binary or inherent—it’s not a matter of whether your job is inherently meaningful or not. People can find meaning in a variety of roles, whether they work for a nonprofit or a bank or a tech company. More importantly, employers can help their employees find the meaning in their jobs, and technology can support these efforts.
For example, recognition software offers ways to track employee performance and show workers the direct effect their efforts are having on the bottom line. This can be enlightening for employees who wonder why their job matters or what impact they really have. Several applications also provide ways to reward and recognize employees for excellent work, including gifts and peer-to-peer recognition. Bonusly, Kazoo, Motivosity, AwardCo, and Kudos are just a handful of the software developers in this field.
A Valuable Tool
Technology should be recognized as a valuable tool for improving company culture. But that’s all it is: a tool. Establishing a positive company culture is a multifaceted effort; it requires more than just adopting the right technologies. It starts with how management treats employees and the overall tone they set. Ensure people feel valued and respected, use the tools available to you, and aim to build a supportive workplace where open communication is the norm. Then you’ll be well on your way to improving company culture.