WFH + Corporate Culture = ?
4 October 2020
A few years ago . . . well ok, more than a few years ago . . . my undergraduate minor was cultural anthropology.
That part of my education has stayed with me. I instinctively try to understand what makes large, complex organizations, like insurers and tech firms, work the way that they do. And specifically, beyond rules and procedures and corporate hierarchies:
- What makes an insurer or tech firm different from its dozen closest competitors?
- And which of those differences make a material contribution to its relative success?
I’m going to nominate corporate culture as one of the most important answers to both of these questions.
Every insurer and every tech firm has a corporate culture. Sometimes it is quite explicit. For example, take a look at Celent’s ultimate parent, Marsh & McLennan Companies’, “Our Culture” web page. Or look at Travelers “About ” page . Or what Microsoft says about its “Values“
This sort of content is helpful, but like any declaration of principles, it is only a starting point.
Culture is defined by such things as:
|Corporate Culture Dimensions
Equally Good Face-to-Face or Virtually
|Best Done "Face-to-Face
"Is the report ready?"
|"How is that report going?"
"Do as I say"
"Do as I do"
|"By end of day . . . whenever that is"
||"Do what you can today"
|Handling personal issues
||"Look in the HR Manual section on time-off"
||"Take all the time you need"
My Celent colleague, Keith Raymond, addressed a number of the operational and financial implications of WFH in two blog posts: here and here.
I’ll add a few observations on the impact of WFH on corporate culture.
- For the most part, executives, managers, and line workers model, learn, and live their corporate cultures in person, in face to face interactions.
- Video meetings and conference calls have their virtues, but they are not well suited for the vital “best done face-to-face” transmissions of corporate culture
- The bearers of corporate culture will have to find new ways to model and reinforce what is important to their WFH colleagues . . . and for that matter, to their returned to office colleagues
Without these new ways, there will still be a corporate culture -- there always is.
But not the one many insurers and tech firms have built and nourished over time.