Kelli Clark, Vice President and Global Head of Culture and Change at Aon, examines the new challenges and opportunities that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has generated when it comes to company culture.
Organizations have proven that they can transition to a virtual environment. With the right technology platform, you can create a positive experience and transition culture from the office to online.
This makes culture a much more agile experience. A few years ago, for example, we started an internal project that involved in-person leadership events. It took three years to build up participation to a group of around 3,000 colleagues. This year, as we transitioned to a virtual program, we were able to reach 5,000 colleagues in just a few months. We’re reaching levels of the organization we couldn’t before. We’re influencing company culture in a way we couldn’t previously. And more than 98% of colleagues who participate in the program continue to rate their experience as positive.
In the future, then, we may have the ability to scale employer cultures much more quickly, and in turn reach across our global organization more effectively.
Think about iPhones. If, 10 years ago, I had a flip phone, and you suddenly gave me a current iPhone, I would be completely overwhelmed. I’d want to go back to what I knew. But Apple has been the master of gradual, guided change. Now, we demand new releases. We want what’s next, because they’ve built trust and continue to deliver.
The pandemic has given us a moment like this. Many of us had a flip phone culture, and are now being given an iPhone. Our work in talent development and company culture then is to navigate this new world step by step. We need to build trust that what’s new is better. And we need to create an environment in which individual colleagues will clamor for the new elements that will make the employer culture more fulfilling.
It’s difficult right now to see what this will fully look like, so there may be some fear and a desire to go back to what we knew. But with agility, trust and continual adaptation, and an openness to pivot and evolve, the new world can be better.
Globally, it’s a mandate for us as humans to do better.
Leaders have a role here to commit to a personal learning journey, and then help others on the team. We must be more self-aware, more empathetic and continually pursue equality to be better people and organizations.
Ultimately, this is the heart of my work. Creating a powerful company culture is about ensuring teams where all voices are heard, where all experiences are valued and where people become better human beings because they were a part of something bigger than themselves.