Sonica was the first lady HR Manager stationed at a factory in Upcountry UP, and has worked with companies like Pepsico, Vodafone, Roche Diagnostics and ICI paints.

It takes years to inculcate a robust culture and values across an organization. Both must be built brick by brick; values must be built into every human interaction and people process. Creating a robust culture and values requires constant reinforcements through communication platforms, rewards and recognition formats and by keeping values as a moral compass while making difficult decisions.

The recent corona pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have put a lot of pressure on organizations, leaders, managers and individuals. Organization’s cultures have been shaken. Many organizations were able to remain true to their culture and values even during the lowest phase of the lockdown while others succumbed to the pressure. The challenges organizations faced did not consist of a simple wave that could be tided over. They were tsunamis of proportions that businesses had not experienced in recent times. Additionally, extensive work from home put pressure on individuals.

A lot of interactions became transactional. In some industries, where revenues came to a grinding halt, hard decisions were taken to lay off workers or implement salary cuts. Some decisions were made with empathy, and some in a knee jerk manner. Job insecurity, isolation, extended working hours; delays in salaries, reduced pay, and deferment of incentives shook employees’ belief in their organizations’ culture and values.

As we exit the lockdown and business activity picks up, organizations should use this time to examine the culture and values they want to build. They should begin creating or continue reinforcing a solid culture and values through every means. Organizations need to ensure that employee experience, along with employee life cycle stage remain faithful to the values of the organization.

Some things that we have deployed have given us some learning-sharing them in this article.

1. Authentic communication- We are all going through tough times, and the gravity of the situation is not lost on our teams. Having candid conversations about business recovery plans, challenges, strategies and what impact each might come on employees and for how long gives workers a sense of certainty and builds faith in the leadership. For the past three months, we have kept all communication channels open and encouraged team members to voice their concerns and addressed them to the best of our ability with both candidness and honesty.

2. Celebrating wins- celebrating even small successes keeps employees morale high. Every virtual session we did or new client acquisition was followed with a celebratory zoom social.

3. Making values non-negotiable- Values of ethics, integrity, responsiveness and client centricity are at the core of our existence. These were continuously reinforced during every client acquisition, and every client and partner engagement.

Many organizations were able to remain true to their culture and values even during the lowest phase of the lockdown while others succumbed to the pressure

4. Building transparency and empathy along with the employee lifecycle processes- be it promotions, increments, appraisals, retention, recruitment, or exits. The reasons behind the decisions, the logic, thought process, impact and emotions were kept in perspective while taking and communicating decisions.

5. Inclusion- At this time, every employee needs to feel valued. Every employee should know that his or her contribution makes a difference. Having virtual appreciation and recognition processes helped us build a winning culture.

6. Employee well being- both physical and emotional. As per a survey conducted by us, two competencies that will help employees succeed in the new normal are psychological safety and emotional resilience. Invest in meaningful sessions that help build these competencies in the organization. On the physical front, it is essential to have a safety protocol or policy in place. This might also include restructuring office space for social distancing, decommissioning coffee machines, water coolers and the pantry and making IT systems more robust so people who don’t need to come to the office can work from home.

7. Continue to invest in people. Reskill and upskill them. Many organizations will need to pivot and revisit their business models to meet the needs of an evolving marketplace. This might lead to restructuring and reorganizing. Simultaneously build competencies within existing teams. In-person trainings are not going to happen anytime soon. Leverage the virtual courses being offered in the ecosystem. They are economical concerning cost and time.

8. Last but not least- Honor your commitments. Several offers have been rolled back leaving candidates between job changes in a lurch. A lot of recent graduates have not been placed even though they received offers, because the proposals were not honoured. We understand times are tough. But these are small costs compared to the loss of an organizations reputation and culture. We see these as an investment. Creating a loyal, engaged team, that becomes your brand ambassador because you stood by them in difficult times is an incomparable strength.

It’s during tough times that we see the real character not just of people but also organizations. Let’s not let go of this opportunity to establish ourselves as employers of choice, as employers who value employees, as organizations where talent likes to join, stay and contribute.