How can HR drive culture amid hybrid work?

A culturally connected employee is an effective employee

How can HR drive culture amid hybrid work?

HR leaders are facing challenges in engaging employees with their company culture amid the onset of hybrid work, a new study has revealed. A recent survey from Gartner revealed that over 200 HR leaders admit that the most challenging aspect of setting up their hybrid strategy is adjusting the company's organisation culture to support a hybrid workforce.

This is despite 40% of HR leaders saying they increased their budget for culture, as a previous survey revealed that only one in four employees are connected to their organisation's culture. This substantiates Gartner's findings then, where 67% of HR leaders feel that hybrid work challenges employees' connection to organisational culture.

According to the study, this stems to the pre-pandemic workplace cultural experience, which was grounded on three attributes:

  • working in an office space controlled by their employers
  • being surrounded by colleagues and having physical proximity to each other
  • experiencing culture at a macroscale via interactions with colleagues that employees worked with directly and indirectly

Alexia Cambon, director in the Gartner HR practice, pointed out that employers "framing" their cultural values physically no longer works amid hybrid and remote work.

"Hybrid and remote work hasn’t necessarily changed our culture, it’s changed the way we experience culture," said Cambon. "While employers used to be able to frame their cultural values and hang them on the walls for employees to see, this no longer works today when hybrid and remote knowledge workers spend 65% less time in offices than before the pandemic."

Read more: Are false promises killing your company culture?

What can HR do?

In order to drive culture connectedness, the study unveiled three shifts that HR needs to make:

  • Diffuse Culture Through Work, Not Just the Office. Organisations should find a way to integrate culture through the work itself and not in the office.
  • Connect Through Emotional, Not Just Physical, Proximity. HR leaders should "identify the moments where employees are most likely to feel seen — rather than be seen — to connect them to culture."
  • Optimize Micro-Based Experiences, Not Macro-Based Experiences. Leaders should learn to create vibrant and healthy microcultures through teams to foster connectedness.

A culturally connected employee means a more efficient employee, according to the study, as 76% of workers said culture is very or extremely important for them to be effective at their jobs.

In effect, organisations that are successful in connecting employees to culture can see heightened employee performance by up to 37% and retention by up to 36%, according to the study.

"In today's volatile business environment, these gains translate into significant competitive advantage," Cambon noted.

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