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Driving company culture in a hybrid workplace

A recent survey by Gartner of over 800 human resources leaders has found that building critical skills and competencies is the most important priority, followed by workforce and work redesign, leadership and employee experience, as well as navigating ongoing shifts in work trends.

Leaders have particular influence on culture, and in a hybrid workplace they are becoming even more important in shaping employee perception and engagement. People tend to focus on leaders and draw conclusions about company culture based on their position and their choices, and during the pandemic, they have become a single source of truth for many employees as they looked to leaders to make sense of what’s happening.

Moving to a hybrid workforce model

Microsoft announced in early October that its employees can permanently work from home, unveiling a hybrid workplace concept for its employees once the offices reopen post-pandemic, allowing them to work from home for less than 50 percent of the working week. The organisation also entailed that managers will be able to approve permanent remote work, should employees request it. Google announced that its employees will continue to work from home until at least next summer, Facebook is extending its work-from-home policy until July of next year and Twitter told its employees that they can stay home indefinitely.

Moving to a hybrid workforce model isn’t just about selecting one location over another, it provides the opportunity to switch locations dynamically depending on what makes the most sense to drive the highest levels of productivity and engagement. For leaders, having a team in which some employees are co-located in an office and others are doing their jobs remotely presents a number of challenges, and working under the shadow of a global pandemic adds another layer of stress and complexity. A hybrid workforce model requires the development of critical leadership roles and responsibilities, new organisational structures and virtual communication strategies.

Pandemic, or not, the primary role of the manager is to provide support to their employees. It’s essential to regularly reach out for socially distanced conversations and discuss their individual circumstances and worries, demonstrating commitment to making the situation work for everyone on the team. With the shift to remote work and hybrid workforce models, leaders need to preserve company culture and ensure employee experience keeps up with employees’ expectations and needs.

A people-driven culture

A company's culture is guided by purpose and values and these can be put to the test during a crisis. Leaders will have had to question what their organisation stands for when making difficult decisions and values such as accountability, collaboration, agility and innovation have been more important than ever.

Organisational culture is especially relevant when employees are away from the office, from their teams and from their managers. It is also one of the most powerful sources of competitive advantage. The reason being is that it’s hard for competitors to replicate it and it sends a strong message about what the organisation stands for. The most effective company cultures value people, provide career growth, adapt to meet customer needs, and deliver great results to shareholders, and the pandemic has provided the chance for employees to see if a company’s stated values truly manifest in its actions.

Research has shown that even when there is a culture that is strategically aligned and strong, it won’t work the long run unless it is adaptive in real-time. Organisations that were strategically aligned, strong, and had built in the capacity to adapt quickly to dynamic environments earned 15 percent more in annual revenue compared to those in the same industry that were less adaptable. Cultural adaptability, which reflects the ability to innovate, experiment, and quickly take advantage of new opportunities, is especially important in the current economic climate. And leaders need to continue to cultivate their company’s culture to help people stay focused on the most important initiatives even as they contend with the new challenges and continuously changing conditions presented by the pandemic.

The pandemic is widening the skills gap and worsening the reskilling challenge. Many employees aren’t learning the right new skills, both for their own development and the benefit of the organisation. In the current environment, a dynamic approach to reskilling and redeploying talent can help to shift the gaps as and when required. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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