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The ethics of measuring culture... what would you do?

Wednesday 20 January, 2021
by Anonymous

You are the Head of People and Culture in a medium sized organisation with around 1,200 employees. The organisation is beginning to get people back into the office. There is a general sense from your CEO and executive leadership team that productivity is dropping and with employees working remotely they are concerned about a drop in engagement.

Following a recent employee engagement survey, the engagement score is the highest it’s ever been, despite people not being based in the office.

The results and verbatim feedback point to people feeling they benefit from being removed from office politics, feeling more autonomous in their roles, and being more productive with the flexibility working from home provides.

Your CEO wants as many people as possible back in the office within the next three months.  

However, you believe the survey results should drive the return to work strategy.

What would you do?

  • How would you approach this with your CEO?
  • How much say do you think the employees should have?
  • What is your obligation to the employees? What is your obligation to the organisation?
  • Can culture thrive in a remote environment?

We encourage you to post your thoughts in the comments so we can create a healthy discussion, with the aim of learning from our peers, becoming aware of differing perspectives and challenging our own biases.

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There are 3 comments for The ethics of measuring culture... what would you do?.

Re: The ethics of measuring culture... what would you do?

Thursday 21 January, 2021
by M
Some people have been working from home since March 2020, we can not expect to switch a button like what may have occurred for health reasons (potential death if getting the virus). Rather it would be good to see some return to face to face and this could be done initially by paid lunches in small teams to encourage dialogue and not only about work things.
This pandemic has shown that we need to think about our health and well being. Also there is an importance of increasing collaboration and productivity so a combination of WFH and work in the office is important. If an organisation sends out a survey and does nothing with the feedback, or does exactly opposite it should not have bothered wasting the time of their people doing that survey.
Many people will have to balance lots of items and get back used to working in the office so if there is no big item like a pot of gold or losing their job it will take time to adjust.

Re: The ethics of measuring culture... what would you do?

Thursday 21 January, 2021
by Christine
Teams need to work out how to stay connected and collaborate. Different people have different roles and working remotely misses the opportunity for on the job learning and development which is critical to some teams and new team members. So it’s about freedom in a framework. There’s no point turning up to the office and no one is there. Teams should create guidelines on what are there office days and blend with some WFH days. Then we build a successful and sustainable business model for everyone. If everyone chooses to stay home and work remotely then culture fades away. People disconnect from the company over time. The blend is a wonderful opportunity.

Re: The ethics of measuring culture... what would you do?

Thursday 21 January, 2021
by R
Great topic. It is obviously very timely as certain countries and regions are seeing reduced risks from the pandemic. I believe very strongly that an engaged workforce is a productive workforce. And responding in a manner contrary to the results of the survey is likely to negatively impact employee engagement and by extension a likely negative impact to productivity.
Culture is a slightly harder egg to crack when working remotely but it can work, and is based on a strong underpinning of an empowered and engaged workforce. Tools and technologies can significantly help to maintain a minimal impact from physical separation but this is only a small part of the puzzle. Trying to uplift a disengaged workforce in a work from home scenario, I believe would be far more difficult if your previous engagement surveys had very poor results. Conversely I believe a previously well engaged workforce can more readily maintain and even uplift a positive culture whilst physically separated.
All that said, I think it is necessary to back up any opinions as to which option is better for a particular business, with real data. In the various commentaries I have seen on this topic the views are quite varied, although the vast majority seem to indicate that entire businesses working from home for the large part has yielded unexpected improvements in employee engagement and productivity.
If these anecdotes were backed up by real productivity and workforce engagement data, which is clearly articulated by industry segment, and by workforce role, I think it would provide the strong basis for restructuring workforce accommodation. I have heard or read a few comments that a number of businesses are now doing exactly that.
If I was the Head of People and culture, I would be advising my CEO to consider basing his decisions on real data.

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