Most managers worth their salt know that building a successful organization requires more than just hiring smart people with the right blend of professional skills. Managers must also strive to foster a tacit social order, a mutual sense of purpose, and shared values and norms — in short, a strong company culture.

But at a time when employees were already working in teams increasingly dispersed around the globe, even before the coronavirus pandemic led to millions of new work-from-home offices, nurturing a cohesive culture is no small task. Now, with many colleagues unable to meet around a conference room table or even exchange pleasantries in a hallway, many of the practices managers have relied on to unify teams are no longer feasible.

How can managers promote consistent ways of working among team members? What can they do to honor their employees’ individual work styles, while also cultivating a collective team identity? And how can leaders help workers develop solid relationships with their colleagues even though they may not meet them regularly — if ever?

Promote a Cohesive Culture

“Organizational culture is the glue that holds everything together. It’s both a powerful lever for preserving, renewing and shaping an organization’s viability, and a critical lynchpin to maintaining an environment in which people enjoy working with each other and feel they can do their best work.”

How can managers promote consistent ways of working among team members from diverse cultural backgrounds who are based all over the world? And how can leaders help workers develop solid relationships with their colleagues even though they may not meet them regularly — if ever?

Learn more about building a strong company culture in Professor Yo-Jud Cheng’s “In the Era of the Global Workplace and Dispersed Teams, How Can Managers Promote a Cohesive Culture?

Culture in Times of Upheaval

“Yes, the ground is shifting under us, and we’ve got to stay nimble. Managers need to encourage teams to be curious, observant and attuned to social change. Because learning needs to happen so rapidly, the fastest route is often peer-to-peer.”

In the face of a pandemic, how can we be bigger than the sum of our parts? We need to maintain and evolve culture from afar: bond, stay agile, ensure physical and psychological safety, promote inclusion, offer compassion, and strategically align to determine what the new normal requires — and what needs to change.

Learn more about how to support and engage employees, even when they’re miles apart, in Professor Laura Morgan Roberts’ “Get Back to BASICS: Company Culture in Times of Upheaval.”

A Genuinely Diverse Culture

“Think: ‘How am I signaling that these issues are important?’ That is a key culture-setting moment for leaders — ensuring others can see that genuinely inclusive behaviors are valued.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion are imperative. How can companies — and the individuals in them — ensure the kind of inclusive hiring practices that will lead to a genuinely equitable and diverse culture? They can take numerous actions that mitigate implicit bias, as well as ask the right questions, use technology to bypass subjectivity and address structural issues.

Learn more about problems and solutions for hiring and developing diverse talent in Professor Toni Irving’s “3 Essentials to a More Inclusive Hiring Process.”

Culture and Human Learning

“As a culture and practice, an Idea Meritocracy can lead to the highest levels of human learning, thinking, listening, relating and collaborating by requiring candor, data-driven decision-making, open-mindedness, and managing one’s thinking and emotions.”

To remain viable in the Smart Machine Age, most organizations will have to achieve not only higher-level technological capabilities, but also higher-level human cognitive and emotional performance. This means mitigating big egos, emotional defensiveness, closed-mindedness and fears.

Learn more about taking organizations to the next level and reducing the major inhibitors to high-quality learning, thinking and collaboration in Professor Ed Hess’ “The Power of an Idea Meritocracy.”

Create a Culture of Excellence 

“The culture of an organization describes its norms, values and beliefs. It defines how people behave and work in teams to achieve results. It also affects the attitude toward change and new initiatives.” 

To compete in today’s complex business environment, executives must excel at making decisions, made easier by a culture of continuous improvement, operational excellence and learning. Ensuring culture is aligned with a company’s mission and capabilities will sustain breakthrough performance.

Learn more about a useful decision-making framework and enterprise perspective in Professor Elliott Weiss’ “A Culture of Excellence: Lessons From the 9 Cs Enterprise-Perspective Model.”