To build a team culture that can withstand knocks and future challenges, create a strategy, plan and roadmap for transformation.

As the pandemic disappears in our rearview mirrors, we’re now looking at the road ahead. We know that the way we see work will not be the same. Our teams have been forever-changed by what we’ve experienced and we’re now considering how we can best move forward.

If we hadn’t grasped the importance of team culture before 2020, the past few years have certainly given us real reason to take it seriously. Companies, leaders and team members had defined their culture by nice offices, free snacks and lunches, and socialising after work. Now they had to quickly build new reference points when all of that was suddenly pulled from under our feet.

While all of those perks can positively impact the workplace experience, it became clear that they were peripheral to how work actually got done. When it was all stripped away, what was left was how a team interacted as they worked together and supported each other. And so for many companies, building a strong team culture came front-and-centre as leaders looked for ways to maintain connection, communication and wellbeing in their newly remote teams. One company even reported a 2500% increase in companies using remote team building activities during the pandemic.


Refresh your rituals

Some teams scheduled more frequent check-ins so that they could stay connected. Some scheduled informal coffee chats so that they could socialise separately from work tasks. Others organised virtual games so that they could engage in fun activities together. These served a real and urgent need to help us adapt in work and in our personal lives. We may have had very different experiences based on our individual circumstances, but we were all collectively impacted by the same event. We also didn’t know how long the various lockdowns would last, and so we built methods to support our teams that worked for this context. They were impactful for that time.  

Now we’re in readjustment mode as we face a new set of challenges, some that are a direct result of the pandemic. Some teams are trying to make hybrid working work. In addition, we have global economic uncertainty, companies are restructuring and losing staff in layoffs, and some are facing hiring freezes. Other companies are navigating how to welcome new, younger entrants to the workforce. This is all amongst our ever-growing workloads and workers that are experiencing burnout. It’s time to explore whether the methods we built over the past few years are still relevant for our current times.

How do we prepare ourselves for what’s happening now and also for what might come in the future?


Identify your team’s unique culture

Company culture is vital in setting the tone for employee experience, building policies to support it and creating competitive advantage to attract talent. However, according to Gallup in their 2020 Meta-Analysis report, it is performance at the team level – where work gets done – that has the biggest impact on engagement. While the universal challenges and opportunities a company faces will affect a team, each team will also have its own unique challenges and opportunities which could come down to their goals and targets, the stakeholders they interact with or other aspects that characterise their work. 

So, depending on the size of a company, in addition to the overall culture, teams can also have their own subculture. A leader’s approach influences a team culture by the environment they create, as well as the people on the team and how they create value together. Teams that have a future-fit culture are those that define it clearly and ensure everyone is working in alignment. 


Reframe your challenges

It’s natural to be in survival mode when we’re operating in an uncertain environment. We’re constantly on the lookout for threats or disruption. However, this also means we are operating on “high alert”. Our energy and attention is mainly focused on being able to react quickly rather than on activities that allow us to develop our work and innovate. This is unsustainable for long periods of time, impacting not only our performance, but also our wellbeing and morale. So how can we learn to thrive despite the circumstances around us?

We can’t be expected to ignore the situations we’re finding ourselves in – they are very real. Instead we need to reframe those challenges and collectively explore how you will respond as a team. This might look like discussing how you can support yourselves and each other during difficult times or exploring how you might reallocate resources when you are faced with an unexpected challenge.

If we look at this through the lens of maintaining our team health – what productive habits can you develop so that you are better prepared for disruption if it does hit? We need a longer-term and proactive approach – taking the “vitamins” rather than needing the “painkillers” – and setting the foundations to future-proof our team so that we stay grounded and resilient despite the circumstances. 


Start your team culture journey

A team that can withstand external challenges has culture development integrated into the work they need to do. Team building is not a separate exercise that they need to allocate a big chunk of time to, and this makes it more manageable. They align not only around what they are working on, but also HOW they are going to work together to achieve it. The latter is what forms their team culture and it’s something that can be improved over time. 

To start on this journey, first understand where you’re starting from and the current state of your culture. Then work to understand what you’re working to achieve (i.e your goals and what you need to deliver). Identify the measures that define high-performance for your team and from here, you can create rituals, routines and collaboration methods that support you in your plan to get there. 

Use our 6-step process for assessing your team culture:

  1. Create: identify the factors that you will use to measure your team culture and how you will rate these elements
  2. Collect: gather the data through an anonymous survey, interviews and/or a team workshop
  3. Collate: analyse your data – both overall trends and individual scoring to assess your team’s current level
  4. Co-create: present the results, and as a team brainstorm what you can do to improve your score
  5. Commit: set manageable individual and team commitments along with a plan to review progress
  6. Check-in: come back to your commitments regularly in your team meetings

When you are able to connect what your team is doing on a daily basis to your longer-term goals, as well as building a mindset for continuous improvement, you move from tactical towards more strategic culture interventions that support high-performance and build a strong foundation to future-proof your team.


How is your team doing?

Our Team Culture Diagnostic is based our on our five-pillar framework for high-performing teams. It covers the foundations we’ve found to be essential in our 15 years’ experience of facilitating collaboration. 

Get in touch to schedule your free consultation if you’d like to find out more about how our assessment can help your team get started on a journey to improve culture.

Image: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.