Making the Intangible Tangible: Why Your Company Needs a Culture Infrastructure

April 17, 2020 Eric Mosley

3-minute read

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The COVID-19 pandemic is not only putting a serious strain on our healthcare system and our economy – it’s lifting the façade on the very essence of company culture.

Before orders to shelter in place and work from home, you might have defined your company culture in the context of a physical space. Many modern offices (including ours) are designed to foster collaboration and build an atmosphere of camaraderie. And many offices succeed in that effort.

But what happens when there is no physical space to lean on? No casual banter between co-workers who sit next to each other. No happenchance meeting in the kitchen over coffee. No “How are you this morning?” when you first sit down at your desk. Suddenly – if we’re not careful – there’s a vacuum where these genuine moments of human connection and interaction used to be. 

Preparing for the new normal

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our day-to-day lives, forward-thinking companies were moving in the direction of more flexibility and remote work options. The Workhuman® annual employee survey released just five weeks ago found one in three workers in the U.S. worked remotely. That number is obviously much higher today

Some companies were likely better prepared than others in making the transition to a fully remote workforce. In all the preparation and business continuity planning, which technology platforms were considered mission critical? How will companies keep their cultures living and breathing in such an unprecedented time of social despair and anxiety?

Research released just last week from AEI found 53% of Americans report having felt lonely or isolated at least once in the past seven days. More than one-third felt that way at least a few times in the past week. Suddenly torn away from routine, family, friends, and the activities we love, many of us are feeling desperate and isolated. 

A need for human applications

Even without a physical meeting space, the workplace can be a place where we find hope and connection – if it has a culture infrastructure. This goes beyond an intranet, or a central chat hub, or basic technology that ensures everyone can join a video conference. While each of these has a place in ensuring open communication and smooth business operations, none cater to the core human needs of your people – especially in a time of crisis.

Where administrative applications focus on process, a culture infrastructure built on human applications focuses on people and promotes and facilitates human moments that matter. It’s built on three key pillars:

  • CELEBRATE is how we share our humanity, and our common purpose. 
  • TALK is the way employees grow and encourage one another toward common goals.
  • THANK means expressing authentic appreciation for someone’s work effort or positive behavior.

Whether celebrating the birth of a child, documenting a quick check-in with a manager, or expressing gratitude for the way your team shows resilience in such challenging times, human applications bring a culture to life. They make the intangible tangible, and in doing so, remind us of our value, our purpose, and our shared humanity. Those qualities that make us most human – connection, community, positivity, belonging, and a sense of meaning – are the corporate fuel for innovating and thriving in the face of adversity.

At a time when many employees feel isolated, providing a way for them to share joy and connection with one another becomes mission critical.

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About the Author

Eric Mosley

Eric Mosley is CEO at Workhuman.

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