Know the 5 C’s: A Culture Detector Checklist




People adapt quickly. An average of just 17% of employees want to return to the office full-time post pandemic. New habits form. Many have already. 

For some industries, this type of flexibility is nothing new. But for more traditional desk-based industries, it represents a significant departure in operating practice.


This type of change heralds uncertainty and fear of loss of control - especially to publicly-listed companies already under the microscope.

For the focused and prescient organisation with deep cultural affiliations, remote working can provide a huge productivity and morale boost. Some workers are grateful for the flexibility and freedom it provides. Working from home can also be a release from a toxic office culture, often generated by management neglect.

But for the distracted and disrupted organisation, this new trend represents a risk of loosening loyalties. Likelihood of reporting errors or misconduct is lower, bonds with colleagues tougher to maintain and shared information lost. Pre-existing problems are symptomatic of the culture rather than remote working - but now one exacerbates the other.

With so many reluctant to return to the old way of working, how can companies maintain influence over informal norms - beyond the compliance tools typically relied upon?

Are people really still committed or is it clever rhetoric? Of course, some fake this. Public statements are rarely private thoughts. Is loyalty at risk? Understanding how employees really feel demands focus, effort and ownership.

Protecting and evolving a new culture of remote working starts with being hyper-vigilant and repeatedly asking simple questions about new habits being created. It’s like when you ask people how are they. The answer is usually ‘fine thanks’ - automatic and devoid of meaning. Asking once is never enough if you want the truth, the substance of what is really happening always lies in the follow-up.

Organizations should routinely conduct a health check on five dimensions of culture. Just asking the following checklist questions helps:






The Five C’s Of Culture

1. Content - The messages employees hear.

· Are manager’s communications random and generic? Are employees even listening? 

· What norms are being messaged upwards by employees themselves? 

· What do employees now value - fun, accountability or teamwork? 

· What is their emotional state? Are they engaged or distracted?

· Do you know for sure? If not, ask twice. 

2. Character - The messengers relied on.

· How did your team perform in lockdown? Did they disappoint or disappear? Do customers agree?

· Are current messengers credible, liked and respected?

· Are there enough diverse role models to influence change?

· Are there important voices that need to be heard but feel silenced?

· Do you know for sure? If not, ask twice.  

3. Context - The environment created.

· What was your employees’ pandemic experience in their team, community, at home?

· How has this impacted individual and group decision-making?

· Have you seen signs of altered risk appetite?

· Do you know for sure? If not, ask twice.  

4. ConcreteThe embedded norms.

· How intense are existing norms? 

· Will employees uphold requisite behaviour?  

· Will they sanction deviance by others? 

· Is this a time to change? How will you achieve this? Who will drive this?

· Do you know for sure? If not, ask twice.  

5. ConsensusThe agreed operating code.

· How widely shared are the existing norms?

· Will they withstand elasticity of distance?

· How can norms be embedded further? Are people saying what they mean?

· Are attitudes and behavior changing? 

· Do you know for sure? If not, ask twice.  

In uncertain economic markets, the hunt for revenue rises like a phoenix. But business risk profiles also increase. It is precisely at these times that many organisations unconsciously deprioritise ‘soft’ aspects like culture. This is a mistake.


To safeguard against loosening loyalty, remember to check five areas - context, concreteness, consensus, content and character. If unsure, think once. ask twice. 

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