Employers, Meet Humanity: How the Pandemic Created a White Space to Reinvent Your Company Culture

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The new year is upon us, and now more than ever do we need a slice of humanity at work. The pandemic forced many organizations into a tailspin, throwing employer-employee relationships totally out of sorts. But this situation has also created a real opportunity to reinvent that relationship and foster stronger cultures and companies. How will your organization respond?

You often hear words like “culture,” “values,” and “pillars” when discussing what makes an organization special. The question, simply put, is why would someone spend 40 percent of their waking hours alongside you? We all need and want a paycheck, but a paycheck is quite simply a given. 

Keeping an organization happy and productive is a huge ask. A consistent culture that can be articulated and universally experienced — from the CEO down to the new person on their first day — will go a long way in attracting, retaining, and showing appreciation for that most precious of resources, your employees.

Take the time now to fill in your cultural white space. No two company cultures will or should be the same. To create a stronger, more remote-friendly culture that adds a heavy dose of humanity to the employer-employee relationship, start with these key concepts:


Most of us talk, but how many of us really listen? More importantly, how does an organization listen?

Instill a culture of listening at every level. Surveys, small and large group discussions, one-on-one conversations: You can learn a lot by piecing these together. And you don’t even need to be in the same place as your employees to listen to them, thanks to online surveys and other tools. Then, when you are sharing the same in-person space, the conversations will be all the more special.


When it comes to how you reward and recognize your employees, it’s time to stop thinking about the days of catered lunches in the office. Besides, in general, only a subset of employees ever attended those in-person events anyway.

So, what do you do now that office parties are no longer an option? You must redefine how you appreciate your people. As one example, at cove, we internally curate and mail themed boxes to all staff on a monthly basis. The boxes include productivity tools, personalized notes, and snacks  — everything you could want at your doorstep, hand-selected by our team and informed by who we are. Who doesn’t get excited when that delivery arrives? And it’s custom, so it really feels special. Some of the companies we support are now using the box strategy, too, as a way to surprise and delight employees.

No matter what you do, have some fun with it. The little things go a long way.


What makes your company different? In large part, it is what your company stands for that makes it special. And you can often capture that specialness in a simple set of 5-10 core values.

Is yours a customer-centric business where interactions are of extreme importance? Well, it sounds like there should be a value around that. Is yours a tech company managing high growth and high uncertainty? There should be values for that, too.

At the end of the day, the specific content of your values matters less than that you have them. I had the great fortune of interacting with Tony Hsieh, the culture visionary who built Zappos from a small website into an entire ethos. His recent passing reminded me of many of his great insights. As he noted in one interview, “It actually doesn’t matter what your values are. What matters is that you have them and you commit to them and align the entire organization around them. That means you’re willing to hire and fire based on them.”

Many employers think that, while culture seems important, salary is clearly what people care about most. Yes, salary matters, but less than you might think. You need to offer competitive pay to get people in the door — but what keeps them happy and productive as they work for you over the long haul? The feeling that your company does not view them as mere cogs.

In one study, millennials — the largest segment of the workforce — expressed a willingness to take a pay cut for the intangibles, like mentorship, flexibility, and job security. These are the things that make an organization truly special.

Now is the time redefine what it means to be a great employer by creating a culture that really meets employees’ needs — even when we’re all working from our homes. An organization is but a collection of individuals working together. We each have our own needs, wants, and dreams, but your team members have chosen to spend their days with you. Make sure they know why.

Adam Segal is CEO of Cove.

By Adam Segal