People Risk Series: The risk of diminishing organisational culture

Because culture plays a significant role in shaping up an organisation and setting it apart from the rest, it is crucial to ensure there are measures in place to prevent culture erosion when there is a significant change in processes.

People Risk Series: The risk of diminishing organisational culture

As the world rapidly changes before our eyes, people risk is becoming a key concern for most organisations. This goes beyond the fact that the human capital has always been an organisation’s greatest asset. There is now a greater need to re-think the changing nature of people risk, especially that most HR processes have been affected by employees having to work from home.


We may be in the new normal but we are not exempt from risks, and remote working is introducing new and emerging risks that we need to consider and tackle. In this article, the focus is on people-related risks, looking into the risk of diminishing organisational culture (as we knew it) due to working remotely. Culture is often defined by a set of espoused values and beliefs that a group of people associate with. These are characterised by many invisible things and activities that contribute towards increasing employee morale and ensuring that everyone has a sense of belonging.


Such activities can be as little as a staff morning routine like song and prayer to energise the team. Working remotely takes away the opportunity to sing together that everyone is acclimatised to, having become a culture that the team had adopted daily.  This means the team members have to come up with various activities to activate their mornings individually and separately, thereby adopting different cultures.


Seeing that organisational culture is likely to be easily lost in the current circumstances, organisations are now charged with identifying ways to preserve the norms, values and the set of beliefs that have historically set them apart from the rest.

Culture erosion is now a high risk indeed, especially considering that it is not possible to practice most activities that connect us together due to COVID-19. It is therefore evident that more efforts are needed to manage this risk. Culture is influenced by the environment, and now that employees are spending more time working away from the office for extended periods, they are likely to gain influence from various qualities dictated by their different environments. While we used to spend a good 8 hours in the office together, we now spend it elsewhere in various settings. This has a bearing in terms of how we do things and our work ethic.

Similarly, the risk culture is equally affected by the new normal. For instance, is our approach to cyber security similar to when we were not working remotely? Probably not. Our home internet, unlike the office network, does not have restrictions and allows us to navigate most of the surface web, which can expose our network to cyber compromise. We can access any site we want with our home networks, which increases our probability of being exposed to phishing and identity theft, which in turn can eventually render our office machines exposed to various forms of cybercrime.


While arguably on one end the COVID-19 pandemic may have gradually enabled most people to become more risk aware and understand the value of risk management, this is still questionable against practice.
When we work from home, our culture of privacy and confidentiality is easily eroded because we cannot really control the environment, given a likelihood of people listening in to our work-related conversations. Furthermore, HR experts have found that employees who do not work in the same location as their managers are 10 percent less likely to feel recognised and cared for by their managers. Working from home also heightens disengagement levels by up to 17 percent as people no longer feel connected to each other as a result of the diminishing culture.


Another effect is lower production or work output because there are a lot of external distractions and loneliness experienced by the employees working remotely. This can eventually lead to employees not being aligned with what the company stands for, and by extension putting its reputation on the line. Working remotely does not take away people risk but actually ushers in an array of new concerns that management and business owners need to prioritise. It is paramount to continue applying risk management practices to manage these emerging people risks. This can be achieved through culture surveys and conducting risk assessments on the working from home strategy, especially looking at ways to preserve the culture under the given circumstances.


The culture surveys and risk assessments will gather relevant stakeholders to unpack all the key people related risks emanating from remote working and ensure that for every risk identified, there is an adequate control. Where controls are not identified, different employees can be given tasks to come up with winning solutions. These can be in a form of migrating some of the interactions to virtual platforms such as team catch-ups, recreational activities and workshops which would happen in the office. This would help keep the culture alive.


In terms of other controls to manage diminishing organisational culture, it is important to have HR policies in place to guide employees on expected conduct for working remotely. It is important to benchmark with more advanced markets that have always had working from home regarding what works best to preserve the organisational norms and values. Management should also continue to reiterate the organisational values and visions to ensure that everyone remains aligned. Having employees involved in coming up with initiatives to preserve organisational culture is also a winning solution. It is also important to frequently check in with employees and give them

assurance that everything is under control. In addition to the strategies to mitigate the risk of diminishing culture, employers must define the drivers that distinguish its culture and find ways of protecting them. Culture plays a significant role in shaping up an organization, it is crucial to ensure there are measures in place to prevent culture erosion where there is a significant change in processes.


Contribution by: MyHRBP

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