Culture’s Role in Curing COVID
Prior to the pandemic, many organizations started to put an emphasis on promoting and supporting a strong, positive, people-oriented culture. COVID accelerated this movement.
A year ago I addressed the COVID-19 situation here for the first time, not yet acknowledging it as a pandemic. My oh my, has a lot changed since then. I believe the past 12 months have forever changed all of us — albeit some more personally and profoundly than others.
As I write this my shoulder and arm are still burning with the fresh sting of a coronavirus vaccine injection. Politics aside, it’s a shot that for most brings hope of turning the corner for a brighter tomorrow with a better semblance of normalcy for our home and work lives.
This time last year I also took the opportunity to explain how and why the security industry and most of its businesses and employees were built and positioned to weather the unfolding pandemic.
Although there were some security companies that did not survive the lockdowns and spending freezes, either being forced to close shop or sell off, and thousands of security staffers were at least temporarily out of work, based on observations and what industry professionals have told me my optimistic assertion has thankfully proved out.
From a business or corporate standpoint, prior to COVID there had been a lot of buzz about the imperative of defining, instilling, building, executing, maintaining and enhancing culture and social responsibility. In fact, these ideals, likely spurred by lessons learned from the Great Recession (it does not hurt they have been embraced by many of today’s most successful companies), have come to supersede the antiquated bottom-line mentality.
That really hit home the past couple of years as SSI owner Emerald undertook substantial steps to transform into more of a culture-first enterprise, which is heavily emphasized by recently appointed CEO Herve Sedky.
This culture movement — which at its core is about treating those within and outside a company how you would want to be treated and being ethical above all else — was confronted by the pandemic with a proof-of-concept moment. In an unforeseeable instant, many operators that promoted culture primarily as lip service only were caught with their pants down, and more often than not suffered the consequences.
Indeed, it has been those organizations in which management from the top down through every level was the most fully committed to promoting and supporting a strong, positive, people-oriented culture. This had them best prepared and postured most resiliently to contend with the unprecedented human and logistical challenges.
These foundations have allowed companies to pull their people together like never before — fortifying winning characteristics like compassion, loyalty, camaraderie, teamwork, trust, grit, perseverance, empowerment and more. Such experiences have cemented many an employee’s faith in their company’s culture and acted as an incentive to draw desirable new talent to come aboard.
Those demonstrated cultural qualities then manifest themselves in the attention, care, service and, most importantly, emotional connection customers and prospects associate with that firm.
Thus, as these battle-tested businesses begin to emerge on other side of this calamitous period, they are doing so likely stronger and better positioned than ever for a run of long-term success. Here are a couple of cases where culture as king is paying off:
“We really are like a family and the core part of that is we’re all working toward a common goal and it starts from our leadership team,” says Stephanie Whalen of Paladin Technologies, this issue’s cover story. “They are incredibly accessible, and it’s always been an open-door policy here. That goes through the organization’s culture. We’re always there to support one another. There’s not an internal competition, it’s about internal support. We lean on each other for hurdles we face every day, but it’s always all hands on deck when needed.”
Paladin’s Iain Morton adds, “I believe it’s going to turn out another record year for us. We’ve got a huge backlog, things are going really well, even coming out of COVID. Things look very positive.”
“When [CEO] Eric Frasier got our 2021 goals from the board it was all aligned around social responsibility and employee engagement, then systems and monetary goals,” says John Nemerofsky of SAGE Integration, last month’s cover story. “It was extremely interesting that rather than prioritizing financial goals a board assigns them around employee engagement to maintain the culture and social responsibility, being a good corporate citizen inside and outside the industry.”
Looking ahead, Frasier adds, “We didn’t see a lot of projects go away. We saw them postponed and pushed out. There’s a real strong desire to get back to normalcy. We’re seeing it with our customers, their budgets and spends, and we’re seeing it with our employees.”
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