For many employees, company culture has faltered in the shift to remote working without regular face-to-face interactions in the office. It is also harder to assess culture and performance in a remote environment. Many newly remote employees have not been as productive while working from home due to reasons ranging from childcare and household responsibilities to poor internet connection. However, remote work by necessity has also enabled organizations to push forward with digital capabilities. These are some of the ways risk leaders are addressing one of the biggest risks that came with lockdown:
We were scheduled to do a culture audit last year, but decided to postpone it because we felt there would be too much focus on COVID and working from home. I’m sure it’s different for every organization, but COVID has definitely impacted our culture. Volunteerism is a big part of our culture and we have not been able to do that during the pandemic. As we plan our return to office, I think about what working in the office will be — we all miss the hallway conversations and chats at the water cooler and you can’t help but wonder will it be the same if we are required to have social distancing? Are we going to be all spaced out in a conference room together? Many of us have been using dual screens for video conferencing and it will be an adjustment if we only have our laptops. Are we going to be wearing masks — and if that’s the case, I may prefer to continue working remote. As part of our risk assessment, we will determine the appropriate time to re-visit the culture audit to assess our culture against our core beliefs. – Perry Liu, Chief Audit Executive at CSAA Insurance Group
“As head of audit, one thing I’ve kept top of mind especially since going remote is to know your audience. Every team has a mix of different personalities and people at different stages in life — their needs are different as well. It’s about factoring that understanding into the ways we interact whether it’s video on vs off, or deciding to offer breakouts, games, or keeping it light on the activities — making sure we’re meeting people where they’re at.” – Laura Toubin, Vice President, Internal Audit at Envista Holdings Corporation
“One shift I’ve made is to stop using the term ‘culture audit’ and instead call what we’re doing a culture assessment. How do you audit something as squishy as culture? A culture assessment has resonated better with me and with my stakeholders. We’re starting on a micro-level with one particular engagement related to the distributed workforce, where we have people from multiple countries working on one team. We’re feeling our way in this first engagement, and then we’re going to scale and repeat these culture assessments going forward to make sure business activities, incentives, and people are aligned with the organization’s values.” – Jim Campbell, Director, Global Internal Audit at Franklin Templeton
Across the board, risk leaders have stated that flexibility in the context of different stakeholders’ expectations and needs has been a key to success, in addition to striving to incorporate efficiency into their audit plans and testing programs. While these priorities and areas of focus will continue to evolve as employees return to the office, what will endure is the push to build greater collaboration between the three lines as well as investment in enhanced digital capabilities and integrations to improve the quality, timeliness, and value of risk data.