Maintaining Your Culture In Uncertain Times

As the world has grappled with the Covid-19 crisis since March, it’s a massive understatement to say business has been disrupted in unprecedented ways. No matter what you do, your work life changed dramatically overnight. We are a company that approaches branding with culture as a centerpiece, and have examined and codified the culture of many organizations to help build stronger brands. As the pandemic’s impact grew, we were interested to learn ways to keep the culture of an organization alive even if the usual touchpoints to connect individuals to shared values are changed or missing temporarily.

So, we asked our longtime Intrinzic client, Johnson Investment Counsel, to weigh in on this idea of maintaining your culture in uncertain times. We thought Johnson would offer some great insights because they have such a strong culture, one we used to help the company refresh its brand recently.

Even though Johnson has been a steady presence in the market more than 50 years, the Covid-19 crisis and resulting economic impact was sure to test the company’s culture in ways never seen before. What would Johnson do to keep this culture alive and continue to serve clients that continue to count on the firm?

We asked Johnson President Jason Jackman, Managing Director Jarett Levitsky, HR Director Steven Linder and Director of Marketing Jamie Ritter Horn to share some thoughts on how they are keeping the Johnson culture alive through the crisis. Their thoughts follow.

Jason Jackman, CFA | Jarett Levitsky, CFP® | Jamie Ritter Horn | Steven Linder, CCP®

Q: How did Johnson Investment Counsel’s culture help the firm navigate the COVID-19 crisis?

Our corporate mission is to deliver peace of mind along life’s journey, through trusted counsel, exemplary service and a genuine heart to serve. Our mission is a reflection of our culture, which at its core is one of service and care for people, which extends to each other as colleagues, our clients and our community. Whenever there is a crisis, whether it be personal, economic or market related our culture of care kicks into high gear to bring peace and calm in the midst of the storm.

Q: What things did Johnson do to maintain your culture during this time?

As it became clear that we would all be working from home and that challenges were coming on so many levels, our leadership motto became “If you think you’re over-communicating, you’re likely communicating just enough.” As a leadership team, it was extremely important to regularly communicate that the firm is on sound footing, that everyone’s jobs are secure and that we will make sure everyone has the resources they need to succeed. This communication came in the form of regular team meetings, all-company email updates, all-company video meetings, surveys of the firm on various topics, happy-hour video gatherings, inspirational daily emails and supportive calls to one another. The response has been extremely positive to the point that many of these practices will remain as a part of our regular communication. 

Q: What role/importance did culture play in your organization prior to this crisis? Will this change?

We have always been very intentional about focusing on our culture and making sure we preserve and enhance it over time. We believe our culture is what makes us who we are and that each employee has a responsibility to be caretakers or “culture carriers” to ensure that we leave the firm in an even better position to deliver our mission to future generations. If anything, this crisis has bound us closer together and has led us to be even more focused and committed to preserving and enhancing our culture.

Q: How has your culture helped your organization deliver on your brand/brand promise during this time?

Our brand is our mission in action. Our employees are all kind people with a heart to serve. Helping, serving and seeking the best for others is a natural extension of who they are, which ultimately underpins our culture and allows our clients to experience the peace that comes from working with us.

Q: What did you find surprising when thinking about how the organization responded to the crisis?

We’ve never experienced a situation in which the entire firm was working from home. We joked that we went from having six offices to 150 in one day! We’ve all been amazed at how quickly we adapted to such a sudden disruption to the normal course of operations and communication. Additionally, the work that our technology team did leading up to this crisis was truly a blessing and gave us the tools we needed to be productive and efficient from home well ahead of time. It’s truly a testament to the planning, preparation and people we have, that can pull off a relatively seamless transition to working from home.

Q: What were lessons you learned during the crisis? Will they change your culture in the future?

Communication, communication, communication. It can’t be underestimated how important it is for any organization, especially in a time of crisis. The ability to be flexible and work effectively remotely. Work life balance is important to us and we can use some learnings from this time to continue to promote that balance going forward. People will always look to leadership for direction in disruptive times, and it’s important to be a calming and stabilizing influence, especially for a firm that has peace of mind though all of life’s journey as its mission.

Q: What are tips you have for other companies navigating the crisis?

Be clear with your mission and make sure you’re delivering it. Be humble and don’t assume you have all the answers. Listen to your people and rely on the help and counsel of those whose judgement you trust. Don’t ever think you are communicating enough. If you do, you’re probably just scratching the surface. We all have personal cares and concerns outside of work. Be open and approachable, and let people know you genuinely care.

Does any of the above sound familiar? We’d love to hear how you’ve kept your culture alive while dealing with the disruption caused by the pandemic. Leave a comment below or reach out on our social media channels. Do you want to use your culture as a tool to drive your brand? Or do you need help solidifying your culture? Contact us, we’d be happy to help!