We recently caught up with Eva Jungstein, Director of Brand Strategy, Communications & Culture at iTech AG, a recent Elev8 GovCon™ honoree, to discuss cultivating positive culture within a growing organization and what that journey takes, how to connect virtual teams, and why leaders must walk the talk.
Positive Culture Requires Intention
Culture exists organically anywhere there are a group of people – it’s up to organizations to be intentional about developing that culture to be positive, engaging, and inclusive. While iTech AG already had an open and communicative culture in place, the pandemic provided an opportunity for evolution on many fronts – the company was experiencing rapid growth, ways of working were changing across the globe, and employee expectations were shifting – making it the ideal time to define the company’s values and purpose. Drawing from her own passion for employee well-being and prior experience with fatigue and burnout, as well as a desire by senior leadership to formalize the company’s culture, Eva and her team launched a focused, year-long effort to more proactively shape iTech AG’s cultural essence.
A Journey Rather Than a Destination
After interviewing more than six potential external firms, iTech AG selected one whose approach allowed the entire team to co-create and define the new culture. “We went through a very comprehensive process that involved surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups,” said Eva. “We were able to identify our goals as well as many novel challenges inherit to virtual and hybrid work models. It’s critical to understand your current culture and then define your aspirational target culture.”
Engaging everyone – from senior leadership to those just beginning their careers with the company – as well as offering multiple avenues for communication ensured that all perspectives were considered.
iTech AG’s Cultural Transformation is an on-going process. “Culture, like people, is constantly evolving – what is relevant or effective today may not be in a year or in three years. We’ll collaborate and adjust as needed to continue building a strong, positive culture.”
When people are physically gathered in one location, interactions take place organically. This poses a challenge since iTech AG employees, affectionately nicknamed “iTechians”, are distributed across the globe, either working under a hybrid or fully virtual model. Part of facilitating a healthy work environment is to ensure that the iTech AG team has the chance to connect. A designated “iTechians” Teams channel fosters water cooler-type conversations, encouraging employees to share personal stories, jokes, recipes, pictures of kids – essentially those conversations that would naturally take place before the pandemic altered the way we work.
“This open, casual communication allows iTechians to feel connected despite being physically located around the globe. It’s meaningful to share moments like your children heading back-to-school, the adoption of a new pet, or something as simple as a meme that made you laugh. The fabric of human relationships is woven with these types of interactions.”
The team also comes together for monthly meetings where they receive the latest corporate updates, have the opportunity to publicly recognize one another’s contributions, and participate in an iTech Talk, the company’s version of TED Talks. These sessions are people-centric and range from games to stress management techniques. One recent session featured an Olympic athlete sharing tips to make the most out of the morning.
Engrained Across the Organization
Ensuring the entire team understands and can live in its newly defined culture, onboarding of new employees includes samples of behaviors that support the company’s values and one-page descriptions of initiatives that have been put into place to support these. Eva also stresses that support and action from leadership is critical: “Leaders serve as a catalyst for change. It’s imperative that their actions align with the organization’s cultural aspirations. iTechians – from new hires to the executive leadership team – are very familiar with each of our values. We reinforce their relevance and importance throughout our internal and external communications and, most importantly, through actions that align with our values.”
Advice for Creating Culture
iTech AG offers a model for others wishing to foster a positive, authentic culture within their organization. Eva says above all else, culture must be about behavior: “If your values are simply listed on a website or in a handbook, employees will understandable resent the hypocrisy between your words and their reality. It undermines trust within your organization. Walking the talk is critical.”
Setting in place direct initiatives through which people can practice values and creating symbols that people can respond to are some ways companies can bring theory to life.
“There will always be reasons employees transition to other organizations. What we see at iTech AG, though, is that people find immense value in feeling appreciated, challenged, connected, and supported. We’ve even had employees pursue other opportunities and then return to iTech AG. When asked why, our strong culture is a top factor.”
About iTech AG
Founded in 2008, iTech AG is a technology consulting firm that helps federal, state, local, and private organizations streamline their operations to achieve better, faster, and more predictable results. Using a wide range of innovative solutions, we modernize our customers’ systems and processes to help them unlock their true potential. iTech AG is the only 8(a) disadvantaged small business that is a ServiceNow Elite Partner, and we were recently awarded 8(a) STARS III, a Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) vehicle with a $50 billion ceiling.
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