Building a Strong Organizational Culture In The Post-COVID Reality

8 mins read

Do you remember what work used to look like just three years ago? The pandemic has irreversibly changed the way we meet, recruit new employees, and organize our projects. We sat down with Marta Olszewska and Katarzyna Urbaniak from Displate to talk about how they’re steering their organization through this new reality.

Displate is the home of collectible metal posters and a global marketplace with over 40,000 independent artists on board. Over the recent years, this geeky and art loving company has thrived: not only did they make it through the pandemic unscathed, but they also managed to sell over 3 million posters in 2021 alone. 

This means they must be doing something right. 

To find out what it is exactly, we talked to Marta Olszewska, Head of People & Culture at Displate, and Katarzyna Urbaniak, Agile Coach at Displate Engineering Team.

What’s your preferred way to hold meetings nowadays: online or in-person?

Marta Olszewska: Personally, I prefer offline meetings. To me, face-to-face communication will always have an advantage over remote conversations. But times have changed and we need to be agile. 

Do other Displate employees feel the same way?

Marta Olszewska: Many employees and candidates find remote work very valuable. That’s why we give them the opportunity to work remotely and provide all the necessary equipment to smoothen online communication and make it more effective. 

Some Displaters now work from home exclusively, while others come to the office or choose a hybrid model. Whichever way they prefer, support is readily available for when they need it. 

Being a face-to-face person, you’ve probably noticed that remote meetings have their own share of challenges and drawbacks. 

Marta Olszewska: That’s true. Here at Displate, we’re committed to making our online reality more productive. Our Agile team has prepared a list of golden meeting rules to help us improve our communication and curb any negative impacts that would otherwise make remote collaboration difficult.

Katarzyna Urbaniak: With more people switching to remote work, everyone had to get used to a more disciplined culture during online meetings. Compared to the classic office setting, they require extra moderation and facilitation to really be effective. 

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We created a set of tips and guidelines for our employees to help them run good meetings. It focuses on things like creating an agenda and defining goals, choosing the meeting owner, and respecting others’ time. 

Our Engineering teams also rely on our Scrum Masters who guide the process of facilitation and help yield results from meetings. 

Something that transpired in the post-COVID organization culture is the infamous Zoom fatigue. How do you deal with it at Displate?

Katarzyna Urbaniak: We noticed that many of our employees have suddenly found themselves stuck in meetings all day long. This can be exhausting. 

That’s why we recommend “official” meeting hours, between 10 AM and 3 PM and advise Displaters to set up deep work slots in their calendars. We also organize “Meetingless Fridays” and help our employees choose which meeting to join whenever there’s conflict.

The pandemic has also changed the recruitment process. How do you make sure that new employees fit in and are able to work together with the existing teams?

Marta Olszewska: It’s good to have a central value that drives all employees, both new and seasoned. For us, the keyword is “passion”. When we see that the candidate talks passionately about their discipline, the projects they have previously worked on, or even about themselves – that’s when we know they’ll make a good fit. We’re looking for that spark. 

Secondly, working at Displate is all about being a team player. Even the top expert in their field can find it hard to contribute to the company without the right attitude. Soft skills are crucial here: you need to be able to talk to people, gather insights from them and sometimes even anticipate their needs.

Another thing that’s directly related to team spirit is a strong sense of ownership. We trust our people and we give them freedom to choose their own way to solve problems on a daily basis. Employees with strong ownership are not afraid of “not knowing” or being “not fully briefed”. Instead, they look for ways to find out what they need to know by themselves, be it remotely or in-person.

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Sometimes the best way to find a team player is to involve other employees in the recruitment process. 

Marta Olszewska: And that’s exactly what we do! Aside from recruiters and managers, each candidate also meets with their future co-workers. It works both ways: the candidates are able to get a feel of the team, their passions, and knowledge, while the Displaters feel more included in the recruitment process. Their impressions are invaluable in helping us make the final decision. 

What’s your advice for other companies looking for ways to build a strong organizational culture in the age of remote work?

Marta Olszewska: We believe that you can still make meaningful contributions working remotely and we stand by it. The most important thing is company alignment. You need to make sure that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to the strategy and the direction your organization is heading. For example, here at Displate we have a monthly “All hands on deck” meeting. It’s a recurring event created specifically to share big, company-wide news, updates from our CEO, and information on the most strategic projects.

Another advice would be to come up with a virtual alternative for water cooler conversations. We encourage our teams to set up remote coffee meetings, where they can simply catch up and don’t need to discuss a specific problem.

Finally, it’s good to meet in person, at least from time to time. That’s what company events and parties are for. Displaters love them! We also have this thing called random lunch, where each employee can enter a lottery and win a free lunch together with people from different parts of the company. It’s a great way to get to know each other, so feel free to steal this idea! 

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