Cultivating a Successful Culture in the New Year

For the many challenges our industry faced throughout 2020, there are just as many lessons to be taken with us into 2021. One of the most important for me, based on my own experience and conversations I’ve had with customers over the past several months, is the importance of company culture. If you’ve read this blog in the past, that answer probably won’t surprise you. I’m a big believer in the power of culture and how it can contribute to organizational success.

But the uniqueness of 2020 has placed greater strains on companies everywhere and has likely exposed both weaknesses and strengths. How your organization has dealt collectively with the pandemic can tell you a lot about the culture you’ve been cultivating, and might help identify some ways to strengthen it.

Here’s an example: Employee burnout has emerged as a pressing crisis facing the American workforce as we continue adjusting to pandemic life. It’s likely we’re going to be working this way for at least several more months. Essential workers may be feeling overburdened, between COVID-19 precautions and increased workloads, while those who have had the privilege of working remotely may be feeling the lines increasingly blurred between their work and home lives.

We’ve seen this in the fenestration industry. As demand crept back up to normal over the summer, the pandemic made our ongoing labor shortage more acute. Circumstances changed for many, and not everyone was able to return to the workplace easily, necessitating more long shifts for plant floor workers. Meanwhile, raw materials supply has remained a challenge, creating ongoing headaches for logistics teams everywhere.

These are just a few conditions that could contribute to employee burnout—and your culture has a lot to do with how big of a problem it could become. Does a stressed plant floor worker feel empowered to speak to management about being overworked and open a conversation about how that stress can be alleviated? Or is he or she more likely to walk out and look for other work? Hopefully, your culture is one where your teams would choose the former option.

It’s important to remember, here, that culture isn’t just something you build once—it’s something you must be doing actively every day. Staying in tune with your people, now more than ever, can go a long way toward understanding individuals’ needs and doing what you can to meet them. Listen, be flexible and, of course, put safety at the heart of everything.

I think we’ve had a lot to learn about ourselves, our businesses and our culture this year, and I’d love to hear some of the ways you plan to carry some of that positive momentum with us into 2021. Drop me a line at

Thanks for reading Commercial Commentary this year. I hope you enjoy a restful holiday season and I’ll see you right here in January!

Joe Erb is commercial sales specialist for Quanex Building Products.