While recognizing the importance of culture for newcomers, we shouldn’t overlook the reality that sustaining a positive culture and strong organizational commitment is at least as important for the many employees who are not new to the company. Too often over the past two years, employees have found themselves ground down by a combination of all the demands and stresses they’re under and a corporate culture that doesn’t sufficiently recognize their struggles or support their needs. But even those who are doing OK managing their daily tasks may well find themselves feeling increasingly distant and disconnected from their companies, amplifying the risks of reduced motivation, lower organizational commitment, and higher turnover.

The 5Cs Checklist

There’s no reason to think the 5C challenges will go away anytime soon. In fact, if they’re not proactively recognized and managed, they’re likely to get worse rather than better. So, what is a leader to do?

Recently in my executive education teaching with companies and managers in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia, I’ve been having energetic and generative conversations by asking executives to work their way through a checklist of the 5Cs. There are four simple steps in this process:


For each of the five Cs, give yourself a grade on how you think your remote or hybrid workplace, unit, or team is doing. You can use a simple letter-grading scheme or a rating between 1 and 10. The goal here is to use these grades to summarize whether you think you’re in good shape or have room for improvement on each C.


Identify the C you gave the lowest grade. This is where you can benefit most from focusing your attention — it’s your maximum leverage point for making high-impact changes. Then, analyze the underlying issues. Why is your grade weak here? For example, if you scored lowest on communication, are you observing some people speaking up too much while others aren’t speaking up enough? If you scored lowest on creativity, is it collective creativity or individual creativity that seems to be suffering most? Then, move on to the C you gave the next-lowest grade and repeat until you’ve considered each C that didn’t get a perfect score.


Starting with the C you gave the lowest grade, consider what can you do to make improvements in this area. Aim to develop three action steps you can take to begin addressing the problems you’ve identified. For example, if your weakest C is coordination, you might come up with more efficient ways to ensure everyone is looped into all important decisions, or a new schedule for ensuring more regular, structured information-sharing sessions with remote team members. Identify potential barriers to the implementation of your action steps and ways to overcome them. Repeat for the other Cs.


Set a clear schedule for implementing the changes you plan to make and a communication plan for them. Will they be rolled out over several weeks or months? And in what sequence? Who will need to be consulted and informed at each stage, and how should this be done? Establish key metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the changes — for example, by using surveys to track progress on culture or holding regular check-ins with junior employees to ask about their mentors and networks as part of improving connection. Finally, ensure that you set a timeframe for reviewing how well the changes you’ve been making are working, perhaps six months down the line and again another six months after that.

How to Work Through the Checklist

You can work through the four steps by yourself or with your team.

Just clearing some time in your busy schedule to focus on each of the five Cs can lead to some unexpected insights and a renewed sense of energy for making changes. For example, one senior manager who analyzed his team using the 5Cs checklist told me he had a real “lightbulb moment” when he thought hard about connection and realized that the higher turnover he’d been seeing on his team wasn’t just due to pandemic burnout or the prospect of higher pay elsewhere, but to the reality that team members’ social connections to each other had frayed over the last two years, diminishing their sense of commitment to the team and belonging to the company.

You can also do this same exercise with the members of your team, and it can be even more impactful. Rather than going through the 5Cs checklist by yourself, schedule a lunch session or a solid time block (maybe even as part of a full-fledged workshop) with your team. Ideally, this would be in person, but remotely can work, too. Your aim is to work through each of the steps of the exercise together.

Start by having each person independently give your team a grade on how they think the team is doing on each C. Next, have everyone share their grades for each C with each other and discuss their reasons. You may be surprised to find that others have quite a different diagnosis than you. For example, one leadership team I worked with discovered that there was considerable variation among them when it came to evaluating company culture. Team members who had been around long before the pandemic sent the company remote gave their company an “A” or “A-“ and said they thought the company’s culture was in decent shape — they could articulate its central values fairly easily and assumed everyone else could do the same. Members who hadn’t been at the company as long, however, gave it much lower grades on culture and expressed confusion and uncertainty about the company’s core values and norms, which they’d hesitated to bring up before. Understanding the reasons for such discrepancies can be very illuminating, and the act of simply discussing them can help to build trust and firmer foundations for making improvements going forward.

Finally, make sure you reserve enough time to brainstorm together about possible ways to address the problems you’ve identified, and develop a joint plan for implementing them. Doing this together will result in better ideas and greater buy-in that will stand you in good stead as you move forward together.

Hybrid working arrangements can be daunting for those about to adopt them and challenging for those who already have. But the good news is that we’re learning quickly where the biggest obstacles lie and how to minimize them in advance and manage them as they come up. Using the 5Cs checklist can help leaders tackle — and prioritize — the most common challenges of hybrid working.