You want to take care of your employees. You recognize they are your biggest resource, and you want your company to nurture their engagement, loyalty, and development. But where to start? Creating a company culture can either be completely unconscious (which leaves room for bad habits and misinformed priorities to develop), or you can take the time to build out a foundation for a purposeful culture that helps to hold your company together.
How do you begin to create this foundation? By developing a mindset that allows you to get the most out of your employees, and your employees to get the most out of working for you. This shift in thinking can bring you happier, more engaged employees, and a more motivated and productive team.
A healthy culture involves four key principles:
- Clear values
- Personal connection
- Willingness to change
How do these things make for a better work environment and more engaged employees? Let’s break it down.
Recognition is about more than compensation for a job well done. Yes, competitive pay and benefits are absolutely critical to attracting and retaining employees. But as most job seekers will tell you, there’s more to it than that.
Your employees want to be recognized, not just for their talent, but for who they are as people. If your company looks at staff and only sees warm bodies, checklists of skills, or individual units of production, your employees aren’t going to feel like truly valued members of the team. And you can bet cash money that their attitude, performance, productivity, and longevity will reflect those feelings.
Great leaders recognize accomplishments and individuals. They take the time to get to know their people, and invest in their personal and professional development. They also recognize that talent comes in all colors, genders, ages, and sizes, and they work hard to cultivate a diverse and welcoming environment. This is the kind of environment that attracts people to an organization and makes them want to stay.
Corporations may or may not be people, but they are certainly made up of people. And more and more employees are expecting them to act like good citizens.
Organizations who have not only defined their values, but consistently live by them, can set themselves apart from the competition, and not just when it comes to employees. This works with consumers as well.
Does your organization support causes that align with your values? Do you pay living wages and treat your employees well? Do you provide healthcare, vacation, and a safe, friendly working environment? Do you give back to the communities where your employees live and work? Does your company have a purpose beyond turning a profit?
Today’s employees are drawn to organizations that reflect their values back to them. More importantly, they have choices. And time and time again, they will choose to work for companies who are socially aware, and who demonstrate it on a regular basis. Build an organization that cares and you will give your employees something to care about as well.
Job seekers are tired of impersonal processes. Spending hours to fill out online applications with nary a reply in sight. Being dragged through cookie cutter processes that leave no room for individuality. Suffering through employee rankings and robotic annual reviews. More and more employees are saying, “No, thank you!” to these things.
Of course, you expect your employees and potential new hires to be interested in your industry and your organization. But it’s important to remember that interest is a two way street. Just like in any relationship, it can’t be all one-sided. You need to cultivate interest and curiosity on your end as well.
Inject some personality (and personalization!) into your interview processes. And once you’ve hired that new person, keep the momentum going with a comprehensive onboarding process that not only teaches them about your company, but allows fellow colleagues and managers to learn about them. Assign a work buddy or mentor to answer questions and help them get up to speed.
Once upon a time, many supervisors were fans of the sink-or-swim approach to management. In today’s job market, if you don’t show any interest in your job candidates and employees, they will definitely swim. Right to a new employer.
Willingness to change
This may seem like a strange concept to end on, based on everything we’ve just covered. Isn’t consistency a good thing? Doesn’t it promote good relationships, employee engagement, and increased retention?
Yes and no.
Caring about your employees and investing in their success is beneficial to your business, and being intensely connected to your company culture, values, and vision is imperative. But getting too attached to any one person, process, or model can be dangerous.
The truth of the matter is that things change.
- Markets change
- Products change
- Positions change
- Technologies change
- Consumer preferences change
In other words, organizational needs change.
If you’ve created a culture where fear of change is the rule, and letting old ways go is nearly impossible, you will eventually find yourself unable to adjust, adapt, or even keep up when that inevitable change occurs.
You’ve got be okay with letting go and moving forward.
Putting the right processes in place will help greatly. Take the time to develop your strategies and document your processes. Do some workforce and succession planning. Evaluate your contracts. Look into your insurance policies and risk management strategies.
Think of this as seismic work for your organization. Build a solid structure that also allows for maximum flexibility as things start shifting around.
Don’t let that inevitable shake-up bring you down. Resist hanging on to any one person or thing too tightly. Be open to new ways of doing things, and new ideas to help you get where you need to go.
Acknowledge what’s happening in your organization. Be aware of it. Take an interest in it. And don’t get too attached to any one outcome. Your company will be set up to grow and change alongside its employees.
Want to be a local employer of choice? Need help with performance management, employee turnover, and HR strategy? At Raffa, we work with businesses in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area to implement strategic employee benefits plans designed to position them as coveted employers of choice. Whether you’re looking to build a healthy team, lower employee turnover, or recruit and reward executive talent, we can help.
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