I am putting the finishing touches to a new report that looks at how firms can tune their culture to the changes in work. My take is, attempting to “shock and awe” and destroy codes of behaviour that have taken decades to build will never end well: the trick is to carefully calibrate the speed of change with an eye on what the current work culture can take. However, you might not even think you have a problem so how do you know if anything needs fixing? Here is a starter for 10:
- Talent? What war for talent? People know what your organization does and understand the interesting work it does. They also know how it can help them achieve their career goals and aspirations in the longer term. This isn’t so much about the remuneration; it is what the individual can get out of the role. OK, so you might have a skills gap but people will want to work for your company.
- Your attrition rates are low (compared to your peers). Employee attrition rates, especially at the entry and mid-level tell a story about your company’s culture. If you find most people stay for an unexpectedly long time in roles then, in all probability, your culture is strong. If attrition rates are consistently above average, then unpick if the issues—I guarantee it’s about the prospects for personal growth or individual empowerment (or just a rubbish job)
- Everyone knows the journey we’re on. Yes, everyone, from those at the top to those that recently joined on a graduate scheme. Executives, D-level, team leaders, middle managers to those at the start of their careers can describe the future possibilities for the organization (and they should do it with optimism). A unified vision of the future for the company and a clear sense of how people—employees—will work together to create value will persist.
- The lateral leadership quotient is outstanding. Leading people below you, is the easy part. But the ability to influence and guide people next to you (who you don’t control) demonstrates a healthy culture (and in era of interconnected platforms it matters even more). Leading laterally matters. A strong culture sees people coming together alongside their peers, rolling up their sleeves up and encouraging them when it matters, but also course correcting and redirecting when its needed (goodbye to the silo).
- Work is a big part of your employee’s life. Work is, and always has been, a big part of who we all are. Your people (still) need to view where they work as a special place. We all have some friends outside of work (no one’s that sad) but work should engender kindred of mission and values. Team members form a brotherhood who have each other’s backs without hesitation.
- The workspace packs a punch. When you walk into the place where you work, check to see if there is a sense of collaborative energy in the air. Is your workspace fizzing with ideas where people actually want to come together and work? Or is it more rows of empty desks and a bunch of confused graduates. The workspace goes a long way to show, tell and bring the energy and dynamism your company needs.
- People sense they matter. Survey staff to ensure there is a sense that employees working together really do matter. The systems and processes that affect all employees must be designed to communicate this relentlessly, from the on-boarding processes to the dreaded expenses to the ongoing learning opportunities employees feel are open to them. And, when times are tough, the impression is “people matter.”
- People aren’t scared and hierarchy is dead: Does the big boss walk in the room and everyone stare at their shoes? Great cultures reveal themselves because people don’t worry if the wrong thing is said in front of the wrong person. Employees irrespective of tenure, can approach their boss with a concern, and leave him or her knowing they were heard. Walk around and you will see people smiling, enjoying conversations despite the intense focus that knowledge work demands.
- People readily communicate. You will never control how people communicate but you can ensure people are “pulled” rather than “pushed” to communication. A mix of formal and informal communication channels works but the FOMO affect (fear of missing out) that we all abide by, ensures staff opt in and get the information they need before a town hall or the “copy all” email by the CEO. Information can then be communicated well in advance with leaders asking staff to help shape the solution.
- Change is seen as a force for good, not fear. Let’s be honest, not everyone likes change (I have only just got used to Slack) but a healthy culture recognizes change as a fact of corporate life. Strong cultures show themselves where people aren’t afraid of the changes ahead because they know it will be managed with transparency, due care and dignity for the people affected. Because they’ve seen it done this way before.
Watch out for my new report on culture, coming soon.