Workplace culture is powerful. It can be a significant factor in business success or create a dysfunctional environment that drains talent. For companies wanting victory over brain drain, it is crucial to proactively shape a productive employee culture that reflects talent demographics as much as it does the customer.
Where does one start?
With an honest look at the following:
- Employee demographics. Who is missing?
- Turnover rate. Has it been increasing over time?
- Internal employee complaints. How does the process impact employee culture?
- Employment litigation. What needs to change internally?
- Employee surveys. What insights can be gleaned?
These considerations help define current organizational culture and point to opportunities for reshaping a more productive one.
Shaping Workplace Culture
A Harvard Business Review (HBR) article described culture like the wind. “It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.”
A dysfunctional workplace is expensive, time-consuming and exhausting. A report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimated the toxic workplace cost US employers $223 billion over five years.
The good news is that 94% of managers agree that a positive workplace culture creates resilient teams. And 97% of executives agree their actions directly impact workplace culture. And they are right.
Here are a few of the most critical factors contributing to workplace culture:
- Growth Mindset
Research reveals that creating an environment where employees feel they belong increases business outcomes. A 2019 study conducted by BetterUp Inc. indicated that high belonging was linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.
Moreover, employees with higher workplace belonging also showed a 167% increase in a willingness to recommend their company to others. What makes a company an attractive employment destination? The reputation for being a great place to work.
Contribution provides a sense of purpose. The opportunity to contribute to an organization’s mission, vision and ultimate business success is a primary reason for showing up and staying in the workplace. People feel more connected and engaged when they contribute, so leaders must provide opportunities for every team member to contribute and understand how those contributions impact the business.
Workplace flexibility is not just about where and when the work gets done; it’s also how. If managers are trying to create “mini-mes” out of every team member, that’s a sign of inflexibility. For example, a manager edits their employee’s work , so the end product sounds like the manager wrote it herself. Or prescribing a process for time management when the reality is that not everyone has the same methods for how they work most effectively.
What’s most important is focusing on the end goal. How the work gets done (so long as it is ethical and doesn’t violate any company-wide policy) should be up to the individual.
It’s not enough for companies to be diverse and inclusive; they must also be equitable. That means treating everyone fairly and equally. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done because everyone has bias–often unconscious. For example, would someone of 24 years jump at partnering with someone of 74 to deliver on a long-term project–or vice versa? If not, why not?
Age bias, myths and stereotypes (across all ages) are just one example of bias that permeates the workplace. A diverse, inclusive and equitable Workplace requires ongoing training and education to help employees recognize how they are being inequitable and exclusive. It requires measuring and reporting how employees feel about the workplace. And it involves workplace addressing policies, processes and practices that prevent workplace equity. For example, allowing new workplace parents a flexible work schedule but not other employees with family care needs.
One of the most exciting aspects of a culture of belonging is encouraging all workers to maintain ongoing learning that enriches their contribution. Plus, there is much to be learned when employees have a chance to share knowledge, experience and skills. A growth mindset focuses on collaborative exchange. It allows for differentiation of thought and style. A growth mindset encourages all employees at every level of the organization and every career stage to continual growth and development.
A Culture of Success
Shaping a positive working environment requires leaders who set clear expectations and hold themselves and their employees accountable for meeting and exceeding them. Although it’s up to leaders to set expectations, effectively shaping a positive, productive workplace requires everyone. As noted in the HBR article, “It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of how things are done.”
Culture creates an internal movement that impacts employees, customers, stakeholders and communities. It’s about creating an inspiring vision and desire–across the organization–for collective change that benefits the individual as much as it does the employer.