The Work Culture Disconnect
Company culture is important to retaining top talent, however many organizations struggle to build a culture that inspires. The first step is defining what company culture is. It is not about benefits or perks. Rather, a company’s culture is made up of its practices, systems, and behaviors. When all three line up with the overarching values held by the organization, you have a company culture with substance.
The biggest issue you can have is to espouse values that are not backed up by the company’s practices. This creates a work culture disconnect that often leads employees to leave. You don’t want to lose your best talent because of an inconsistency between the culture you say you have and the culture you actually have. For example, a company might market themselves as advocates of a good “work-life balance,” but if that company does not offer maternity/paternity leave, they come across as insincere. To develop a great work culture, you have to address the behaviors, systems, and practices directly.
Behaviors refers to the actions and habits of employees. Leadership is one of the most important aspects of this. The key is to have transparent value statements and leaders that embody those values. Values includes qualities like teamwork and patience. You want to identify what your company’s values are, clearly communicate those values to the employees, and make sure the leaders of the company exhibit those values daily. This will show the employees that the company lives up to these values they profess to have. Strong leadership also helps clarify what behaviors are expected of employees.
Systems include the processes, technology, and structures within an organization that reinforce the culture. Five systems in particular affect the quality of a company’s culture: the hiring process, goal setting, assessments, rewards, and professional development.
Many companies end up hiring people that they believe will fit in with the other members of the team. However, it is more valuable to hire people that will enrich the culture as a whole. This might mean hiring someone who is different than any other team members because they bring something to the table no one else brings. Goal-setting is important because it helps employees understand what outcomes the company wants them to achieve, while assessments are important because they show employees how close they are to achieving their goals. Employees want to know what the company’s overall objectives are, and they want to be able to see how the work they do contributes to those goals.
To create a healthy learning environment, employers need to see professional development as a way to enhance their personal and professional growth, not as a punishment. Rewards are closely related to professional growth. Here too, expectations are everything. It should be clear to employees what criteria is used to assess people for promotions. You do not want the criteria to ever seem random or preferential.
Practices are the events that happen on the day-to-day. This includes things like decision-making processes, feedback, meetings, and company events. The difficult part is that practices change because business models develop over time. It is important that employees are made aware of any changes that occur.
In summary, the company’s behaviors, systems, and practices need to be aligned with their professed culture to retain top talent. Employees need to have a clear understanding of the company’s value system, long-term goals, and expectations.
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