I think it only fitting that I reference Culture after my recent Culture Summit conference in San Francisco.
Culture – I believe best summed up as “what your employee’s do when no one is watching”.
That is a good measuring stick to what is a fluffy and intangible topic.
The Cambridge dictionary defines culture as “the way of life”.
What one person does when no one is watching will likely differ from another. One’s way of life will likely also differ from the next person.
So why do we insist on creating a culture or “way of life” in an organisation that brings together people from all different perspectives and expect that it will always be a cohesive & sticky process?
What is a top question people ask at an interview - “what is the culture of this company?”.
The text book answer is, we’re not hierarchical, open door policy, we live by our Values (which you can see in the foyer), we are very inclusive, management listen…the list goes on.
The new starter nods and gets wide eyed at imagining this mirage. When the newbie comes on board, how do they learn how to adapt to this new “way of life”?
By watching your company Rituals in action. A ritual is defined “a repeated set of actions”.
Let’s get nostalgic for a second and look to our home lives past and present. What does dinner time conjure for you if you think back to your childhood?
This is the journey, Susan Lee, Head of People at Warby Parker took her audience on at The Culture Summit when she shared that growing up in her household everyone would sit down at the dinner table to eat a cooked meal. This happened each and every night and became a family ritual.
Consider a new person on their first day – what rituals would they notice in your workplace?
If you don’t have any, some for consideration could be:
During your recruitment process, when you get asked the question you can say – we all come together daily to share the daily news over coffee, we share positive feedback within our team, we have no devices in team meetings to distract from the person speaking. This gives the job seeker a tangible item and a picture – they can imagine working for you.
With key rituals in place, your culture or “way of life” becomes more measured and confined. It is more palatable for new starters and becomes easier for them to adapt, survive and thrive.
Perhaps the question we should be asking in interviews is “what rituals do you have”?
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You know that disengaged people are costly to your business. You probably know that it’s difficult to engage these people, and it may even be a lost cause, so why bother?
What does people engagement really mean? It is the free breakfast, is it the ping-pong table in the corner of the office? Is it the state-of-the-art office, the casual dress Friday, the latest iPhone or Mac computer, the beer in the fridge, the work from home policy, the maternity/paternity leave policy, the gym allowance, the blah, de blah de blah?
Actually, these perks are just that, perks. They are not benefits and as such do not drive an increase in people engagement. They are a benefit for those that actually see benefit in these things.
So, if this does not create engaged employees, what does?
Asking their opinion and valuing it – or at least considering their input rather than dismissing it. Employees want to be heard, and they want to feel that what they have to offer is contributing to the organisation.
If you want to create a disengaged workplace, shut people down and you’ll succeed. No employee starts a new job with an attitude of not wanting to give their all – they start wanting to make a contribution. Let them. Encourage their contributions and let them flourish.
Listen to their ideas, praise them in front of their peers for their contribution, allow employees the freedom to discover new ways of doing the same old thing to build efficiency. Consider having them present to the team on something that they’re passionate about.
As a manager, provide consistent feedback and seek feedback from each employee. Talk to your people rather than managing them from afar and basing it on the data in a spreadsheet or report.
Employees will seek to be heard and valued more than they seek benefits. I know of one organisation that offer a fantastic maternity leave policy.. There is still disengagement in parts of that organisation because people get overlooked for promotion opportunities and their views are not taken into consideration.
This type of disengagement leads to turnover. This company also offers drinks each Friday, employee parties every month and benefits out the wazoo. People still consider leaving based on the sole reason that they are not heard.
To create an engaged workplace, fight for your team and ensure they are heard and their opinions are valued. Don’t overload already overworked people. If you have to manage out under-performers, do so....swiftly.
People engagement is more than free beer, ping-pong tables and casual Fridays. These benefits add to fun in the office but it is just that...fun.
Engagement will add value for your customers and it will lead to your success as a business. Seek to create an environment where people don't want to leave.
As we reach the end of another financial year take stock of your financial situation and look at what your people are really costing your business.
Use this time to assess if you have people who are turning up in body but not in mind. Chances are you have people in your team who are disengaged to some extent and it is costing your business money.