Today’s employees have more choice than in past years when trying to find a company and position that is right for them. There is a growing focus on company culture that is quickly catching up with compensation as a consideration for a new job. Applicants want to know not just what their responsibilities will be, but how they will be able to go about them and the types of people they will be working with along the way.
Your company careers page might boast a relaxed environment with unlimited paid time off and an open-door policy. While that all might be true on paper, how many employees actually take more than a few vacation days? The CEO’s door might be open, but how many people actually walk through it daily? Applicants can now find this out more easily using tools like Glassdoor, or by doing a “reverse reverence check,” as our CEO referred to in this article.
You might feel that you have created the type of company culture that should attract, engage, and retain the best employees, but it’s important to give yourself a reality check. Don’t assume that your employees don’t take advantage of your generous policies because they don’t want to. Management might be sending signals that undermine the policies you have created to carefully craft your company culture through words and actions that contradict what you have set out to achieve.
As a leader, how do you ensure that you support your desired culture with action?
- Ensure that rewards align with culture: If you want to support work-life balance, do not go out of your way to praise and highlight an employee just because she’s the first one in and the last one to leave. Instead, focus on rewarding results and hold up those who can achieve their goals and keep regular hours as the example. If you’re trying to cultivate innovative thinking, employees must be allowed to present and test new ideas that may fail without consequence. Instead of solely rewarding results, you may want to also recognize ideas on their own merit even if they don’t pan out.
- If you don’t want employees to do it, don’t pretend you do: If you don’t want employees working from home, make that the policy! It’s better to be clear and up front than to create a two-tiered culture in which not everyone is in on the secret and those who take your words at face value are penalized. False advertising to lure in new talent is both unethical and counterproductive, as it’s likely the employees who joined your company due to these benefits will leave once they realize they were deceived.
- If you want to change it, you have to lead it: Whether you’re a new manager setting out to change old habits or you’re trying to make your company a better place to work, you have to set the example. If you want a workplace where open and honest feedback is welcome, you have to solicit that feedback, react positively to it, and reward good ideas with action. If you say your door is always open, you need to make it comfortable for employees to walk through it.
- Interior design does not equal interior change: If you want to change your company culture to become more collaborative, squishing all of your employees together at one long table with zero privacy is not the way to do it. Putting a ping-pong table in your office is not automatically going to ensure that employees feel relaxed. People feel relaxed when they feel secure in their jobs and in their relationships with co-workers. They feel like collaborating when the organizational structure encourages it. Once you have fostered collaboration, if your interior design is really an obstacle, THEN you can start knocking down walls.
Company culture is not an easy thing to build and maintain, but it should be a priority. Like any other initiative, it takes planning, action, and follow-through. But if you can get it right, you will reap huge rewards.