Company culture is analogous to what strategists describe as the ‘full brand experience’. While enlightened firms make their culture a serious area of focus, those that have been around for a number of years tend to take their success for granted with a mindset of “we pay well and have good benefits” approach.
The past decade has been more of an employer’s market but even the stodgiest companies understand how acquiring and retaining the scarce resource known as top talent is needed to survive long term. Following are five important steps that can turn a lackluster or average company culture into one that shines.
#1 = LEVERAGE THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS
From a new employee perspective, the company’s culture should already be apparent from the moment someone applies for a position through to the interview process. He or she has corresponded to a recruiter, interacted with several colleagues and senior managers during the interview process and has seen at least one facility. Usually the new staff member has observed employees at work, how they’re dressed and, most importantly, if the overall vibe is high energy positive or not so much. Critically, your company needs to gather an understanding of this from all potential candidates and pull the data into an intelligent database that can push out information for senior management review and action.
KEY BENEFIT: Great way to obtain ‘fresh’ perspectives
KEY CHALLENGE Candidates may be reticent to provide completely honest feedback for fear of repercussions, especially if they’re hired.
#2 = ASSIGN A MENTOR FOR ALL NEW HIRES
Each company culture, even within the same industry, is different. Whether it’s an intern or senior level hire, how one interacts with colleagues, managers and suppliers at one company can change significantly at another. Having a mentor to proactively guide a new employee can be invaluable, while also reflecting the firm’s commitment to a new employee’s success.
KEY BENEFIT: High ROI for a few hours per month of mentorship
KEY CHALLENGE: Not everyone is good at mentoring so identify the right people
#3 = COMMUNICATION CLARITY
In the world of professionals, nothing can be as frustrating as a lack of clarity. For the majority of employees, particularly those with less than 10 years of experience, clear and concise direction makes for less stress and greater productivity. This applies to setting expectations, casual interactions, email communication and formal performance appraisals.
If managers promote the ‘reading through tea leaves’ approach, the result is intellectual cycles being wasted and ROI erosion. It’s no secret communication is the hardest thing we do in life so get your senior team coached/trained properly and before long crisp communication will be ingrained in your company’s culture
KEY BENEFIT: Quicker time to market for deliverables
KEY CHALLENGE: Resistant to changing one’s personal style
#4 = PROVIDE FEEDBACK PRIOR TO ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW
Many enlightened firms have realised that one performance review per year isn’t healthy. Everyone has areas for improvement. As most people, including managers, are conflict averse, a vast majority tend to shy away from communicating tough messages to those considered stellar employees.
While ‘360 reviews’ are useful, it’s still the direct manager who should remove the political plague and help those employees considered keepers move forward with the tools they need to live long and prosper within the company. The annual review then becomes more of a report card on how the employee has modified his/her behavior relative to the ongoing feedback as needed.
KEY BENEFIT: Lack of a potential surprise at formal performance review
KEY CHALLENGE: Negative feedback, even if mild, needs to be done thoughtfully
#5 = RESPECT THAT MANAGING PEOPLE IS AN ART & SCIENCE
A senior manager of mine who was CTO of a major Wall Street firm, advised me in my early years as a team leader that “You possess all the qualities of becoming a successful executive except you’re too task driven. Think about your team as individuals, engage more with each of them and you’ll reach your full potential”. Being 23 at the time I listened but it took me several more years to internalize that message. Said another way, we all have our own style that drives how we deal with all that happens in a workday. Individual contributors don’t always receive the coaching/training required once elevated to becoming a team manager. This, I would argue, is perhaps, the most critical key to a successful culture. It includes identifying those that may be better suited to remaining individual contributors which should not, by the way, impact title or compensation.
KEY BENEFIT: Less attrition, higher productivity => higher ROI
KEY CHALLENGE: Takes HR and senior management to collaborate and, implement as an ongoing program versus plucking one bad manager apple off the corporate tree
A FINAL SUGGESTION
Snapshot your baseline on top talent retention metrics over the past 12 months, implement these five steps then compare to baseline stats after 12 months. There are more than the 5 steps in this blog that can be considered for cultural transformation. Take a look at how Expert360 can help you drive your HR strategy.