Culture is everywhere. This month, members of The Workforce Institute at UKG advisory board weigh-in on the best ways to build a great company culture for all people.
The Workforce Institute Weigh-In for May 2023: What’s the best way to foster a great company culture for all people?
“For me, fostering a great culture starts with connecting employees to the company’s mission, vision, and values. While mission, vision, and values are often ‘corporate-y’ (meaning: a little boring), management can and should use them as tools to inspire, direct, and motivate employees. When done well, it encourages collaborations, provides a clear purpose, and makes work meaningful for everyone.” — Bob Clements, president, Axsium Group
“It’s a mistake to try to create a culture that’s great for all people. A culture that is everything to everyone will be empty. As soon as a culture has some real meaning, then it will be great for some (those are the people you hire) and not so great for others (those people may not even apply, if you communicate your culture well). Have the courage to take a stand. Have some clear principles and don’t feel you have to please everyone.” — David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research
“A great company culture starts with authenticity and trust. That means walking the walk and making space for mistakes along the way. If employees don’t trust leaders and vice versa, a culture of inclusion is impossible.” — John Frehse, senior managing director, Ankura, and co-host, “No Suits, No Slides!” video series
“One word: love. Not familial love or romantic love, but agape love. Love the way Thomas Aquinas defined it: to will the good of another. In the workplace, that means coaching up (and promoting) managers who understand the human side of work. You want frontline leaders and executives who are self-aware, can put aside their own egos, and act in the interests of the people that they work with. That looks like active listening, understanding the need for flexibility, and appreciating different ways of thinking and different backgrounds. Cognitive diversity and experiential diversity are relevant, too. The reason that a lot of company cultures don’t feel inclusive is because we talk past each other, or we get caught in ‘action traps,’ where all that matters is the next task or deliverable. It’s important to hit deadlines and deliverables, obviously, but what workplaces need culturally now more than ever is love, because, if people understand they’re cared for, then they begin to care. Love is contagious. And good culture is when people care about the work they’re doing and care about one another.” — Dr. Jessica Kriegel, chief scientist of workplace culture, Culture Partners
“Realize that new hybrid work environments require building culture from the ground up, and best practices here require working with your workforce to co-create new norms. Revise your performance expectations to assess employee productivity by output rather than by hours in the office, and make sure there’s a mix of in-person and virtual opportunities to network and advance. Rather than taking a top-down, mandate-like approach to the tune of, ‘This is what our policies will be,’ survey your employees to find out what works for them and accept that arrangements might vary by group or geography.” — Alexandra Levit, co-author, “Deep Talent”
(Editor’s Note: Read more from Alexandra in our latest “Get to Know” Q&A feature.)
“Culture is the amalgamation of your policies, procedures, programs, and practices. If your goal is to have a culture that is great for all people, it begins with creating policies, procedures, programs, and practices that center the needs of those most often excluded or forgotten. In most cases, this will be your employees whose intersecting identities are most often marginalized by historical and current society. When you make a decisive effort to ensure ‘the least of these’ are paid a fair, equitable, and thriving wage; are given opportunities to grow in their professions and have paths to promotions; have affordable comprehensive health benefits and the support to take time away from work as needed without punishment; and are recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments, both big and small — and you quickly address and correct behaviors by individuals that do not align with your values and goals — you are on your way to having a culture that will be great for all people. When these efforts are missing or waver in consistency, your culture will suffer because it lacks intention and inclusion.” — Sarah Morgan, director of equity and inclusion, Humareso
“Building the most wonderful and amazing organizational culture is not rocket science. We shouldn’t continue with the nonsensical approach to over-engineer and over-complicate culture. This is the simplest answer to the culture dilemma: great cultures are created from the bottom up, in the everyday, natural, organic, formal, and informal interactions of leaders and employees with one another. And it is kindness, respect, compassion, and empathy that those interactions should be made of. This is the best part of all: kindness, respect, compassion, and empathy for one another come more naturally to us than the opposite. So, do you want to know where to begin building a superb corporate culture? Here it is: let humans be human.” — Enrique Rubio, founder, Hacking HR
“To truly develop a culture that is inclusive and accepts team members with different opinions and backgrounds, you have to foster an organization that invests in leadership, management capability, and communication. Everyone knows that the tone of a culture is set at the top, but the maintenance of a culture comes from the middle and frontlines. I have witnessed and experienced situations where the tone from the top was one message, but middle management was completely different. This incongruency stifles culture and keeps it from advancing, because the words of leadership are one thing, but the actions of others are something different. What you don’t want is a CEO talking about the importance of diversity, and then, two layers down, their vice president has employee relations complaints or a lack of diversity on their team. This is incongruent. To change this behavior, you must invest in good talent-selection tools, training, and accountability measures to ensure all levels of leadership are aligned with creating the inclusive culture you want to see. So, as a leader, when you say inclusion is important, there are examples of good efforts being made at every leadership and management level.” — Alex Smith, CHRO, City of Memphis
“Respect is a fundamental aspect of a great company culture. It means treating every employee with dignity and recognizing their contributions to the organization. A respectful workplace is one where employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and are free from discrimination or harassment. To foster respect, companies should establish clear guidelines for behavior and enforce them consistently. This includes providing training on appropriate workplace conduct, creating channels for employees to report issues or grievances, and taking prompt action when problems arise. For me, this is one of the most important points: leaders should admit that an unhealthy company culture can impact engagement. Sometimes, leaders may believe they’re putting in the work to build and improve the culture, but the reality is that employees don’t agree. So, the leadership could be minimally (if at all) committed to improving culture. This discrepancy can lead to harrowing business repercussions.” — Ivonne Vargas, award-winning journalist and bestselling author, “¡Contrátame!” (Hire Me!)
To learn more about how to foster a great workplace culture for your people, register for the UKG HR and Payroll eSymposium on June 7.
© 2023 Workforce Institute All Rights Reserved • Designed and Developed by Morether Creative Agency, Temple, TX