The only way for a business to be successful is for everyone to be working towards the same purpose. There needs to be a common goal, whether you are a janitor or the CEO, that everyone contributes to. Think about the Janitor at NASA that met President JFK in 1962 and said, “I am helping put a man on the moon”. At first glance some make fun of this statement, how would he contribute, but by ensuring that the team have a clean space to work, he does play a part. Alignment to a bigger purpose is also consistently one of the top elements of a career employees say that they want. However, the feedback in engagement scores is also consistent that many employees do not know how they contribute to the bigger picture within their own role. So how do you align the workforce with the objectives of the company?
Start at the top
The reason that many businesses desired culture, and by this, I mean the words they stick on the website, is usually far from the day to day reality is because leaders are not aligned to the culture. Imagine that you have a value of being employee centric and caring for your employees. Now let’s imagine that 3 of your 8 senior leaders consistently fire 33-50% of the team each year. Do you think your employees will think that your organisation is employee centric and that treating each other in the correct way is appropriate? The answer is of course no. 5 of 8 departments will treat each other well, but those other 3 departments are going to be horrific places to work. Likewise, if you have a value of being innovative, yet 6 of the 8 leaders have worked in the same industry for over 20 years and insist that things cannot be done differently. The same problem will persist. Your leaders need to embody the values. This goes beyond just knowing what they are, but being a role model for those values, communicating those values consistently and rewarding people based on those values. Without this in place, the organisation will never achieve its desired culture.
Reward those who embody the values
Let’s use the previous example of an organisation that desires to be employee centric. Who would you promote in the following scenario to become sales leader? The number 1 sales person who made twice as much money as anyone else but has a reputation for being rude and disrespectful, or the number 6 sales person who still beat their target, but made 3 times less than the number 1, but who consistently goes out of there way to help others? Pretty much every organisation in the world would promote the number 1, yet every person in sales knows the saying the best salespeople often make the worst managers. Because the attributes that make someone a great sales individual contributor are almost entirely the opposite required to be a good manager.
As an organisation you need to align the values of the organisation to employee recognition and rewards. Whether this is promotions, bonus, or other employee recognition programmes. Without these in place, the workforce is never going to be truly aligned to the values. So, if you want to be employee centric, you promote the number 6 placed salesperson. If you want your values to be performance and results at any cost, you promote the number 1 salesperson in the previous example. There is no right or wrong in this scenario, your culture can be whichever you choose for it to be, but you need to reward in alignment to the values.
Listen to feedback
Finally, it is very important to listen and act on feedback. For example, if you are a results at any costs organisation and the feedback is consistent that the environment is toxic, you may need to redefine the values to be more employee centric. If your top performers are consistently leaving because they feel they are not recognised and instead their “nice” colleagues who don’t do much but bring a cake every day to the office for the team get promotions, you may need to put more emphasis on performance. No organisation can afford to stand still for years, and it is important that this is also applied to an organisations culture.