Employee Engagement

Culture Clash

New research reveals some serious disparities when it comes to workplace priorities.

Joyce Maroney

Culture, culture, culture. It’s discussed everywhere from the boardroom to the interview room. Definitions vary, and its importance debated. But every organization has a culture and it can make or break its success.

In today’s world of job-hopping, boomeranging employees, where Glassdoor can drive -or deter – candidates, perception of organizational culture matters more than ever. But are employees, HR professionals, and managers on the same page regarding how to build a workplace culture that matters? That’s what The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and WorkplaceTrends.com set to find out in a recent survey of 600 HR professionals, 600 people managers, and 600 non-manager employees.

The data points show that HR leaders should be asking the following four questions around culture:

1. Who defines culture at the workplace? Everyone.About one-third of HR professionals said that the head of HR defied the culture. Managers said that it was the executive team who defined their culture. And 29 percent of employees said it was the employees themselves who defined the culture. The pattern is apparent: Each group felt they had the most impact on workplace culture.

While each group believes they play the biggest role in defining the workplace culture, the data proves that everyone has a part in molding workplace culture -for better or for worse. It can be destructive if everyone isn’t on the same page. For example, if HR rolls out new core values and employee branding, but managers undermine the initiative, then it is management who has ultimately defined the culture.

What’s worse: 28 percent of employees said no one defined the culture at their workplace (7 percent of managers and 5 percent of HR agreed). This means something is seriously broken at more than a quarter of U.S. organizations.

Employees feel much more appreciated, committed, and personally fulfilled when they understand how what they do on a daily basis contributes to the overall success of the company. Without a sense of ownership, employees become actively disengaged.

2. What matters most to employees? Organizations spend a lot of time, effort, energy, and budget to create a place employees are proud to call home. But are they focusing resources on areas that really matter? The data says maybe not.

Employees listed the top three culture attributes that matter most as:

1. Pay;

2. Co-workers who respect and support each other; and

3. Work-life balance.

When asked the same question, managers and HR didn’t name a single top-three attribute cited by employees. HR cited managers and executives leading by example and shared mission and values as top needs for a great culture.

Fair pay is table stakes, and nearly always listed as a top reason why people quit. Workplace relationships -both with colleagues and managers -also tops this list. Sprinkle in having enough time outside of work, and it boils down to a simple question for employees, “Am I being treated fairly at work?” A good recipe for employee engagement revolves around the three Ps: Pay, passion, and people.While pay can be controlled, passion and people must be developed.

3. Are benefits a competitive differentiator or status quo? HR named benefits as a top-three attribute that mattered most to employees. While employees may not have named it in their top three, benefits as part of total compensation can make a difference in choosing one job over another.

Once a sleepier part of HR, innovative benefits are emerging as a competitive differentiator. Progressive companies are extending parental leave to match European standards, helping employees pay off student loans, supplementing child care, and offering scholarships for employees’ children. Others have moved to an open paid time-off policy to help employee balance their work responsibilities with their many life commitments.

Organizations can analyze employee demographics and offer creative benefits that go beyond healthcare, retirement, and wellness to make a difference in their lives.

4. Where can organizations do better? Even if employees love their jobs and are proud of where they work, every company can do better. More than 40 percent of HR leaders said there is more pressure to maintain an attractive culture today than a decade ago. Candidates can make a quick judgment about organizations by reading social media posts or reaching out to previous and current employees on LinkedIn.

Organizations need to gauge how employees really feel.How can they do this? By conducting regular engagement surveys, creating focus groups, and building advocacy teams. Find out candidly what makes people stay and what makes people leave. Organizations must analyze internal survey data down to the leader and functional level to understand how well aligned each team is with the organization’s stated values and strategic goals.

Every organization has a culture. Employees experience it every day when they come to work. Make sure your culture is working for you -not against you.


Source: The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and WorkplaceTrends.com

Joyce Maroney (@WF_Institute) is the director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated.

Tags: April 2016

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