Time for a Corporate Culture Makeover ?

Although recovery is benefiting many sectors of our economy, organizations find that simply throwing money at high performers turns out to be an ineffective means of retaining top talent. Money rarely ranks at the top of “why I love my job” list. As competition for stellar employees and executives grows increasingly fierce, many organizations could use a “culture makeover” to enhance the likelihood of hanging onto their superstars.

In her book The Progress Principle, Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile calls attention to the significance of making progress in meaningful work as the most powerful positive event from which employees derive satisfaction. In interviewing hundreds of candidates each year, we hear a lot of complaints about culture and it’s often the impetus for someone to initiate the process of changing jobs

Here are the top four missing culture characteristics consistently cited:

1. Flexibility. Whether it’s wanting more time with the kids, tending to the needs of aging parents, learning a new language or having the option to work remotely on occasion, your best performers value flexibility around when, where and how they get their work done. Today more than ever, flexibility is highly coveted.

2. Connection. A frequently cited disappointment conveyed by front-line workers is a missing connection between their contributions and the bigger picture. This disconnect is commonly framed as, “Where are we going?” or “Why are we doing ‘this’?”. And when such a disconnect exists, employees also question how meaningful their work is and if their superiors even really know what they do.

3. Clarity. Employees crave clear expectations, roles, career paths, boundaries, and how success is defined for them. Managers often assure us that their employees know exactly what is expected of them and are aware of what constitutes desired results and success. When we talk to their employees, however, it’s not uncommon to find a mutual understanding that can be described as “blurry” at best.

4. Communications. The most prominent weakness we hear universally cited by employees at all levels is the desire for greater communications and information. The lack of communication impacts their commitment, ownership, pride and productivity. While it’s nice to hear directly from the Chief Executive, most employees report that a variety of communication strategies from their bosses help keep them engaged, informed and energized about their work. Electronic newsletters, regular meetings, video messages and even an occasional old fashioned handwritten note are all effective tools for satisfying the hunger for information and personal acknowledgement.

While employees want to listen, they also want to be heard. In order to feel truly valued, they want to offer up ideas, share constructive criticism, convey customer feedback and contribute strategically to the big picture.

Today, we’re all bogged down by too much information, competing priorities and technology tools tempting us to be available 24/7. Dedicating time and energy to culture is often viewed as optional by many leaders and only gets tended to when something goes horribly wrong or a pattern of fleeing employees comes to the attention of management. Don’t wait for a crisis to be concerned about employee retention and the reputation of your corporate culture. What change can you make in your environment to strengthen the magnetic force of your workplace?

Permission to reprint granted so long as article is published in its entirety and author is credited with the following:

Teri Black is a lifelong student of high performance and success and is President/CEO of a Los Angeles based executive search firm dedicated to serving the public sector. Teri Black & Company, LLC has recruited hundreds of local government executives for communities across the western United States.

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