Organizational values do not just mean the noble values displayed on walls. It is how people behave within an organization. There is a huge gap that is found between the aspirational values that are espoused by companies and the values that are actually practiced by the employees. This gap provides a good measure of how much a company’s culture needs to be improved.
If companies want to improve their culture, they need to pay heed to how their values are looked at by their employees. Making values an integral part of company culture can happen.
Here are a few ways of aligning your hiring and employee retaining practices with the larger organizational values in order to achieve a positive company culture:
1. The importance of good leadership
According to the theory of behaviorism, no behavior will persist long term unless it is being perpetuated by either a positive reinforcer or a negative reinforcer. For example, if a leader of an organization stays late for getting work done or support a cause, it will have a positive effect on the employees and make them work harder.
However, if a leader indulges in politics or gossip or ignores bad behavior, it will encourage negativity among employees too. The good ones will leave and the bad ones will stay and take advantage, further contributing to bringing down the culture.
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Most employees look up to their leadership and care about how top management views them. Employees are also found to be rational and paying attention to what leadership does, not what leadership says. Hence, the behavior of leaders has a direct influence on the behavior of employees who witness them and follow the same path.
As organizations grow larger and larger, the vision changes as per the behavior of managers at various levels. Depending on the kind of values that managers reinforce, employees learn the rules of the game. If managers elicit negative and unfair behavior, employees will do the same to save themselves from getting fired. If managers act as great coaches and help their employees grow, chances are high that a shared vision of cooperation and collaboration will prevail over time. Only when leaders truly practice the values of the organization can they expect their employees to follow suit.
2. Hiring and firing practices
The war for talent is real. In times of requirement, companies might become desperate to hire more people. And such desperation can also make a few negative people enter organizations who can ruin the culture.
If you want your core values to be a deep part of your culture, a serious internal process needs to be set up. The beginning will be hiring. When companies hire, they need to a develop a mechanism where they judge candidates on the basis of the values the organization upholds with dignity.
All red flags relating to a candidate’s attitudes and aptitudes need to be seriously analyzed. Even though this sounds like a challenge, it is not impossible. The interviewer needs to be extremely skilled to assess skills in such a critical way. Cameron Sepah, CEO of Actualize, recommends doing incredibly thorough reference checks for candidates. Another solution is to actually invite candidates to work with the team for at least a week. Working with someone for a week can reveal a lot as opposed to a one-hour interview.
Hiring risky candidates with a wrong attitude can cost way more as they kill productivity and hurt your company culture. At times, despite knowing who the wrong people are, management still doesn’t fire them because they are high performers. There are many problems with such an approach. Firstly, the value that such people might add to the company is nothing compared to the harm they will do in reducing the productivity of their team members with their behavior and political attitude. Secondly, not letting go of such negative people will spread the message to the better and talented employees that it is easy to survive in organizations with politics and power. Both are bad news for organizations.
3. Rewards and recognition
The next is rewards and recognition. Leaders need to be fair in what they appreciate and what they disregard. Only in an atmosphere of fairness and equality can a great culture survive. If people with toxic attitude are rewarded, it will destroy the culture of the company sooner or later. The process for giving rewards and recognition needs to be well thought out, neutral and well justified with valid reasons. Praises for deserving employees who are also nice should be saved for public situations. And criticism for all employees should be saved for private one-on-ones.
The benefits of employee recognition are many. This is why it needs to be made a year-long activity, such that it gets ingrained into the company culture. All this cannot be achieved in a day and needs time to develop. For this, objectives need to be set clearly, and all decisions need to be backed up with honesty and fairness.
4. A culture of diversity
Terms like diversity and inclusion are no longer just big words being used for debates, but these very terms have now come to impact brands, corporate goals as well as the performance of employees. Companies like Facebook, Salesforce, and others are publicly highlighting gender equality and addressing it as a strong issue.
The rise of the global political environment has escalated the issue of employee sensitivity to diversity and inclusion. Burning issues such as immigration challenges, nationalism, terrorism have seen a massive steer in discussion in the media and press. The rise of social media has also contributed immensely to this as anything that revolves even slightly around this topic gets viral in a matter of seconds.
Inclusion matters even more to millennials as they want companies to listen to them at work. Hence, it has become imperative for organizations to pay heed to this burning issue, ensuring that they invest in diversity and inclusion efforts. If companies want to retain their millennial talent, they have to align their approach with their expectations of inclusion.
The case for Asana
Asana, a workplace-productivity management company is known for its radically inclusive and positive work environment. This company has received a rare perfect rating on Glassdoor and also a spot on Glassdoor’s Top 10 Best Places to Work in 2017. How did they manage this?
Asana’s founders paid as much importance to company culture as their codebase. Their values included healthy work-life balance, inclusiveness, embracing mindfulness and equanimity, responsible behavior and open communication. And Asana’s founders have gone out of their way to ensure that these values are maintained in the culture and practiced by every employee.
According to one of Asana’s founders, Justin Rosenstein, culture is not something that just happens but it is instead like a product that needs to be thought about, built, and tested for efficiency. This is achieved by representatives from all areas of the company sitting down at regular intervals to actually gauge how the company is faring culturally. The sense of this is achieved by anonymous employee surveys and rich one on one conversations. On the basis of all this information, the health of the culture is analyzed and steps are taken to rectify what’s not working. No complaint or issue is ignored or delayed, but immediate action to fix it is undertaken.
Developing and maintaining a great employee culture should be a top priority for leaders everywhere. Only then can they taste true organizational success. Taking a good hard look at values and aligning them at every step of the candidate experience is hence, critical.