2021 marked an exodus from the corporate ecosystem. In the United States, 11.5 million individuals decided to resign from their jobs. The pandemic has given us all the unique opportunity to reprioritize our lives. Employees are now looking for more than just pay and perks. Culture is the new corporate king.
History always repeats itself. 1921 was also a year of healing and growth. After the first World War, an exodus of talent moved into the New World in the hope of a better tomorrow. The last seven years have seen political rebellions and revolutions, people taking to the streets to fight injustice. A parallel gender & equality war has been occurring in workplaces globally.
The right culture will attract the right talent. However, companies often assume culture to be monolithic. Like the individuals that compose a unit, culture is resistant to change. The leaders of this frontier - the managers of Human Resources - bear the great responsibility of heralding a new era of sustainable, organic, and healthy work culture.
Every organisation has its own approach to culture, depending on its size, vision, goals, and several other factors. Any organisation should have a four-pronged ‘People First’ approach towards building its culture.
Founding Values: Like charity, everything begins at home. How you treat your family reflects on how you treat your guests. Clients and teammates should be respected alike.
Talent Philosophy: During recruitment, and in every other major decision, talent is always given preference over archaic traditions such as hierarchy.
Policies & Benefits: Every aspect of the team’s well-being is looked after with great importance given to health - physical, mental, and intellectual. Healthy workplaces are happy workplaces.
Leadership: Reversing the standard trope is necessary for effective change. Everyone is a leader; everyone is a mentor. Experience, of course, matters. But ego is best to bid farewell to.
The practical role of HR
The baton relay of this cultural dawn begins with HR leaders, the architects of a systematic and personalised employee experience. They manage the most vital and dynamic of resources. The foundation for this new world is laid in the hallowed meeting rooms of HR professionals.
Activities that build the employee, not just the community
Change begins by evaluating the present culture. Companies then ensure that the stakeholders are all on the same page regarding the changing culture. They recognize existing gaps and identify opportunities. They constantly put themselves in the shoes of every employee. Personalising the employee experience helps with better engagement.
The focus is always on the bigger picture. Individual contributions are of course highlighted, but the goal is common, and individuals begin to think as a team, instead of seeking gratification from their seniors. HR is open, transparent, and most importantly, inclusive.
The leadership mindset is ‘what is in it for the individual’ instead of ‘what is the individual willing to offer’. This increases transparency and puts the onus on employees to engage constructively with their leaders and learn from their challenges. On the flip side, leaders make employees feel important and discuss their aspirations, interests, and areas of improvement in a two-way exchange of information. Town halls and feedback forums are a great way of ensuring this flow of communication.
Technology is at the centre of every operation a business does today. Companies should have a team engagement platform that focuses on their culture, ways of working, and success metrics. For any employee, such a platform showcases the spirit of how their organisation delivers value to its clients and its teams and at the sametime fosters an environment that encourages them to explore, learn, innovate, and have fun.
Recruit with the goals in mind
Hiring the right talent can impact the company both economically and culturally. A recruitment process that is redesigned to accommodate an influx of ideas instead of a one-size-fits-all approach towards job descriptions can make all the difference.
Organisations should constantly weed out unconscious bias and focus on larger diversity hiring metrics instead. Talent, skill set, and culture fit are of utmost importance. Competency-based hiring and merit-based promotions help create autonomous employees. Employees feel innately responsible for their work and understand how it helps their overall career growth. This opens the door to a dynamic and involved workspace.
Healthy work balances life
51 percent of employees surveyed globally as of 2021 put work-life balance at the top of their priorities when taking on an employment.
Flexible work timings, “no questions asked” leaves, robust healthcare & welfare assistance, and an understanding of team members beyond the confines of the job - these are some ways the team can be taken care of. Freeing them up from the concerns of everyday life and the rigours of daily commutes can help them focus on their work better and build a culture based on high performance and happy teams.
Champion the desire to learn
The changing world order has brought about an exponential curve of learning. This makes it important for the workforce to be collectively and individually trained. Hence, companies should focus on building mentorship programs aimed at building teams that are constantly learning from each other. Mentoring goes beyond the confines of a particular project. It is a cycle of life - with both mentor and mentee learning from each other. Mentors help their mentees understand the larger career picture and guide their learning, in this process acquiring important leadership and coaching skills themselves.
Leaders should interact with team members to understand their aspirations, interests, and challenges. Leaders can be put in the hot seat and requested to share their professional journey along with aspects of their personal life. Learning about the challenges they have overcome will help team members feel more empathetic towards their leaders and look up to them to lead the way.
Anonymous feedback channels may also help ensuring that members are encouraged to provide honest feedback on processes, policies, and challenges.
The New Work World
In his famous inaugural address, former US President John F Kennedy said, “And so my fellow Americans - ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This was 1961 - the Baby Boomers seemed to be taking things for granted and needed to be reminded of their responsibility as citizens. 60 years later, it's a very different world. A world that is healing and growing itself into a warmer and happier place.
Different companies have different people mixed, with varied aspirations, visions. Trust, faith, and care - they might sound simplistic in this cut-throat corporate world, but they can make all the difference in helping us build a beautiful world for ourselves.