A seasoned transformation executive, Kash is CEO, President and Board Member at Virtana Corp, a SaaS-based hybrid cloud management company.
The workplace has undergone a significant transformation over the past several years—starting with fully remote teams during the pandemic and then evolving for many to today’s hybrid work environments.
For some leaders and organizations, this transformation has been an ongoing challenge, while many other leaders have adapted and embraced the “new normal.” But there is one constant that remains at the forefront of today’s workforce: the importance of creating a clear and trusting corporate culture. This is especially important today when retaining and recruiting the best employees is critical. We’ve all heard about the “Great Resignation” and now “quiet quitting.”
More than 90% of managers in the U.S. say a candidate’s alignment with the company culture is “equal to or more important than their skills and experience.” I believe this is also true for the employee. In my experience, they want to feel valued, have a purpose and know they are contributing to the success of their employer’s overall business objectives and success.
An article from earlier this year in MIT Sloan Management Review highlighted the key effects of culture on the Great Resignation. The top predictor of employee turnover was toxic corporate culture, not compensation. “Our analysis found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior,” the article said.
With all the research pointing to the importance of corporate culture, leaders must address it clearly and consistently.
Corporate culture should be part of the compensation package.
For employees, corporate culture is an important part of their overall compensation package. And employers need to get back to the basics of company culture, which is defined as a shared set of values, goals, attitudes and practices that make up an organization.
• Core values: Your company should be based on a set of core values. These values can guide decisions and influence how employees behave.
• Goals or objectives and key results: Clear company OKRs that include the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive culture can be thought of as cultural goals.
• Attitudes: Your company’s culture also reflects the way people feel about the work they do, the values they believe in, where they see the company going and what they’re doing to get it there.
• Practices: This refers to the willingness of a company’s leadership to empower its employees and put the core behaviors in every action. I believe that what leaders do in moderation, their employees do in abundance, either good or bad.
Keep in mind, however, that it is not enough to just define the “what” and the “why” of your culture. You must also determine how you will put it into action. This is where a company’s core cultural behaviors come in. These behaviors are what you expect and encourage every person in the company to do.
Culture is also about employee trust and growth.
As the workforce continues to transform, I’m finding that leaders are taking one of two paths: traditional leadership or servant leadership. Through traditional leadership, leaders tell their employees to do their jobs in a hierarchical top-down manner.
But in today’s hybrid work environment, we must go deeper. For me, that includes two key areas: providing service to the people of the organization and gaining their trust during turbulent times. To me, servant leadership is the future.
“Servant leadership occurs when the leader’s main goal and responsibility is to provide service to their people,” according to Brian Tait in a Forbes article. These leaders ensure their “followers are growing in all areas — their profession, knowledge, autonomy and even their health and physical development,” Tait also said.
You can put servant leadership into practice in a number of ways. For example, you might consider giving everyone in your company an individual development plan. This one-page plan is based on employees’ aspirations of whatever they want to be or wherever they want to go. Managers can then invest their time and the company’s resources to create learning and development plans to help employees achieve their career goals. This is something I do in my own company, and I’ve found that if we take care of our people, they take care of our customers.
What does today’s ‘new’ culture mean for the future workplace?
Leaders who listen with empathy, put the needs of others before their own and earn the trust of their employees have become more important than ever. This type of leadership is critical to success as companies and people continue to transform and adapt to the challenges created by the pandemic.
Traditional leadership practices have become a thing of the past thanks to virtual and hybrid work environments. With employees not always in the office, managers and leadership must trust that their employees are getting their work done—on their own time, given their circumstances—and demonstrate empathy and understanding, as every employee is different. Leaders should focus on setting clear OKRs and the attainment of those OKRs.
Prioritize your people, and your people will take care of your customers and business. Your company is only as successful as the culture you build. Your culture directly influences your ability to fulfill your company vision and serve your people and customers. Make sure every employee is heard, understood, supported and motivated to do their best work.