A couple weeks ago I watched a webinar on the topic of company culture (one of my favorite and possibly most frustrating topics). It was hosted by Sean Kelly, CEO of SnackNation, who was not only engaging but made some incredibly valid points.
As I was listening to the presentation, furiously scribbling notes and nodding my head in agreement, I couldn’t help but wonder…okay, this is great and all, and Sean, you’re absolutely RIGHT, but HOW do we do that here? How do we shift (or even begin to nudge) the culture of a corporate company that has struggled with this for decades?
For this webinar, Sean had surveyed several companies, asking pointed questions about culture and various factors surrounding it. Here are the 5 main discoveries that came out of his research:
1. Growth opportunities are directly linked to employee happiness.
Employees surveyed were three times more likely to be happier at work when they had professional growth and development opportunities. This was the #2 reason that people gave for remaining at a certain company (pay and benefits was #1). Sean was very clear about saying this isn’t just about promotions or better titles. This is about specific ways employees can expand their current skill set and make themselves better, more impactful assets to a business. He also mentioned performance reviews. The nature of the traditional review is that it looks backwards. It asks, what have you accomplished this year, and have you met your goals (because we all know that’s tied directly to any increase or bonus you’re going to receive). Instead of the review, we should be putting together growth plans that look toward the future, give employees a clear path of what’s ahead and how to get there. He also mentioned that SnackNation does Individual Development Plans, and I did a silent cheer because my boss just went through one with me. Not every millennial has the leadership, fast forward mindset, but the ones that do – this is key to keeping them working to the best of their potential.
2. Employees don’t get frequent enough feedback.
36% of employees get formal feedback once a year or less. This is hugely problematic, especially in a generation that demands it. Companies that create a culture in which feedback is encouraged are more innovative and learn from mistakes more quickly. When employees can be trusted to give and receive constructive feedback, it allows them to grow and evolve much more easily. We also need to realize that feedback is not solely on the manager’s shoulders; the onus must also be on the receiver. Come into meetings with questions and specific needs that they would like met.
3. Feeling challenged at work is highly correlated to increased engagement at work.
Challenged employees are better employees! Ask your team to come up with creative solutions on their own, even if you know the answer. This gives employees the opportunity to learn and grow on their own = challenged. Allow them the opportunity to set a few of their own goals, specific to their role and based on business need. They will likely be much more motivated to reach the goals they set for themselves as opposed to being told what goals they should achieve. If they’re asking for more leadership responsibilities, give them the opportunity to conduct a training or lead a lunch ‘n’ learn on a topic specific to their area.
4. The biggest perk/benefit people want but aren’t getting is flexible work hours.
This is something that comes up increasingly when we talk about work satisfaction, especially with the millennial movement. While there are certain businesses that cannot function with flex hours (due to operational constraints), the ones that that the option should strongly consider adding it to their list of benefits. Not an expected benefit, like health insurance or paid holidays, but an earned one. Employees that prove they can still get the job done, regardless of the actual hours spent in the office, are the ones that will value this benefit. In turn, the trust they feel by receiving a flexible schedule results in happier employees and better performance.
5. A strong culture is vital for increased retention.
If you haven’t already, survey your employees and have them rate the company culture. Make sure you define what culture is so they know what they’re rating. This can be pretty difficult to express, so another way you can do it is open-ended. Ask them to pick words or phrases they feel describe where they work and how they’re managed. Sean Kelly says that as CEO of SnackNation, he owned the responsibility of creating the culture. In a small business, it can be more impactful, where in large corporations, culture can be ambiguous. Either way, the leadership style of any company trickles down and creates the culture that employees either love or hate. And while we put much of the responsibility on our leaders, we as employees must take accountability too. It’s a collaborative effort that makes it work, and it’s never a perfect science.