According to the Urban Dictionary, when you want to call out the coolness of something, one way to do it is through the phrase “… is the new black”. It’s not a reference to a person, but rather a thing that’s “in” at the moment.
The reason I’m mentioning this phrase and the definition is because at O.C. Tanner’s 2018 Influence Greatness event, someone said that focusing on company culture and the employee experience is “the new black”. Their point was two-fold. First, that as much as technology helps us to stay connected, there can be moments where technology makes us feel very disconnected. And second, those moments of disconnection are prompting organizations to become very focused on creating memorable moments for employees.
The comment about a lack of connectedness isn’t new. I recently shared with you Dan Schawbel’s new book, “Back to Human” where he also refers to research about workplace loneliness. To be engaged with an organization, employees are looking for purposeful work, career success, and positive relationships. Organizations need to be able to deliver.
During my time at the Influence Greatness event, speakers referred to five factors that have an impact on company culture and the employee experience. They are:
Value Propositions. We’re not only referring to the employee value proposition (EVP). The customer value proposition and the company’s social good philosophy factor in as well. According to O.C. Tanner, one in three employees say companies that use a generic organizational purpose are being mocked in the workplace. Organizations should create (and articulate!) a value proposition that connects employees to customers and community. It needs to be heard, seen, and felt.
Recognition. There’s a difference between appreciation and recognition. Appreciation is acknowledging the worth of someone. Recognition is the act of using words to express it. We can appreciate the value of our team and not recognize them for their efforts. Unfortunately, that happens a lot more than it should. Less than half of employees receive a thanks or have their work anniversary recognized, according to research from O.C. Tanner. Proper recognition should be tied to organizational values. And it should benefit the receiver, the giver, and any observers.
Special Projects. I’m seeing more talk than ever before about special projects as a career development tool. This factor might not seem like a big deal but being asked to work on a special project can yield a very positive impact. In addition, not being asked to work on a special project can have a negative impact, especially if an employee feels they’re being ignored (or blackballed). Organizations need to work hard to make sure special project assignments are fairly distributed.
Continuous Performance Management. No, the annual performance review isn’t dead. But it shouldn’t be the only time employees receive performance feedback. Managers and employees should meet on a regular basis – like during one-on-one meetings – to discuss performance skills, goals, tools, etc. Past performance should be celebrated, and future performance should be discussed. If organizations want employees to perform at a high level, then they need to be prepared to discuss performance more than once a year (or when employees do something wrong).
Wellness and Wellbeing. An increasing number of organizations are focused on workplace wellness and wellbeing initiatives and that’s fantastic. It is worth noting that the definitions of wellness and wellbeing are continuing to evolve as more technology is introduced in these areas. The one thing that’s good to see is a focus on social and emotional health. Employee stress and burnout are real issues and organizations need to develop programs that provide employees access to the resources they need.
If the employee experience and company culture really are on senior management’s priority list, then here are five places where you can make an immediate impact. Make no mistake, even if you focused on one of these factors, it’s not an easy fix. Employees are looking for authenticity and that’s going to mean taking a comprehensive look at how things are currently happening and making the right investment in the future.21