Humans are increasingly becoming the fulcrum around which organisations are being built. And if we are building a "People First" organisation, it would mean creating a very strong and consistent culture for employees to thrive in.
Let me put it straight up. Coming to work every day with a smile on my face is a result of my emotional wellbeing. 8-10 hours at work can either contribute to it or break that smile! Today, more and more companies are moving away from shareholders, profits, or growth as the primary purpose of the organisation. Humans are increasingly becoming the fulcrum around which organisations are being built. And if we are building a “People First” organisation, it would mean creating a very strong and consistent culture for employees to thrive in.
A culture is no longer determined merely by facilities, perks, and payouts or a great looking office. Talent now seek a strong culture that makes for a happy and fulfilling work environment. And a happy, challenging, and fulfilling work environment would mean a clear purpose to which all the employees are aligned, and the work making a positive impact on a life spectrum.
The role of the leaders
Then there is the role of the leaders. While we propagate co-creation for culture which has proved to be successful, I believe that the leader’s effort at culture is farreaching. And it starts with self. It is as easy as asking ourselves:-
♦ What would make me happy to be at work?
♦ What are those initiatives I have to take to include everyone in this happiness?
♦ How would I feel if someone were to communicate and behave in the manner I was?
Using self as a filter for an action can help us to be empathetic and look at the deeper needs of an employee. Leaders can no longer separate the personal from the professional. And above all this, being vulnerable. Vulnerability is no longer a leadership curse. It is what makes us human, makes us look inward, be empathetic, and be open to change.
Consistency in character
Consistency in character and behaviour, in good and difficult times, is truly the hard part. ‘Strength of character’ is a term that has been heard by many of us during our childhood. And this phrase carried an important lesson for life. To my mind, the strength of character would imply authenticity and commitment; the ability to be true to values, despite the hardship that may transpire from following it through. I mention this because the commitment to follow through is the main challenge. And to my mind, the ‘strength of the character’ supports the culture that we promote within and how true we are to the values that build that culture.
♦ Hence, a strong culture needs leaders who are
♦ Lead by example
♦ Make a concerted effort to evolve
♦ Can make difficult decisions
♦ Live the values that are cocreated within the organization
I regularly swap stories with my friends in leadership positions across the globe on various things that our companies are doing to create an attractive workplace. On one hand, the question is how do we make the work motivating and exciting for our people. On the other is fun at workfrom camping, office beer parties, fun office spaces to ensure that employees enjoy their time at work. There is a strong affinity towards a culture that promotes exciting work and fun. However, many Indian companies are diverse in age, region, religion, gender etc. and hence, what works for one may not work for another. The solution lies in spotting the common grounds of human behaviour and targeting them. These common grounds will vary across organisations and cultures. One such common ground is the celebration of successes. That may not equate to fun, but creating opportunities to provide fame to employees, celebrating their efforts, and their successes is important to create energy and positivity
There are many identified values that create a strong foundation like collaboration, transparency, empowerment, agility, innovation, trust, respect, equality to name a few. But it is not what you say but what you visibly and actually do around these - constantly and consistently - that defines the work environment and help make an employee a cheerleader for your brand.
So, in a nutshell, what should brands do to emerge as a great place to work? There are definitely some golden rules to that. Yours truly would like to share those in which one reposes blind faith.
Co-creation: Most organisations talk about the top down approach for culture. I endorse the fact that a culture that is both bottom up and top down is easier to maintain. Leaders are not perfect or infallible. Creating a culture that is owned by everyone allows space for open conversations, and a frequent check on the followed path. Collective conscience also allows for staying true to the values and reduction of disappointment or disillusion in an organization
Empowerment : Empowerment, can undoubtedly, not emerge without trust, respect, and fairness. Fairness would be an important aspect to maintain respect and trust. Having established processes for people decisions help, but it is equally important to consider the emotional element. They need to be also SEEN & FELT as fair to be respected and trusted by employees. Coaching and mentoring is an important pillar for empowerment. Coaching and mentoring helps employees develop skills, evolve and enables them to increase the impact of their contribution to the organisation. An employee’s incentive is - to grow, progress, capitalise on potential, and have a meaningful impact.
Communication: My ‘strength of character’ is constantly tested in various situations when it comes to open and consistent communication. Sharing challenges, taking feedback for improvement, being open to criticism or unpleasant opinion, it is hard for many to overcome the baser instincts of avoiding or waiting for matters to blow over, or at times to one’s utter dismay, complete denial. A consistent, dedicated communication effort is imperative for creating a workplace that employees trust and respect. I put the responsibility on Leaders more than anyone to be upfront, constantly share information, and be transparent and open in the decisions they take, admit mistakes, and communicate clearly on rectification.
Hiring with care: Culture is a constant effort. Every member of an organisation is working at it with every word he speaks and every action he takes. In a living, breathing culture that is prominent within an organisation, every person who joins must contribute to it. Therefore, hiring ‘a right fit’ is critical. Sometimes, a highly skilled and talented employee who is culturally unfit is detrimental to an organisation, than an average worker who is a perfect fit.
Care & Empathy: Empathy, understanding, and care is not inherent. Every person, organisation, and society must work at it. It has to be felt, be constantly reminded, practised, encouraged and appreciated. Most of the times, having empathy at the core of decisions leads us to make the right ones. Leaders must lead with it, employees must follow it and organisation must reflect it. It is interesting on how stories of organisation going out of their way for employees create a narrative that further encourages employees to play out their role in daily work within that.
And these are what makes a strong culture in an organisation. Makes it a great place to work for.
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