Culture Shock 2023

Many insightful nuggets of information were gotten when Jim Harter with Gallup was interviewed during a National Wellness Institute Webinar. Key take aways were that,

  1. Culture Matters
  2. Well-Being is Foundational 
  3. Employee Engagement is Essential

And all three are interconnected! Let’s start with employee engagement; it’s a false start/separation of the three since so many ideas overlap. Resilience also plays a role. It can be described as the underpinning and result when culture fosters well-being and engagement. Feel free to move what you feel goes where and make it work for what you need!

Engagement is at an all-time low. All basic elements (there are 12) to survey engagement indicate a significant drop, and employees actively disengaged are at a 7 year high. Engagement peaked in 2020 when employees and managers rallied in response to the impact of COVID. Managers and organizations were sensitive to employee needs and were flexible. Well-being and engagement accelerated despite the pandemic. Sadly that has now all dissipated.  

The causes are many.  One is the way remote work ended at many organizations, and the ‘get back to usual business’ dominated. This is discussed below. The other causes are managers being ill-equipped to lead, and to have conversations with their staff. Addressing both is the solution to increase engagement and well-being.  Research has shown that having at least one meaningful conversation a week with each employee makes a significant difference.  The conversations are common-sense and can be informal but do require skills and practice. The conversations can be brief since they happen often. Ideas shared were,

  • Discuss goals
  • Give recognition – and ask how each wants to be recognized
  • Discuss collaboration
  • Provide clarity of expectations
  • Describe how customer needs are being met
  • Include personal check-in and listen/acknowledge work life situations – demonstrate authentic care

These conversations are what enhance resilience, engagement, and well-being. These conversations need to occur whether working in person or remotely.  Engagement is essential!

Well-Being is a multi-dimensional approach to life, wellness, and work. The Dimensions of Well-Being are connected and interdependent. Depending how the dimensions are considered, there are many. When the dimensions are positive, the result is thriving and flourishing employees. Gallup includes 5 Dimensions, the National Wellness Institute had 6, but changed this to multi-dimensional. Our model of well-being dimensions is below.

Social well-being at work is one dimension regardless of the model used, and the bottomline is that social well-being matters. Social well-being fosters engagement, collaboration, resilience, well-being, and performance. Well-being is foundational, period!

However, culture matters – it is what matters since the culture sets the context for both well-being and engagement. Well-being and engagement are situational. Situations and context are major factors for both and both start with leadership.  A comment made during the interview was that a company can have 77 ping pong tables for 50 employees and call it well-being; however, a 15-minute meaningful conversation does more for well-being!  Any perk identified by employees was appreciated, but if that’s it – a few perks and no substance  – it won’t result in sustainable well-being. The organization and employees will miss out on the real benefits. Culture trumps perks!  The right culture builds individual and organization resilience.

Great organizations are clear on what they want their culture to be and communicate the reason for designing such a culture. Well-being, collaboration, customer needs, and flexibility are elements included in the desired culture.

Great organizations communicate the culture widely and upscale managers so the managers know it’s importance and seriousness. Also, managers are held accountable for engaging the workforce and performance management. 

This requires that managers move from ‘boss’ and ‘manager’ to coach. Part of being a coach to cultivate the desired outcome is to blend engagement, performance management, and well-being. This entails that the process ensures that the link between these 3 are clearly understood by managers.

Therefore, managers must be equipped with the tools for this. It is a process and must be treated as such – not a one-time training event. Teach the fundamentals but then build from this with skills practice are needed.

Flexibility is essential to resilience, well-being, and engagement. As mentioned above, one cause of disengagement is the way remote work ended and ‘the get back to usual business’ dominated over employee needs.  Having to be at work versus required to be at work when employees know that is not needed, is the issue.  Staff at certain organizations who have to be onsite to work (healthcare, retail, manufacturers) are satisfied with that. The issue is when workers are mandated to come onsite when they know they don’t need to be onsite. 

Flexibility is a basic human need that was unrecognized or rather, not considered before. The pandemic changed all that; we hoped for good. This basic human need is there whether employees are required to be onsite or not.  Flexibility is not just for employees who are able to complete work remotely – (and productivity has been well demonstrated with remote work – the work IS completed remotely). This does however require additional manager coaching skills to lead remote workers with flexibility and also lead onsite workers with flexibility.

There are options to build in flexibility. Regardless of organizational size or industry, whether small or large, and/or having to be onsite or not, great organizations are considering options for flexibility. These leaders are listening and finding workable solutions. Autonomy and flexibility matter such as being able to trade days off, giving a choice of shifts, being able to trade work, and ensuring employees are doing what they do best. Also, PTO matters especially when employees can flex to take time off. In addition, working a few days onsite and a few days remotely is another option. Plus, some companies – including manufacturing companies – have successfully gone to 4-day work weeks. These are great examples of options, but many other ideas can be considered with your workforce!

The right metrics are needed to monitor and make changes as needed. The research demonstrates that designing a culture that enhances well-being and flexibility are worth it. The results include:

  • Lower turnover,
  • Increased profits,
  • Satisfied customers, and
  • Workers knowing that they are cared about and that their contributions matter.

Like a recipe, there is a science to follow but also an art to master. It can be mastered!

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