Creating and embedding culture is a lot like mining for precious metals. First, you need to decide what you’re going to mine for, the best location, and the best strategy to support the mine itself.
It’s the same with management: if you’re serious about changing the relationship between your employees and your management team, you must cement intentions and expectations into your culture. The right attitude towards employee engagement will naturally bring out the best version of your management staff and will flow into your workforce.
Here are some ideas on how to support your culture and the managers who drive it.
Provide Structural Support to Your Culture
Like a goldmine, every company program and initiative require a support structure. Even though your company may have a clear mission and values statement, it’s imperative to provide underlying support. Here are a few ideas:
- Think beyond the traditional work relationships to life coaches who can help employees in all aspects of their lives. This type of specialization can help your employees articulate their career goals and intentions and help them navigate their life choices around finances, physical/emotional matters, and a myriad of other issues that impact employees’ work and life.
- Engage experts who can help employees declare their intentions at work and provide a roadmap of resources and career development that can help them achieve their goals. Don’t forget that many employees have work goals that stretch beyond their current role, so make this resource independent from traditional operations training.
- You probably have a customer care/recovery department, so why don’t you have something similar for employees who have a pressing issue at work? Think beyond HR issues to the place work life and work collide.
- Take a page from The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly and ask your employees “What do you dream about?”
- Remember that Laurence Fink, the founder and CEO of the investment firm BlackRock, has challenged business leaders to do more than make profits: they also need to contribute to society if they want to receive support from BlackRock. This is an excellent opportunity to move the needle on employee engagement. You can simultaneously contribute to society and support your employees’ outside interests by offering a program that matches donations of money, or grants for volunteer time, to qualifying charitable organizations.
Revisit Management Development Programs
Do you bring managers and high potential leaders to corporate offices for specialized training? If so, you can use this opportunity to create more cultural support and engagement:
- Upon arriving for training, ask your participants to immediately call their subordinates and let them know that they’ll be out of pocket for the next few days. Ask them to reaffirm that they have faith in them to take care of the business and their people. This has an immediate, positive effect on the manager in charge and is a great confidence builder.
- Present managers with a list of 50 values and hone them down to the top 3 that are personally important to them.
- Teach managers about what a legacy means, and how to build and articulate a legacy statement that includes employee development and compassion.
- Have them share their commitment to their legacy in front of the executive team.
- Support the commitment to their legacy on an ongoing basis by encouraging them to apply their top 3 values beyond the organization through volunteering or serving on non-profit boards.
Many companies use variations of this program, with amazing effects. Your managers will automatically be a better leader because they’re committing to becoming a better person.
And the exercise will permeate into their whole lives: you’ll overhear conversations between employees and their significant others expressing that they can’t wait to come home so they can be a better partner/parent.
Think Broadly and Give It Time
Remember that we’re managing with four generations in the workplace, so your solutions can’t be designed to fit all employees. Some employees are managing eldercare and childcare, while others are still figuring out communication skills and work relationships that they weren’t taught at home or school. Think broadly and test a variety of solutions.
Also, don’t forget to give programs time. The C-Suite often thinks in terms of marketing when it comes to culture, purpose, and values. They want to change intentions, statements, and training programs long before employees tire of the original message. They also want fast and measurable results.
Culture and support systems aren’t a flavor-of-the month, and they take longer to shift and embed than marketing messages. Human beings are complicated, and it often takes at least a year to identify trends and collect actionable data, especially when it comes to behavior in a complex and diverse workforce. Give your cultural messaging plenty of time to settle in, and the right support system. Before long you’ll have a goldmine of employee talent and engagement.
Liz D’Aloia is the founder of HR Virtuoso, a mobile recruiting company based in Dallas, TX. She is an HR professional, employment attorney, speaker and blogger. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso, Liz worked at national transportation companies and at a global retailer. Connect with Liz on LinkedIn and follow her at @hrvirtuoso.
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