The newly published finding from McKinsey shows that 85% of senior management believe that they can live their purpose through their day-to-day work, yet 85% of frontline employees are unsure or disagree with this statement. If culture is defined as ‘the system of values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how the real work gets done within an organization’ (Deloitte), here are a few tips on how to build a culture where every employee is involved and can deliver their best.
1. Make sure VOC (Voice of the customer) is driving your DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) Strategy
‘Leaders must embody the values to cultivate a friendly D&I culture and implement a systemic approach with measurable impact to create lasting and sustainable change.’
– Erika Johnson
Diversity of markets, customers, ideas, and talent is driving the need for DEI (Diversity, equity & inclusion) as a new leadership capability and pillar in company strategy. Your client base is diverse, so if you want to attract more clients, it makes sense that the company should be able to relate when you need to communicate. This is where hard data and robust analytics provide the tools and information that can be shared up and downstream within the company. Ultimately, this information strengthens the outcomes of initiatives and helps to build a trusting and strong culture within the organization.
Your company culture drives people’s behaviors from the top down, which also guides your teams’ ability to provide a good customer service experience. Without the right people on your front line, you lose. Without the right people displaying the right attitudes, you lose. And with the right talent feeling unfairly treated, unfortunately, you lose again.
What can be done, and how long will it take?
A clear senior leadership culture – based on your mission and the needs of your customer segments – will attract people who resonate with your organizations’ why and values. Research from the Center for Talent Innovation has found that inclusive leadership and clear career paths are two “levers that drive inclusion.” This, in turn, drives high levels of engagement, company-wide consistent customer service, and ultimately, improved financial performance.
2. Harness the Powerful Combination of DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging)
‘Diversity: the art of thinking independently together’
– Malcolm Forbes
Leading research consistently shows that the benefits of a diverse, culture-rich workforce are undeniable:
‘Companies with above-average total diversity, had both 19% points higher innovation revenues and 9% points higher EBIT margins, on average.’ – Harvard Business Review 2018
‘Increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.’ – Boston Consulting Group 2018
‘Diverse and inclusive cultures are providing companies with a competitive edge over their peers.’ – Wall Street Journal 2019
‘Our 2019 analysis finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017.’ – Mckinsey – Delivering through Diversity 2020
DEIB can be clarified in the following manner: Diversity is who sits at the table, while inclusion is which voices get heard. Equity means everyone at the table gets the support they need. Belonging is allowing every employee to perform at their very best by being who they are in the workplace. While a fairly new and strongly pushed phenomenon of late, DEIB has been seen as the best impetus towards empowering your teams to deliver their full potential within the workplace, by creating a culture where one’s contribution is acknowledged and encouraged. Otherwise, why employ their talent?
Culture drives people’s behavior, innovation within the organization, and brand customer service or experience. What level of understanding you have of your current and future employee base will underpin what sort of culture you are building. Here are a few key thoughts to help guide your plans and strategy
– Be clear up and downstream about your brand mission, values, and purpose
– Acknowledge that your customer is buying your values, not just your product
— Ensure that your workforce is diverse and representative of its culture and customer base
– Empower learning and development leaders to play a key role in creating an inclusive organizational culture
– Build robust data points across all employee and customer touchpoints
-Ensure that people analytics are just as prominent on your performance dashboard as the financial metrics
– Be prepared to have open and tough conversations about behaviors that don’t fit your culture
3. Involve your People
‘An organization’s ability to translate their learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.’
– Jack Welch
It is key to get your teams involved from the start and this can instill an inclusive culture that prides accomplishment and creates an enabling environment. While diversity and inclusion often has different meanings and experiences to different people across different cultures, the proliferation and importance of belonging is truly universal across the board:
– Use open and transparent communication to keep everyone on the same page
– Provide ongoing, forward-looking input and mentoring – millennials expect real-time goals, employee empowerment, and regular, timely feedback
– Leverage front line input and feedback tools to monitor changing VOC
– Design your processes to promote progress and fast response action
– Use agility and lean tools to allow you to continuously remove low-value steps and blocks in the value chain
Part of inclusion is also recognizing the drivers that create apprehension and pushback. Cultural shifts can be hard for many people; are employees wondering what’s in it for them? Are they unsure about how the change in the organization will affect how they work or their future at the company? Knowing what objections persist will provide everyone with the right starting points to create a real and lasting cultural shift. The only way you can truly be sure of your team’s concerns is to ask them.
4. Have Clear Leadership Succession Planning in Place
When working with companies to support their people and culture strategy, a crucial but often overlooked question I ask in the research stage is always, ‘What succession planning do you have in place to ensure that the next person taking the reins will care for your people as well as the performance KPIs?’
Losing key people is inevitable in business. They may take a new job, accept an external promotion, retire, suffer a long-term illness, or leave unexpectedly. Employees with skills and knowledge that are valuable to a company’s success, either through experience or unique knowhow, are worth their weight in gold, but what happens when they leave, and what knowledge will leave with them?
This is even more critical at the senior leadership level, where a long time lag finding a replacement or an unsuitable choice of successor can destabilize your strategy, shift your culture, and risks significantly impacting revenue further down the line.
It is essential to have in place a structured strategy to identify and develop successors for key positions, spotlighting senior people who will continue to honor and promote your brand values:
– Identify the critical components of key roles with a plan to seamlessly cover them from a business continuity perspective
– Nurture a high-potential senior leadership pool (individuals who show a capacity for greater responsibility), and involve them in mentored stretch projects outside of their usual remit
– Build a pipeline of leaders committed to the organization’s mission and values, selecting from individuals who are already showing these values in previous and current roles
– If recruiting externally, ensure that emotional intelligence tools, purpose and values are a key part of the interview process
Now more than ever, a clear DEIB strategy framed in accountable, performance management systems and lean, robust structures can positively impact revenue and protect the future of your company. It starts with overall strategic direction and it must be embedded in the heart of the organization for strength and impact.
By making sure that your people are at the heart of your company culture, leveraging the latest thinking in corporate governance, behavioural economics, human resources, and operational risk, you win.