When employees consider the question, “Do I love my job?” — one of the biggest factors that determine their answer is not pay or benefits, or any of the many other things that have been focused on in the past — it’s Workplace Culture. Whether or not they stay with you is hugely influenced by your corporate culture and how your employees are treated.
There has been a general assumption that low compensation is driving a mass exodus of employees. But according to a recent report from MIT Sloan Management Review, employees are quitting their jobs because of toxic workplace culture, not low pay. Low compensation actually ranked 16th among the topics predicting turnover. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that corporate culture predicted employee departure more than burnout or compensation.
The report says toxic workplace culture is over 10 times more likely to contribute to an employee quitting. The study identified three elements of a toxic culture:
- Failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Workers feeling disrespected
- Unethical behavior
Workplace culture can make or break a company nowadays. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. A stressful environment at work is the last thing someone wants to put up with, especially over the past two years, where stress was available in abundance in our daily lives outside of work.
In the past, poor workplace culture was considered “just one of those things” and “just the way things are around here,” but not anymore. Today, if you’re not actively creating a great place to work for your employees, your hopes of attracting and retaining talent, mobilizing innovation, and cultivating strong leaders rapidly diminishes.
According to most studies, current data suggests that people more than ever want to work for, and do business with, organizations with strongly defined cultures that align with their own sensibilities. An area often not emphasized enough is the culture of the business and whether the leadership matches it. It’s not a “do as I say, and not as I do” proposition anymore, but a “walk the walk — or I walk away” situation.
Employees have been walking away in droves for the past year or two now. So much so, that it’s been dubbed “The Great Resignation” with staff packing up and leaving in greater numbers than ever before, based largely on their dissatisfaction with the corporate culture of their employers.
We can all agree that workplace culture is healthy when engaged, happy, and productive employees align with and help their company succeed. Not only that but an alignment needs to exist between the leaders and the workforce too, and that only happens when senior leaders engage with their colleagues, displaying confidence and humility in communicating their goals.
Culture in a virtual workplace
These leaders have now been saddled with a new challenge — how do you not only build a best place to work, but maintain an amazing workplace culture in a world that is turning virtual?
A healthy workplace culture relies on social interaction and impromptu meetings that happen in person. This premise is of great concern for many companies because a reversal of the work-from-home trend seems unlikely any time soon — if ever.
One thing to keep in mind here is that just because we are not chatting around water coolers or the copy machine, or in elevators doesn’t mean we can’t still make time in our day for small talk and impromptu conversations with team members. A team that communicates well, whether talking shop or otherwise, has created the glue that will keep it together. And that’s the kind of team we all want to be a part of — one that works harmoniously in times of crisis, and can face challenges and overcome them together.
Communication is key, whether in person or using the videoconferences and other virtual tools that have been embraced since the advent of the pandemic. People want the type of leader that extends trust to employees and builds a support team as a result. Saying “I need you to come back to the office every day so I can keep an eye on you” is the opposite message of confidence, humility, and trust.
Communicating simply, with an authentic and genuine intention to engage with your team, is the best way to sustain a healthy workplace culture. The ways we communicate and how we check in with our people and show our gratitude and appreciation of their work will vary from one workplace to another — but the method of communication is of less importance than the communication itself.
Here’s an example — Not many of us would be upset by a message of gratitude from the boss, if it arrived in a postcard, as opposed to an email or a video conference, or if they simply popped their head in your office and told you personally what a good job you’ve been doing. Right? The point is that the boss communicated that you are of value, that you are appreciated. It didn’t matter which way it was sent, just so long as it was personal and meaningful.
The bottom line is that a workplace culture is possibly the most important thing to focus on when considering how to not only retain your employees but to help them (and your company) thrive.