Building an extraordinary workplace culture requires engagement

Building an extraordinary workplace culture requires engagement

The following article has been written by Nick Hedges, the founder and director of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based human resources consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners in small to medium business. Nick presented on this topic at CCA’s Conference in Sydney on 15 November 2018; this article expands on his presentation, which is available here.

Building an extraordinary culture is not something that can be instant or easy. For starters, it takes trust and effective communication. What follows then is the desire to really engage with your employees, making a sincere effort to understand what drives and motivates the members of your team and to find a synergy with your workplace vision and values.

Too often we are operating with team members at the surface level. However, to have strong employee engagement we need to dig deeper. It has been suggested that 10% of our relationships at work are at a superficial level. Our words and actions are based on trivial topics such as what we wear and where we are born.  Whether you come from India, China or Sweden and choose to dress in pastels or deep shades of purple should be largely irrelevant. Our focus should be on developing meaningful relationships and an understanding of who we are working with at a deeper level in order to help them mould their beliefs and thoughts.

These ideas relate to the iceberg theory in business, which suggests that the bulk of information remains hidden beneath the surface while only a small amount of information is visible at the tip. The real data is either unavailable or hidden. The deeper aspects do not become apparent until a history has been established. Factors such as religious and spiritual beliefs, power relationships, attitudes to family, decision making approaches, how emotions are managed – these may not be detected until conflicts arise.

In working with a range of clients and businesses, I have seen that managers can engage very differently, which impacts on their workplace culture. For example, I was working with a CEO of a real estate business. His business had a high turnover from his sales associates and he couldn’t understand why this was the case. His impression was that he had been looking after his employees and keeping them happy with material things like suits, expensive lunches and introducing them to high profile society people. He had no idea that the reason for losing his employees at a rapid rate was that he had never genuinely connected with them. Instead, he had focused on material rewards which were not important to the team members. What they wanted was training and nurturing. Therefore, they subsequently left to another agency which offered them a greater level of support and provided them with a deeper level of connection.

I also had dealings with a CEO who was berating one of his executives for a mistake he made in the business. The CEO cursed and berated his employee, making him feel totally belittled. The CEO would have been well advised to put himself in the other person’s shoes and consider how they might feel. The message here is to develop sensitivity and greater awareness of others. Such insight would serve to strengthen the workplace culture and in turn ensure a better retention of staff.

According to research that I conducted in Australian not-for-profit community education providers, the factors identified which erode culture are as follows:

  • Turnover of employees due to increasing compliance
  • Not addressing employee issues immediately
  • Competing priorities of employees
  • Poor governance and management
  • Creating a culture of free-flowing information
  • Workplace where values are not paramount
  • Non- supportive environment

A recent article published in Forbes noted that ‘’A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.’’ This article also draws on research by Deloitte that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success and that 76% of these employees believed that a "clearly defined business strategy" helped create a positive culture.

So how do we create that inspiring workplace culture that makes your workplace one of the sought-after best places to work? Establish clear values and behaviours, effective communication and collaboration at all levels is vital. Above all, create meaningful connection with your staff.

Be the boss they want, develop the team and create the workplace culture you need to ensure your business flourishes.