Work cultures that have grown up over decades, can be complex, slow moving and complacent. To energize people for work in the digital age, leaders need to realize that work culture matters when it comes to delivering results. The Center for Future of Work has put together a list of the characteristics of a healthy work culture.
- Everyone knows the journey. Executives, team leaders, middle managers and even entry-level workers can describe the future possibilities for the organization. A unified vision of the future persists, as does a clear sense of how people will work together to create value.
- Lateral leadership is outstanding. Leading people a level below you is one thing; the ability to influence and guide people next to you (who you don’t control) demonstrates a healthy culture. In a strong culture, people come together alongside their peers, roll up their sleeves and encourage them.
- People feel they matter. There’s a sense that it’s vital for employees to work together. The systems and processes that affect all employees are designed to communicate this relentlessly, from the onboarding processes to the upskilling regime. When times are tough, the impression is that “people matter.”
- People readily communicate. People are pulled rather than pushed to a mix of formal and informal communication channels. The FOMO effect (fear of missing out) ensures that workers opt in and receive vital information before a town hall event is held or a “copy all” email is sent out. Information is communicated well in advance, with leaders asking staff to help shape the solution.
- Work features as a big part of life. Work is a part of life, and people view where they work as a special place to be. While work friends aren’t employees’ only source of sociability, work engenders a kindred sense of mission and values and of having co-workers’ backs without hesitation.
- The workspace packs a punch. When you walk into the workplace, there’s a sense of collaborative electricity. The workspace shows, tells and brings energy and dynamism and feels like a place where people actually want to be.
- People aren’t afraid; in fact, they like being at work. People don’t worry if the wrong thing is said in front of the wrong person – they aren’t huddled in corners having hushed conversations. Irrespective of tenure, employees can approach their boss with a concern and leave knowing they were heard.
- There is no war for talent. People understand that the interesting work they do can help them achieve their career goals and aspirations. It’s not so much about the remuneration but what the individual can get out of the role.
- Attrition rates are low. Employee retention rates, especially at the entry and mid-level, tell a story about a culture. If most people stay for an unexpectedly long time across roles, then in all probability the culture is strong. If attrition rates are consistently above average, the business needs to assess whether the issue is about personal growth or empowerment.
- Change is seen as a force for good. Not everyone likes change, but healthy cultures recognize change as a fact of corporate life. People aren’t afraid of the changes ahead because they know these shifts will be managed with transparency, care and dignity – they’ve seen it done this way before.
If you'd like to learn more about how to address work culture, the co-hosted Cognizant and Stocholm School of Economics seminar The Culture Cure for Digital is still available ondemand.