“Squishy factors.” That’s what Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist at Gallup and author of its annual employee-engagement survey, characterizes what employees want in a company. The phrase isn’t meant to be disparaging. Who wouldn’t want to work at a place that fostered a sense of belonging and employed contextual, continuous performance management to help employees feel supported?
And beyond resulting in employee happiness, companies with a strong company culture (which includes employee training, encouragement, and helping people work with a sense of purpose) posted profit gains of 26% through the last recession, compared with a 14% decline at comparable employers.
So while you can attract talent with a solid compensation package, you will better attract – and retain – your people by continuously prioritizing your workplace culture.
ChartHop sat down with Lucy Bell, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Planning at Headspace Health, and Barry Marshall, CEO and Founding Partner of P5 Collaborative Consulting, to reflect on the development of HR, best practices for the future, and the prioritization of your current and future employees.
Below are four themes that emerged regarding attracting talent by building a supportive, thoughtful company culture.
Many aspects of business have changed over the years, but one of the most transformational developments has been that of the HR department. Whether you view it as a response to employee needs, an attempt to retain talent, or an old-fashioned glow up, HR has moved past keeping businesses legally safe to now helping the whole organization thrive.
“HR has shifted to focusing on people,” Marshall explains. “They now view things through the lens of: ‘How do we think about benefits and perks? How do we optimize what we’ve learned over the past few years?’ Their strategy is now around people.”
And that strategy encourages holistic and analytic thinking across the employee lifecycle. Now leaders are considering how decisions around talent acquisition, employee development, and career advancement impact operational business decisions and company growth.
Furthermore, Marshall advises HR leaders to stop jumping to action when hearing a complaint. He instead suggests that leaders listen, reflect, and analyze before making any big decisions. He asks, “Are you helping an individual, or are you using an individual complaint to drive organizational change?”
In fact, your company’s metrics and people data should always influence your leadership decisions. Using data to drive insights not only helps you make confident decisions, but also creates a culture of transparency. Surprisingly, only 18% of people believe their company has a transparent and open approach. Want to get a leg up and attract (and retain) the best talent? Establish and prioritize your company culture by employing holistic and analytical processes.
For example, let’s say your company’s policy states employees are eligible for a promotion if they receive a five on their quarterly performance review. Jasmine, a remote worker, consistently receives threes, while her counterparts in the Chicago and Miami offices earn higher scores (and now bigger paychecks). After a quarter of achieving goals and seeking more responsibilities, Jasmine once again earns a three. This time, she asks for further clarification.
Instead of giving a vague answer, her People leaders run the numbers, only to find that a significantly higher number of remote employees are earning lower performance review scores. What’s going on?
By looking at the color-coded report below, it’s clear that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Consider what other intersectionalities Jasmine’s company (and yours) can discover by its people data side-by-side.
Don’t just make decisions based on one complaint or a gut-reaction. By looking at metrics, you can determine a clear goal that’s backed by data.
The concept of mental health has taken center stage over the past few years, and with good reason: 46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life.
Thankfully, the stigma surrounding it is dissipating. What’s more, many companies are recognizing people as… people… and have become empathetic allies when it comes to mental health processes and benefits. That may look like therapy coverage for health care, but can also present in the form of preventative measures that affect employees’ well-being, such as PTO or no-meeting Fridays.
Bell explains that the past few years have provided people with “a frank reflection on how and in what ways people want to show up in their lives.” With this renewed sense of clarity, many candidates are looking for what Bell calls “the intangibles:” leadership transparency, modeled company values, mental health benefits, and positive relationships.
Marshall agrees, believing that “financial compensation is never the driver for employee satisfaction,” but instead those unseen benefits like an employees’ relationship with their manager. Yes, compensation should be competitive and clear, he says, but that ties into focusing on your people.
Bell also warns that “it’s not easy to live your values in a rapidly growing company” (citing that 30% of companies discourage or negatively impact employee mental health). She therefore suggests leaders turn to data to help determine real issues and take action.
For example, customer success manager Samantha may note that her direct report, James, has low engagement quarter-after-quarter. Instead of chalking it up to, “That’s just the kind of employee James is,” what if she looked at data to discover any trends? As you can see in the report below, employees ages 20-34 are significantly less engaged than their counterparts. Now it’s time to dig deeper to determine why and potential next steps to turn the situation around.
By viewing intersectionalities like this one, leaders can create action plans to drive initiatives and support their people.
This report shows employee engagement data by department and age. This allows for a bird’s-eye view of your organization to help drive further insights and plans.
Sometimes, you can’t do it all. We know that realization can be a hard pill to swallow. That’s why Bell and Marshall both recommend bringing in third parties to support certain areas and initiatives. But this practice isn’t only to alleviate leaders’ schedules. Bringing in an objective perspective creates an unbiased space for employees to share and helps drive insights that those in the thick of things may not see.
Over at Headspace Health, Bell brought in a certified external source to conduct year-long employee training on DEIB and restorative justice. By committing resources to this initiative, as well as establishing company-wide goals, Headspace Health saw transformative benefits in the form of employee belonging and engagement.
At a previous company, Marshall invited a business psychologist to help with the company’s emotional IQ. The goal was to discover themes, such as why candidates were turning down offers or thriving under certain managers. By talking to employees in groups and maintaining confidentiality, the psychologist established a safe space for people to reflect and share.
While it may seem scary to allow employees to potentially air dirty laundry, it’s actually a way to collect another source of data. By understanding company strengths and emerging issues from a qualitative perspective, you’ll be better prepared to respond to employee needs and continue to put your people first. This proactive and adaptive approach is what differentiates good businesses from great ones, and is something that will attract talent in the future.
Why do people usually leave a position? “It’s usually tied to communication or unclear expectations,” Marshall explains. But you’ll never learn that if you don’t ask those introspective questions during your exit interviews.
To generate the most useful feedback from exit interviews, it’s important to be honest with your soon-to-be-former employee. “Unfortunately, negative triggers may have already happened and they’re leaving,” Marshall says. “It’s now your job to weave their experience back into your process.”
This qualitative feedback, paired with other metrics tracked throughout the employee lifecycle, will help inform your leadership team of any changes to make or best practices to further develop.
It’s also important to note positive triggers your employees experienced. For example, if they found their manager supportive and trustworthy, what did she do to develop these feelings? Figure out how your company can capitalize on these traits to further create a positive and consistent employee experience.
By doing so, you’ll continue creating a responsive company culture that helps retain employees, turning them into your biggest fans to help attract new talent in the future.
Compensation planning is essential for attracting new talent. And companies that are transparent about their compensation plan actually witness more productive and collaborative employees. Why? It all comes down to company culture.
So while, yes, candidates seek a competitive salary, they also look for a workplace culture that prioritizes its people. By developing a holistic view of your workforce – including using people data to prioritize their needs – you can establish an organization that will be attractive to talent for years to come.
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