‘The Marshall Plan’ to fix a company culture in crisis

The story of the Dallas Mavericks transforming its company culture in less than two years is a perfect case study of how to fix a culture in crisis, claims Scott Mautz. In 2018, Sports Illustrated reported on the team’s culture of misogyny and sexual harassment, after which its owner Mark Cuban took full responsibility and moved to fix the problem. “Shortly after the SI story first broke, Cuban hired former AT&T chief diversity officer Cynthia Marshall, whom he named CEO, and whom he profusely praises and gives credit to for the turnaround,” Mautz writes in Inc. Marshall’s 100-day plan to clean up the organization had the lofty goal of “becoming the standard, leading the way in inclusion and diversity.” Among other things, she and Cuban overhauled the team’s workforce, taking it from having no business-side employees who were women or people of color to 50 percent women and 43 percent people of color; implemented a 25 percent increase in overall staff size; created an ethics and compliance office; established an employee-complaint process; and made unconscious bias training a requirement. “I’ve had to come in and turn around a toxic environment before, and I can tell you that fast and obvious action is required to show you’re taking it seriously,” Mautz writes. “You need to institute real change quickly, not just window-dressing changes, and you have to aggressively set goals that will position the environment as the polar opposite of what it has been.”

Why companies need to be more involved in social change issues

Workers would like their companies to be involved in social change issues, according a new study by the Conference Board. The survey found that an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of respondents believe it is “moderately important” that the organization they work for be involved in social change, while 32 percent said the organization should always respond to social change issues. “A common mistake we saw [among organizations] was no response [to social change issues],” Amanda Popiela, co-author of the report, told HR Executive. The survey identified the top five social changes employees feel most strongly about: gender, disabilities, LGBTQ issues, physical and mental wellbeing, and ageism. “It’s crucial for organizations in general—and HR in particular—to be plugged in to what’s on employees’ minds to minimize the risk of ignoring or minimizing an issue that a substantial portion of the workforce cares deeply about,” said Robin Erickson, the other co-author of the report. “HR has an important role to play, not only in monitoring whether certain topics are strongly resonating with the workforce but in helping to devise an effective response.”

Why company culture matters, now more than ever

Failures of culture have been the single biggest destroyers of value in the last five years, argues Laszlo Bock, which is why the time to invest in company culture is now. As Google’s senior vice president of people operations from 2006 to 2016, Laszlo grew the company’s workforce from 6,000 to 76,000. “And no, it wasn’t about the free food, lava lamps, and beanbags, if you ask him,” Michael Schneider notes. “It was about making work a little more enjoyable and productive each day.” In this Inc. article, Schneider summarizes Laszlo’s three reasons why culture should matter to organizations now: 1. Organizations need to monitor and invest in their internal brand just as much as the external. 2. The data on culture shows a clear economic impact. 3. People technology has advanced enough to help with both employee engagement and conflict resolution. “Culture is not a buzzword anymore. With the evolution of the workplace, organizations have to leverage cultural strategies now to drive organizational alignment, foster ethical/risk-averse behavior, and as a result, positively impact the bottom line through increases in productivity,” Schneider concludes.

August is vacation month in Europe, and this perplexes the U.S.

The European Union’s mandatory paid-vacation time can seem crazy to people in the United States, argues Suzanne Lucas. “In my experience, Europe embraces vacation—sometimes in a way that make no sense,” she writes in Inc. “While this affects my day-to-day life because I’m physically here, it can also affect your business, even if you’re based in the United States. When someone says, ‘The Geneva office is closed for three weeks,’ they aren’t joking, and no one around here even bats an eyelash.” Lucas has some tips for American businesses to deal with European vacation month: 1. Ask when peak vacation season is and plan accordingly. 2. Partner with larger companies that will not shut down entire offices for weeks at a time. 3. Embrace vacation yourself. “Europeans have proved that the world doesn’t end if you go on a vacation,” Lucas writes. “If you’re good at what you do, people will be waiting for you when you get back. It’s OK to take some downtime.”

Workers prefer a strong company culture over pay

Most workers believe that a strong company culture will make them happier than a high salary, according to a new study. Glassdoor’s survey of more than 5,000 adults in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany found that 56 percent of the workers ranked a strong workplace culture as more important than pay, while three in four workers say that they would consider a company’s culture before applying for a position there. When considering a new job, the vast majority of workers would also take an organization’s values into account—73 percent of Glassdoor’s respondents would not apply to a company unless its values aligned with their own. “A common misperception among many employers today is that pay and work-life balance are among the top factors driving employee satisfaction,” said Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist. “Instead, employers looking to boost recruiting and retention efforts should prioritize building strong company culture and value systems, amplifying the quality and visibility of their senior leadership teams and offering clear, exciting career opportunities to employees.”

Psychological safety in the workplace

While trust and psychological safety in the workplace help employees perform better, there is more to creating such an environment than pleasantries and socializing, argues Stuart Hearn. “There’s an important distinction between courtesy and candor,” he writes in Personnel Today. “It touches on our response to risk and failure, our willingness to ask for help, our ability to be humble and fallible. Ultimately, it’s about mastering our instincts in times of stress.” Hearn believes that the responsibility to create genuine trust falls to the leaders and managers. “As the manager, you set the tone,” he writes. “You need to show that the barrier between you and the team is soft enough that they can share their thinking with confidence.” Here are his key principles to engender trust: be clear, don’t concern yourself about socializing, give feedback, listen to employees, and commit to developing everyone. “The fundamental truths behind these points—good communication, a fair allocation of resources for development and a commitment to clarity and transparency on goals and objectives—are the building blocks for trust in the workplace,” he writes.

Five ways to build a diverse company culture

Diverse teams are more innovative and make more money for your company, argues Charu Sharma. In this Inc. article, she shares five steps to take towards building a company culture that promotes and retains women and minorities. 1. Listen to your people. Don’t assume what your employees want; instead, just ask them what they want. 2. Policies such as flexible work hours, remote work and childcare go a long way in making employees feel supported. 3. Mitigate biases in pay and career progression by tracking salaries and diversity and implementing fair and inclusive practices. 4. Set up mentorship and sponsorship programs to advance women and minorities. 5. Lead by example. “Take maternity or paternity leave. It gives them permission to do so themselves,” Sharma writes. “Talk about your passions and loved ones at work; do an annual ‘bring your parents (or kids or pets …) to work’ day and bring yours. This gives the others the permission to bring their whole selves to work.”

Taking employee perks to the next level

The state of the American workplace is strong and employee engagement is at an all-time high, according to a new survey from Inc. and Quantum Workplace. Inc.’s 2019 Best Workplaces identifies the top trends in employee perks: 1. An overwhelming majority (99 percent) of top employers provide health insurance, and four percent offer onsite medical care. 2. A surprising 16 percent offer paid sabbaticals to reward length of service. 3. Almost half of the Best Workplaces (49 percent) allow employees to bring a pet to work. 4. Sixty-five percent of the Best Workplaces hold regular stress-relief breaks at the office and 65 percent take employees to offsite retreats to relax and recharge. “It’s a different playbook from a decade ago, when too many firms used the same template: free meals, open work environments, and artifacts of fun,” says Greg Harris, president and CEO, Quantum Workplace. “Unusual employee perks today include: free farm-fresh eggs and vegetables, paid newspaper subscriptions, table-tennis training with a former world champion, and a pay-it-forward allowance to show kindness to strangers.”

The importance of trust in the workplace

 While workplace wellbeing programs have gained popularity of late, there may be something more important that employers should be focusing on, argues Zoe Humphries. In this HR Director article, she shares some insights from recent research conducted by her consultancy Steelcase. “We have identified six key dimension to wellness: optimism, mindfulness, authenticity, belonging, meaning and vitality,” she writes. “Each of these elements has a vital role to play in the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, yet you would be unlikely to find them on traditional wellbeing programs.” The researchers also realized that at the core of all six elements of wellbeing is trust. “Trust and belief in the purpose and goals of the organization. Trust that employees can express themselves, their values, ideas and emotions, without fear of reprisal. And trust in their interactions with colleagues and leadership,” Humphries writes. “Superficial wellbeing initiatives won’t bring lasting change. Only by building a sense of trust, authenticity and purpose to everything they do, can organizations maintain their healthy glow—and ensure it sticks around for the long-term.”

Cultural change is key to banks’ success in a digital future

Not all banks have billions to set aside for investment in new technologies, but they can use cultural change to become more agile, argues Paul Schaus. “Cultural transformation will look somewhat different at each individual financial institution, but the goal should be the same—to foster a workforce and workplace culture that can thrive in today’s world of unending and uncertain technological change,” he writes in this American Banker op-ed piece. Schaus advises banks to start with implementing new training programs to boost employees’ digital skills. He also believes it is crucial for banks to rethink recruitment strategies, and employee benefits and incentives. “In addition, banks will need to promote a culture where experimentation is encouraged by using agile methodologies, design thinking and more cross-business collaboration,” he writes. “For many banks, this will run counter to risk-averse traditional thinking. Extensive workshops and training programs will be needed to help staff acclimate to the new way of doing business.”

Why banks’ best assets are employees

Banks aren’t buildings, technology or marketing campaigns, claims Dave Martin. “A bank is its people,” he writes in an op-ed for American Banker. “The organizations that understand this and continually communicate it to their teams are the ones that survive and thrive through our industry’s evolution.” Martin believes customers choose banks based on the people employed there, not the products. “Branches, technology and products are tools that help bankers serve customers,” he writes. “Tools alone, however, do not build anything. They require good people utilizing them to create, build and maintain relationships.” Martin cautions banks against perpetually chasing the next “new and improved” products and offers. “Remind your bankers that you have what you need, right now, to make customers prefer you. They see it in the mirror each morning,” he concludes.

What fintech employees want

Fintechs are known for offering fun and unique perks to their employees, but it turns out they do more than that to retain top talent. For the second year in a row, SourceMedia, American Banker’s parent company, has compiled a list of 50 Best Fintechs to Work For. The list includes companies ranging in size from just more than a dozen employees (Fountain City Fintech) to those with thousands of workers (Ally Financial). “Based on this year’s Best Fintechs to Work For ranking, what fintech employees really want from their employers boils down to three things: satisfactory pay, paid-for benefits and a respectful culture,” American Banker reports. SourceMedia’s survey asked fintech employees to score their employers on leadership and planning; corporate culture and communications; role satisfaction; work environment; relationship with their supervisor; training, development and resources; pay and benefits; and overall engagement. “Fun still counts—the companies that ranked highest scored much higher on a question about this than their lower-ranking counterparts—but it’s not the biggest benchmark,” American Banker notes.

Workplace distractions impact productivity 

Emails and pointless meetings topped the list of things that keep knowledge workers from getting work done, according to a new survey from Workfront. The survey covered more than 2,000 U.S. workers employed by companies with at least 500 employees, who work on computers and collaborate with other people on projects. A majority (63 percent) of respondents agreed with the statement, “If I had more time to just think, my productivity would improve.” When asked about what gets in the way of work, respondents identified wasteful meetings (63 percent), excessive emails (55 percent) and unexpected phone calls (41 percent) as the main culprits. “As individuals we say ‘Let me be free, don’t put shackles on me,’” Workfront spokesman Chris O’Neal told TalentCulture. “But what we’ve come to find out is that without process, we’re really exposed to a lot of this busywork. We don’t have enough data to say no to things. When you have too many ways to do one thing, there’s no real way to do anything.”

Can a shorter workday increase productivity?

Collins SBA, an Australian financial services firm, experimented with offering employees a five-hour workday schedule for two years, and it has been a resounding success, reports Minda Zetlin for Inc. “The shortened workday came about because the company, like all companies, was struggling to recruit the talent it needed in a very tight labor market,” she writes. Jonathan Elliott, the company’s managing director, also needed to spend more time with his wife who was ill with cancer. By working shorter hours more efficiently and cutting out meetings and lunches, he was able to get the same amount of work done that he’d previously been doing during a full workday. When Elliott offered the company’s 35 employees the shortened workday, their productivity increased and there was a 12 percent reduction in sick leave. “The concept is way more polarizing then I expected,” he told TNW. “In many financial companies, people work 50 to 60 hours per week. That’s just ridiculous to me. Nobody is productive for 10 hours straight.”

What it takes to build a strong company culture

There are no shortcuts to building a strong company culture, argues Katie Burke. “There’s no hack to building a high-performing company culture,” she writes in a blog post for Inc. “However, there are some critical ingredients: empathy, dedication, iteration, and a team that understands there are no shortcuts in getting the employee experience right.” She shares three ways to approach it the right way: 1. Build a strong foundation with values everyone knows and lives. 2. Don’t assume you know what’s working and what isn’t; ask for feedback from employees and candidates. 3. View culture as a business issue, not just an HR issue. “A high-performing culture is three things: strong enough to attract talent that raises the bar on what’s possible in your company, remarkable enough to keep employees engaged and excited to come to work every day, and transparent enough to identify and iterate on feedback,” Burke writes.

Why it’s good to be in banking

Banking is a righteous career because its focus is on helping consumers and business owners realize their dreams, claims Paul Hickman. “Most people go into regular banking because they want to make a difference,” he told Bruce Weinstein in a Forbes interview . “You finance a business, it does well, you drive by it and think, ‘I helped do that.’” Hickman, the president and CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association, also believes that it’s crucial for the finance sector to be populated by competent and ethical people. “I think it’s more important in banking and law than in most industries,” he says. “You’ve got to be beyond reproach in both of those industries, otherwise you’re not going to have the confidence you need to do your job from your constituents, from your clients and your customers.”

The value of meaningful work for employees

According to new research from BetterUp, employees would give up a whopping 23 percent of their total future lifetime earnings in exchange for one thing: work that is always meaningful. In this Inc. blog post, Scott Mautz outlines several suggestions for leaders on how to create meaning at work for employees. “Gather stories of how your employees’ work helps others, even in small ways, and encourage them to share their own stories,” he writes. “Re-frame the work your team is doing so they can understand how and why what they do matters.” Mautz highlights the importance of continuous learning and building self-esteem and autonomy. “Micromanagement can be a meaning-killer,” he writes. “Including your employees in decisions and giving them space to get the job done helps them feel less like numbers and more like contributors.” Mautz also believes creating a caring and authentic culture is key to providing a sense of meaning to employees. “The best scenario is that employees don’t actually forfeit a quarter of their salary for meaningful work. What says we leaders can’t give them this one for free?” he concludes.

How millennials are shaping workplace culture

As millennials become an even larger part of the workforce, they will inevitably influence and architect a new corporate culture, argues Jason Albanese in this Inc. blog post. Among the social issues they champion is a culture of empowerment through speaking out about sexism, discrimination and harassment. “While millennials are not the only voices contributing to these revelations, discussions and activism, they are a generation that seems collectively inspired to create change for the better,” he writes. Albanese also cites a Brookings Institution report from earlier in the year, which found that millennials were the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history with minorities making up 44 percent of a population of more than 75 million. “As members and advocates of this largely diverse population and with the largest representation in the U.S. workforce, millennials stand to forever change the face of business and politics and how the United States is viewed throughout the world,” he writes. Corporate social responsibility is another value millennials cherish. “Millennials, much like the rest of the population, can tell the difference between authentic and thoughtful representation of deeply rooted brand values and PR stunts,” Albanese writes. “Leveraging a diverse workforce to generate ideas that solve for social crisis is a solid start to building a brand that will resonate with generations to come.”

Three ways millennials are improving workplace culture

Millennials are pushing companies to evolve, and that can be good for the well-being of everyone. It seems like millennials have greater culture mindfulness and a desire to shape it. Millennials have helped to advance the concept of an ‘ideal’ work environment to an expectation of an excellent workplace culture,” writes Alan Kohll in this Forbes Leadership Strategy article. He cites three things millennials ask of a company culture, that benefit every generation’s well-being. 1. A flexible environment. Flexibility has been shown to reduce stress, boost mental well-being and encourage productivity. 2. A sense of community. Community involvement provides a sense of belonging and social connectedness. Strong social connections improve physical health and psychological well-being. 3. Personal development. This is a vital part of an individual’s growth, and learning new things can make us happier. “By 2020, nearly half of the workforce will consist of millennials. Millennials will continue to transform work culture as baby boomers retire and rather than see it as a negative, it’s time for organizations to embrace the positive things this generation is bringing to the workplace,” Kohll concludes.

How to build a strong company culture

A strong company culture attracts top talent and retains that talent for years to come, argues Naz Beheshti in this Women@Forbes blog post. “There is now greater employee emphasis on whether the organization aligns with their personal values and purpose, and has a positive work environment and culture,” she writes. “In this climate, having a strong company culture is not just a perk. It is integral to the success and continuity of your business.” Beheshti outlines three top strategies to build a strong company culture: 1. Clarify and communicate your company values, beliefs, purpose, mission and standards. 2. Live the values of your company and avoid leadership hypocrisy. 3. Focus on the wellbeing of employees to motivate and engage them to thrive in all areas of their lives. “While a healthy paycheck is certainly of interest to many of us, the most successful employers have come to understand that pay alone does not attract or retain a company’s most desirable and talented employees,” she writes.

Doing good can help banks retain top talent

How can traditional banks expand their client base and retain strong employees? “First, identify underbanked sectors and provide to them financial tools that can support their emergence from poverty and enable profitable capital development; and second, empower employees to work on tools, applications and sectors that will provide them a ‘human’ as well as ‘financial’ return on their labor,” writes Andrew Waxman in this American Banker op-ed. Many well-paid employees of prominent banks felt a “profound embarrassment” about their employers after the 2008 financial crisis, according to Waxman. The way to overcome this is by making them feel good about themselves and the work they do. “By making mainstream banking products available to [the underserved], banks can accomplish the goal of both helping their bottom line and of bringing major sections of the population out of poverty and exploitation,” he writes. “If banks can enlarge the pool of people they help—and can contribute to improving the world in some way—they are likely to foster more engaged and fulfilled employees, from the CEO down to the most junior analysts.”

How to build a winning company culture

Culture in the workplace is defined as “the personality of the company,” and encompasses “the values, behaviors and attitudes followed by the entire organization.” In this Oracle blog post, Tuula Fai argues that an innovative work culture is one of the reasons why some startups have been able to attract and retain top talent in a competitive market. She believes building a winning company culture is not just about the perks, but also about the fundamentals of work. “Employees want to be part of something greater than themselves—a mission they believe in, a community of caring professionals, a role that offers meaningful work, and a manager who values their contributions and celebrates their success,” she writes. Here are three steps Fai recommends to build a winning company culture: 1. Ensure your business and HR processes reflect your organization’s vision, mission and values. 2. Prioritize cultural fit and relationship networks when recruiting, in addition to skills and experience. 3. Foster an environment in which employees “walk the talk” and encourage their peers to do so.

Three strategies to build a better workplace culture

Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workforce shows that 67 percent of workers, or two out of every three employees, are disengaged. What’s the number one reason for workforce disengagement? “A toxic culture,” writes Shaara Roman in an op-ed for TalentCulture, “defined by fear of speaking up, abundance of rules and hierarchy, top-down communication and silos.” She recommends three strategies to fix a toxic workplace culture: 1. Show employees the “why” behind their work and give them the opportunity to innovate and own their contribution. 2. Foster a two-way feedback loop by sharing the “why” behind the decision and engaging their teams in sharing their ideas. 3. Create an empowering culture, by valuing differences and creating an open, transparent environment for people to share ideas and debate openly.

A guide to corporate culture

Culture and leadership are ‘inextricably linked’ and the best leaders are the ones ‘fully aware of the multiple cultures within which they are embedded, can sense when change is required and deftly influence the process,’ according to the Harvard Business Review. The magazine’s in-depth cover story, “The Culture Factor,” delves into the definition of corporate culture and eight distinct styles, distilled from more than 100 social and behavioral models. ‘Caring’ culture focuses on relationships and mutual trust; ‘Purpose’ emphasizes idealism and altruism; ‘Learning’ highlights exploration and creativity; ‘Enjoyment’ unites workers and employers in fun and humor; ‘Results’ culture makes achievement and winning top priorities; ‘Authority’ relies on strong control and decisiveness; ‘Safety’ looks to caution and preparedness; and ‘Order’ depends on structure and time-honored customs. “Leading with culture may be among the few sources of sustainable competitive advantage left to companies today. Successful leaders will stop regarding culture with frustration and instead use it as a fundamental management tool,” the authors conclude.