Find your portal

The 4 pillars of an engaging organizational and learning culture

There is a lot of talk these days about how modern employees are very volatile. Millennials in particular are described as these utterly selfish individuals who on one hand care about big things such as human rights or the environment but on the other would not work on an important report on their day off.

Turnover rates are rocketing as employees no longer think that holding down a job is important but prefer to often change roles, employers and even industries. It’s getting increasingly difficult to recruit the right people for the organization and it’s even harder to keep them loyal and engaged.

Building strong, engaging workplace cultures that rely on collaboration and continuous learning is the only way of (at least partially) addressing the shift in generations. Here are four tips on how to do that.

Hire those who fit into the culture, not into the job description

For a long time, recruiters simply looked for people who were competent enough to do a job. Previous experience in the field has always been a plus.

However, it is important to keep in mind that while skills and competencies can be developed over time, attitudes are almost impossible to change. If a person proves to be at odds with what the company stands for or promotes, it’s best to move on to the next one instead of overlooking this and basing the hiring decision solely on an excellent curriculum vitae.

In the words of Simon Sinek, find the people who “believe what you believe, not those who can do what you need them to do” because it’s the first group that will guarantee organizational success. Values cannot be taught (or maybe they can to some extent but at an age when most certainly nobody can be called an employee and the ‘place of work’ is simply called daycare) so if they don’t match at the interview, they won’t do so later on.

Ask people what motivates them and give them that

All companies run surveys about employee satisfaction. The successful ones are the few that do something with the results. In an interview for Forbes, Aron Ain from Kronos (one of the companies with fantastic employee engagement scores) shared his view on what works: It starts with communication.

It starts with asking our people what's motivating them, and what's upsetting them. Then it's to take that information we get, and do something about it. The reason we have over 90% employee participation in our engagement surveys when we ask employees about it, they say, "It's because you do something about it. We can tell if we gave you feedback, that my manager sits down and talks to our group about something that came from our area, and then we take action to correct it, and do better going forward." That's very motivating for people.

He goes on to say that in order to have great people work for you, you have to first generate a great environment for them through trust, collaboration and communication.

Keep an eye on the trends

This is an offshoot of asking people what would motivate them and providing that. There are comprehensive studies that look at the current state of things and use the data to make predictions for changes in the workforce for the foreseeable future.

Boston Consulting Group polled more than 200,000 employees around the world to create a list of the top 10 factors for on-the-job happiness. They found that employees value the following (in order of importance):

  1. Appreciation for their work
  2. Good relationships with colleagues
  3. Good work-life balance
  4. Good relationships with superiors
  5. Company’s financial stability
  6. Learning and career development
  7. Job security
  8. Attractive fixed salary
  9. Interesting job content
  10. Company values

It may seem surprising to some that remuneration is not the number one factor in determining employee engagement. It’s not unimportant but especially for the younger generations who don’t yet have several mouths to feed, how they feel in the workplace matters a lot more than what they can do outside it once they cash their paychecks.

Encourage feedback, criticism and innovation

Employees are well aware that if the company is successful they stand to benefit. If the HR department has done its job well, they are the right people both for the job and for the organization so their input should be both valuable and useful.

Keeping communication channels open for every person to come up with ideas, suggestions and even some amount of criticism will result in constantly improving products, services and internal procedures. Even if not all feedback will be necessarily applicable, it’s important to let the initiators know it was heard and taken into consideration.

The time from „top to bottom” management has passed and while major decisions are still being made by the important stakeholders, the operational side of business should be very much the product of employee feedback. It’s a great way to keep them engaged all the while promoting innovation and progress.

Closing thoughts

Like any construction, an engaging workplace culture requires time, effort and resources. Not to mention constant upkeep and adjustments. The four pillars described above are, however, meant to provide a much needed stability and sustainability.