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Leadership Does your organization treat customers better than you, the employee?

President, Intercept Group

We’ve come a long way with engaging customers. We’ve learned to walk in customers’ shoes to understand their needs and embraced big data to personalize our approach. And we’re now learning how to leverage artificial intelligence to predict needs they don’t even know they have.

Compare this evolution with workplace culture. As an employee, are you being listened to? Has your organization made advances in personalizing their approach with you? Has it invested in programs to boost engagement?

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As organizations, we’ve become so customer-obsessed that we’ve depreciated one of our strongest assets – our human capital.

How common is bad culture?

The reality is that no organization is immune to the culture conundrum.

According to research firm Gallup, roughly seven of 10 employees in the workforce are disengaged. The modern workplace is far different from that of past generations, which featured homogenous employee bases that prized stability and a “job for life” with well-defined benefits upon retirement. Today, workplaces are more diverse than ever before. Different generations with unique ways of communicating now work side-by-side. Companies have to cope with four separate generations (Boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z) who come to work each day with different goals, modes of communication and expectations.

The challenge to keep morale high is more difficult than ever. As the pace of business accelerates, employee highs are higher and lows are lower, and they’re happening much faster than before.

Signs of bad culture

There are three main signs of concern when evaluating culture.

  1. Heroic leadership: Senior leadership burns the midnight oil and highlights it as if it were an achievement. They send the message that independent contribution is more important than team collaboration.
  2. Wasted resources: Your organization has procured a series of innovative tools and platforms, yet less than 10 per cent of teams are using them. Powerful data and tools go under-utilized or unused.
  3. Excuses over solutions: You hear these three toxic words echoing within your organization: “I can’t because … .” Process is used as a shield and an excuse to preserve the status quo.

Using experiences to solve the culture conundrum

We live in the experience economy where great experiences trump material things. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has spent more than 20 years researching the reason why experiences elicit more happiness than buying material things. He explains, “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless, they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

Simply put, it’s about aligning the right experience with the right moments throughout the year. Here are three principles you can apply to do just that within your organization:

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  1. Measure. As part of a balanced scorecard or objectives and key results (OKRs), identify key results that reflect cultural health. Metrics should be captured on a regular cadence.
  2. Sequence. Take a proactive strategy to building your annual employee engagement plan. Consider the seasonality of your workflow and its impact on morale, and plan experiences accordingly. Experiences should cover everything from learning and development to fun and entertainment to team bonding and collaboration.
  3. Connect. It’s important to connect experiences back to the core values of your organization. Remind your employees why they come to work for your organization and your team. An alignment of values is more important than a salary.

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