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These days it seems everyone is talking about the Great Resignation, the mass exodus that many Americans have willingly taken from their jobs. While this is definitely something we’ve seen happen, my perspective on it is a little different. I prefer to call it a Great Redefinition.
This period is essentially redefining how work fits into our lives. I believe what we’re seeing can’t be summed up by simply calling it an exodus but a fundamental shift in what the typical job looks like. We’re no longer accommodating our lives around work; we’re instead finding where work fits into our lives. We’re working from home (or anywhere, really) during hours that feel better for us. And, we’re able to tap into our most efficient and productive selves because of it. We’re seeing better outcomes than ever before when entrusted with our occupational well-being. It’s pretty amazing.
Related: How to Reshape Your Business Strategy to Survive ‘The Great Resignation’
Changes in work-life culture
In the past two years, there’s been an amazing and unprecedented opportunity for reflection. Never before has the entire world had to simultaneously be still. That stillness provided the much-needed space to do some soul searching. We reflected on what’s most important in our lives, where we want to live, whom we want to spend our time with and how we want to contribute to the world. We also experienced working remotely as a global society. This experience brought on a paradigm shift in what’s possible when it comes to how work intersects with our day-to-day lives.
As the dust settles on such an incredibly disruptive period, very real shifts occurred. From the daily dealings of not wanting to commute five to 10 hours a week just to work eight or more hours in an office, to being forced to confront our own mortality. Perhaps the largest impact was the shift in our perspectives.
Having a front-row seat to such a major healthcare crisis has led us to really consider not only what’s important to us on an individual level, but also on how we are impacting the world at large. We’re now asking whether the work we’re doing has meaning. People want to be trusted and empowered as they proved while working from home. They want to work on something meaningful with people who value them.
Related: 3 Questions to Determine If Your Work Brings Meaning to Your Life
Identifying good culture fits
Company culture is important and present in every team regardless of the number of people. Working remotely has provided an opportunity to truly see what company culture really is (hint: it’s not just cool office spaces, free food or a ping-pong table). It’s how we show up together, interact with each other. Whether we work synchronously or asynchronously and whether we’re more structured as an organization or more flexible.
Our culture is largely articulated through our values, and our values are reflective of who we are. Clear values and culture help to create a more empowered team.
A common leadership challenge is hiring people who best align with a team’s culture, which is essential for strong retention. When I’m in the hiring process, I tend to use at least one pre-screen question that asks the interviewee to describe which of our values they feel they most aligned with and why. This is a great way to get a sense of whether they’ll integrate with our culture and mission, and also how deeply they understand who we are. Being given comprehensive answers shows that the applicant has done their homework and is truly familiar with our values, what we do and what’s important to us. It also shows how well they know themselves.
How businesses can embrace the Great Resignation and the Great Redefinition
The most important steps to embracing the Great Redefinition revolve around defining and maintaining company culture. Here are some tips:
1. Survey your team
Surveying your team members is a great tactic to not only learn more about them, but also to stay connected when working remotely. Sending out surveys creates active engagement within the team and is also a learning experience for leadership. Find out how happy they are, and how aligned they feel with company values and mission. Request honest feedback with descriptions about how they experience the culture, how they would describe it and what they like or don’t like about it.
One of the most sought-after companies in the world to work for is Google because it has surveyed its employees and collected data to enhance both engagement and management. Using survey results, company leadership can see how employees engage best and how Google as a company can improve the employee experience. Surveying a team is a great learning and growing opportunity and provides an easy way to touch base about culture.
Related: Employee Feedback: The Greatest Asset in the War on Talent
2. Use the feedback
When the survey is complete, share a summary of the results with the entire team. Engage in conversation about it, then create a list of action items that the company will act on based on the feedback provided. This shows not only that team members’ input is valuable, but also that their voices are being heard. Remember, people want to feel empowered, trusted and seen. Acting on their feedback by making changes shows a team just how much they matter.
I started surveying my team monthly back in 2015. Initially, the happiness scores were around six out of ten. It was hard to see how unhappy they were and to read what they weren’t enjoying and where we could be better. But I started implementing the feedback that felt aligned with what we wanted to create from a culture perspective. I’d communicate (and still do) openly what we’d be implementing, and I’d thank everyone for their openness and transparency. As we went on this journey, we built more trust and received more proactive and positive feedback. Our happiness scores trended upward and have been above a nine out of ten almost every month since I started doing these surveys across multiple companies. The happiness score of my team has become my leading indicator of the overall health of the business.
3. Alignment exercises
Performing an exercise with a team to evaluate who’s most aligned with an organization is always a worthwhile endeavor. Some great questions to ask are: Are they passionate about the company’s mission and values? Are they motivated by and do they see a place for themselves within the vision and the future of the company? Do they embody the culture and values of the organization? It’s a great idea to look at their skills and ensure that they have the skill set and experience level to perform their role to the best of their ability and for the good of your company.
For those who answer yes to all of the above questions: Listen to, nurture and respond to their needs. For those who are out of alignment, this is an opportunity for them to find something more aligned and for the company to discover someone who is a yes in all areas. In my experience, I’ve found it’s important to remind people they don’t have to work for the company. I’m giving them permission for it to not be the right fit and creating safety around that conversation. Most people are afraid to be transparent with how they’re feeling when they’re unsatisfied. But we can make it okay for them to express that. Then, let them know we can work together to find a replacement for them and to support them as they look for a new and more aligned opportunity. It’s a win-win for all. While it takes practice, this can be the most rewarding shift in culture for all.
I truly believe that we’re in a Great Redefinition of work and that we have a wonderful opportunity to find the greatest alignment possible within our teams. To come out ahead, focusing on culture first is the most important thing we can do as business leaders. By engaging with our teams, giving surveys, utilizing the feedback and really digging deep to find out who’s most aligned with our team, we’ll be embracing the Great Redefinition of workplace cultures. I, for one, couldn’t be more excited by this opportunity.