Hands all in

Your team might be remote or perhaps even hybrid. No doubt that your company has endured challenges over time but nothing compares to the last few years when the pandemic forced operations to pivot quickly just to survive.

Congratulations for your perseverance and remember this: Workplace culture is the new currency moving forward.

In pre-pandemic 2019, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published a study revealing that toxic workplace cultures cost U.S. employers $223 billion over the previous five years. Translated: Production suffers when people hate their co-workers and don’t respect management.

Couple that with the study’s findings that indicate 74% of working Americans believe their company’s organizational values helped guide them through the pandemic.

Bottom line: The working world might look a whole lot different in 2022, but a healthy workplace culture goes hand in hand with resilience. It can’t be an afterthought or a given. Ignore it and your company will pay the consequences.

Consider, too, that “Workplace culture is an evolving organism,” said Sarah Fulton, Vice President of Operations at The Lee Group. “It’s always fluid; it’s never constant.”

That means leadership must prioritize the “check-in” process — taking the pulse of everyone in the organization. While that might be easier for small companies, larger organizations must rely on their mid-level managers to be in tune with their team members to ensure a positive workplace culture stays that way. It’s never been more important to have an awareness of what else might impact an employee’s productivity — everything from health concerns to childcare issues to sheer exhaustion is on the table.

The SHRM study notes that among workers who left a job in the last five years due to workplace culture, more than half cited their relationship with their manager as the reason.

It’s not unusual for managers to feel so overwhelmed with their own pile of work that they assume it’s business as usual if they don’t hear a peep.

That’s why If your team isn’t meeting regularly, it should, advised Fulton, though she certainly doesn’t advocate for meeting for meeting’s sake. Meet with a purpose and an agenda.

“Start the meeting on a personal level,” she said. “We call it a segue into the meeting. Everybody goes around the room and talks about a personal good news and a business good news. That way we hear something from everyone about what’s going on in their life.”

Being inclusive and attentive encourages people to contribute.

That spills into reviewing the prior week’s to-do list — what got accomplished last week? Follow that with a time when anyone can bring up an issue or a concern that slows down the ability to complete a task or project.

“This is also an opportunity to be positive if there’s something you’re excited about you want to bring to the team,” Fulton says.

Leadership should maintain an open door policy, Fulton said. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing in a group setting. Always let team members know they can come to you to talk about concerns or conflicts.

“It’s the manager’s responsibility to create the openings for that,” Fulton said.

Keeping communication lines healthy between management and workers has always mattered, but today with so many staffs remote or partially remote, there has to be a mechanism in place for dialogue.

It’s also important for management to review its organizational values to make sure they’re not just words on the company website. Leadership should be demonstrating those values and embracing them, Fulton said. No one knows better than your staff if your company values are authentic.

Parting thought: It’s a candidate-driven market today with a lot of competition for talent. In order to retain that talent, people must be nurtured and valued at work. Don’t expect them to grind it out if they don’t feel like they matter or their concerns aren’t addressed properly.

Today’s leadership is charged with being proactive to maintain a positive workplace culture while constantly seeking to improve processes to keep it that way. Because in today’s climate, the best workers have options that they aren’t afraid to exercise.

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