There's a big difference between the culture of an organisation that is employee-focused and one that isn't. And right now, the best way organisations can differentiate themselves with customers is to differentiate themselves with employees. The employee experience has a big impact on customer experience, and the smart companies know this.
In this blog, I've written about some of the signs that you work for an employee-focused company. I'm not suggesting that if your employer doesn't do the below, they're a bad employer! But it's certainly fair to say that if you recognise some of the below from your employer, it's a positive sign.
Here at 1-1 Recruitment we're passionate about helping candidates find the culture that makes them happy, so if you need any advice or are looking for a new role, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
They get to know you
People are complex and sometimes bring their lives to work with them. Good employers recognise people as individuals. Sometimes this can be as simple as remembering birthdays and providing regular opportunities to socialise and celebrate success. Yes, there's a fine line between getting to know your staff and overstepping the mark. But as well as the emotional and psychological wellbeing an employee gains from feeling that they are important and cared about, an employer has much to gain from knowing what drives and motivates its employees. (We'll touch upon a related point later).
Incidentally, both Facebook and Google, two companies fairly renowned for progressive approaches to employment, have conducted internal research to find out what qualities employees liked to see in their leaders. In both cases, knowing that leaders cared about employees emerged as one of the top qualities.
Good and regular communication with employees is crucial, and that should happen formally and informally.
They monitor how they stack up against the competition for pay and benefits packages
Strong employers often benchmark their own talent against the broader market to help ensure their staff are on competitive packages. But they also know that few people are motivated entirely by money: opportunities for progression, reward and recognition, an inclusive working culture and an appreciative manager all rank highly in employee surveys, and most of this can be part of a talent management system. (Some of it is cultural).
Their employee charter doesn't just live on paper – it lives in behaviours
If a book tells you that a nettle doesn't sting but experience teaches you that it does, you're quickly going to learn to trust your experience over what you read on a page. Employees pick up on management behaviours far more quickly than they learn policies and employee charters by rote.
You can have a lovely employee charter, but if there's a gulf between how a company wants to behave and how it actually does, people will quickly learn this. Good employers "live" their charters. They don't just claim to be good employers – they act like them.
Good employers reward risk tasking (within reason!)
The most competitive organisations allow their employees to make mistakes. Now of course there's a fine line here, and I don't mean that good employers continually tolerate bad behaviour or poor work. But the way that management responds to people who aren't afraid to reach out and experiment (within boundaries) is one of the qualities that marks out progressive companies that invest in their people.
Good organisations encourage creative thinking and part of that is about ensuring your culture is not one that dulls ambition through fear. In the last point, I talked about how quickly employees pick up on management behaviours. People in an organisation soon learn how that organisation responds to people who want to stretch themselves. It's no coincidence that we often see the same few companies attracting the brightest talent, particularly in the hi-tech sector. It's mostly because those companies are famed for supporting, rewarding and encouraging ideas, entrepreneurialism and risk-taking.
They understand and embrace difference and diversity
As leaders, business owners have a responsibility to ensure they understand what each new generation wants out of life. Millennials aren't necessarily looking for exactly the same qualities from a job that baby boomers were when they were starting their careers. Good employers understand this and do their homework to understand how to get the best out of different generations. They also embrace diversity, understanding the value that diverse cultures and points of view can bring when it comes to customer service, innovation and working practices. Diversity doesn't just "feel" good: extensive research by management consultancies and think tanks including McKinsey & Co has proven that racially and gender-diverse companies outperform their less diverse competitors.
They have a talent management system geared up for appraisal and reward
Strong employers have well-structured assessment, reward, progression and workforce planning methodologies and a well thought-out talent management system. This means ensuring there are regular opportunities for training, progression and mutual feedback - all things that any reasonable person would want from a job. Notice the "mutual" there – it's important that employees have the opportunity to communicate in a formal as well as informal context, feel safe providing open and honest feedback, and have a say in shaping their role.
A strong approach to developing talent also includes checks and balances and an opportunity to correct and support employees who are underperforming.
They know when (and how) to praise and criticise
Good employers praise. One of the biggest causes of people leaving their post is that they feel unappreciated (often by their direct manager). There's little more dispiriting than an employer who is quick to criticise but slow to praise or recognise good work. One of the best project managers I've worked with, who led a significant change project that I was involved in, praised her teams in public and resolved issues and setbacks in private. I'm still inspired by that example today.
They try to accommodate good people
So many job offers are turned down, and so many people leave an employer, because of changes in their personal circumstances. If an employer knows that a member of its team is experiencing challenging circumstances, why shouldn't it do all it can to be flexible and work around those circumstances? Not only does that approach prevent costly talent churn and "brain drain" but it also sends a very powerful message to other employees.
How does an employer get to know about this? By knowing its employees and gaining their trust, as mentioned above. For employers, a little can go a long way when it comes to knowing your team.
They promote from within
I'm a recruiter, so I understand the need to bring fresh talent into an organisation, but I'm also passionate about the need to retain employees, develop them and promote from within.
Not only do existing employees have valuable knowledge of an organisation, but they've also already demonstrated that they are a cultural fit. Furthermore, employers who aren't investing into training and developing their own people enough to warrant promoting them clearly don't have much faith in either their own training or their people! There are few clearer signs of a good culture than internal success stories.
They trust their employees
Can you think of anything more demotivating than patronising rules that suggest the leadership team doesn't trust its workforce to act like adults? Me neither! It's better to assume a degree of maturity on the part of your workforce and manage any evidence to the contrary, than to have most of your workforce feeling disgruntled at your draconian policies.