In the current job market, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, good employees are more valuable now than perhaps ever. Almost every one of my clients is looking to hire, and almost every one looking is complaining that that they “can’t find anyone good.” It’s a seller’s market, and recruits are asking potential new employers hard questions and making tough demands. They want not only top-of-the-market pay, but also top-tier employee benefits and a great company culture.
But what, exactly, does that mean? In San Francisco, we often equate “culture” with ping pong tables, self-serve espresso machines, open all-glass office space, and beer on tap. Packs of young, smart millennials in jeans and Allbirds talking about their company’s unlimited paid time off policy. But is that what it means to have a great workplace culture?
Not acccording to a recent article by Melissa Daimler in the Harvard Business Review. In her article “Why Great Employees Leave Great Cultures,” Daimler argues that there are three key elements to a company culture — behaviors, systems, and practices — and that these elements are then guided by the company’s values. When all three of these elements line up with each other, and with the company’s espoused values, then you have a great company culture.
Why, Daimler asks, do good employees leave organizations with great cultures? Because “gaps” start to appear between the organization’s (1) behaviors, systems, and practices, on the one hand, and (2) the organization’s espoused values on the other. For example, an organization might claim to offer a great work-life balance…but then not offer paid family leave. This would be an example of a behavior-systems gap. Or, an organization might claim to be a consensus-driven company…but then only promote people who are authoritarian decision-makers. This would be an example of a behavior-practices gap. Or, an organization might take great pride in being inclusive and open to feedback…but then have managers who regularly fail to conduct exit interviews. This would be an example of a systems-practice gap. The list goes on and on.
So how does an organization respond to a sagging company culture? According to Daimler, the organization needs to examine, refine, and re-align its behaviors, systems, and practices:
Behaviors — identify the behaviors and skills that express the organization’s values. Get expected behaviors clarifies and then focus on practicing and rewarding them.
Systems — develop systems that help express and sustain the behaviors that the organization values. There are five key areas in a company where systems are critical, including hiring, goal-setting, assessing/measuring, developing, and rewarding. Every system used by a company in these five areas either reinforces or dilutes its culture, argues Daimler.
Practices — review the organization’s practices to ensure they are aligned with the organization’s values. This includes everything from company events to how meetings are run to how performance evaluations are conducted. Practices need to change as the organization grows and changes, so make sure your practices are current and appropriate for your organization now, given its current size and position in the market.
You can read Melissa Daimler’s article in Harvard Business Review here.