Culture walk or talk

By March 3, 2015March 8th, 2016Cultural Alignment & Change

Does a culture walk or talk?

Quality Progress released their annual salary survey results for 2014. For me this was very eye opening. Does a culture walk or talk? They noted that 28.3% of respondents were dissatisfied. Dissatisfied! The first leap for many people is that pay wasn’t enough. True, salaries stagnated last year while profits of companies on balance expanded. Digging deeper it is clear to me that the money just adds insult to injury.

2015 is projected to be a highly mobile year

I saw two clear trends in the data. Both rest on culture and the organization’s belief system. The first trend was when an employer actually values development of the team, the organization is seen as slightly better. This trend looks to be like training and development is not really optional and seen as a basic factor for employees. I say this because the impact is only slightly enhanced when employers add formal certification or pay better because of the achievement. The satisfaction here seems to be expected by employees. Additionally, there is a magnified penalty assessed to the organization in the minds of employees when development is not paid for by the company.

Authenticity breeds retention

Now there is a subtlety not drawn out in the survey so I’m reaching a bit for this next part. It seems logical that if an employer supports employees in their development in a genuine way, paying for it from company funds is less likely a factor of satisfaction. Likewise, when a company does pay for the training but doesn’t support personal growth, there is evidence in the survey that the training provided is discounted in the minds of employees. So, if a company is going to pay for it, it is in everyone’s best interests to really desire people to grow.

Going a bit further, employers that do not support it or do so disingenuously have as much as a third of their of their population dissatisfied. Employee dissatisfaction is way down the road of a disengaged person. This means that they stopped caring and bringing their best to work a long time ago. They essentially have one foot out the door.

Most HR professionals I know would say that is fine and we’ll upgrade our talent when these people leave. I would contend that a deeper issue is here, which is the second trend the survey highlights for me — The mindset of entrenchment which supports cultural momentum. The deep seated, recession thinking that we can replace people with better people when this person doesn’t work out is not working today and less likely for 2015. 2015 is projected to be a highly mobile year with wages expanding and people switching companies more than in the past few years. That’s expensive for companies, particularly with the mindset that people are cogs in a machine. Why? Well, finding, onboarding and getting a new employee to be productive in a knowledge economy is no less than six months and most experts agree that it takes a full year for the person to fully contribute and pay back the investment. With potentially a third of your workforce at risk of jumping to a competitor, that’s a huge hit on productivity and added cost.

2015 also looks to be a year of higher sales with cheap oil and increased consumption by Americans. Loss of productivity is not what you want now. Additionally, adding pressure to new people to produce faster at full capability as a cultural norm is only going to lead to more turnover.

Beliefs about control

The survey shows that the older the industry, the more likely the culture is entrenched in this mechanistic model and using command-and-control style management. It also showed that newer industries are geared toward investment in people and in general have happier employees. Many arguments could be made that people don’t like manufacturing and want office work but I think that is shallow and untrue. Having seen various industries I saw the management’s true belief in enriching their employees growth was the key factor, regardless of industry. Breaking out of the cultural momentum is tough to do but 2015 is likely to be a tough year for those stuck in the people replacement paradigm.

Russell Lindquist

Author Russell Lindquist

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