5 Simple Steps Companies should take Right now to Reinforce the Right Values with their Leaders at all Ranks

Recently, we heard the news that the CEO and co-founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick resigned. At the Growth Studio, we have been following the stories of the company’s issues ever since one of their employees filed a harassment complaint. The stories are dear to us because our goal is to help organizations create conducive work environments where employees are engaged and happy.
 People join teams and organizations to earn a salary, support a worthy cause or project, and do work that they are passionate about, but they leave because of people; a co-worker, a boss or a boss from another department. This is what happened at Uber. A CEO that lacked effective leadership, a VP who was harassing a female employee, and an overall toxic culture. 
At a workshop I led recently, an attendee mentioned the fact that because she was a contract employee, a co-worker, younger than she was abusive, always looked down on her and never listened to her. These are the kind of workplace issues that can frustrate team members and cause teams to remain unproductive and dysfunctional. These are the kind of issues that cause organizations to lose their best employees. The problem is that organizations don’t understand the costs associated with low productivity and turnover therefore, organizations don’t take time to focus and invest in developing strong cultures, inclusivity and a civil work place.

In 2014, a group of Harvard researchers conducted a study of 3,200 employees in seven industries. Using surveys and statistical analyses, they found that employees who felt they worked in a caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork, had less absenteeism, and had better organizational results.

Studies also show that the cost to replace an employee could be 1.5 to 2.5 times the annual salary of the employee. Organizations who lose employees incur the cost to list a new job posting, re-hire, and train. Other hidden costs include the ones associated with low productivity, low morale, and lack of innovation.

Below are five actionable steps your organization can take to ensure that your work environment is conducive for maximum productivity, innovation and profits.

1. Communicate your Core Values — Core values are guiding principles that drive organizational behavior, help with decision making and create a great culture. What does your organization stand for? What do you value? What is your mission? I am sure your website lists your core values. But the question is how many of your leaders know what they are? The reason they don’t know is because you haven’t communicated it enough and they are not clear. Clarify what your values mean and communicate them often to your leaders and employees. One great thing Zappos has done is that they operate their organization based on ten simple and easy to remember core values known to all their employees who live by them.

“Organizations need to take their mission and vision statements, and core values from the plaque into the hearts and minds of the people”

2. Go back to your Employee Surveys Results — Your organization probably has conducted yearly employee feedback surveys but the question is, what has your organization done about them? Feedback from your employees is one of the fastest ways to begin to build a great culture. Your employees are your biggest asset and they have a voice. When they are not being listened to, this lowers morale and degrades trust. You will not get much out of an employee that does not trust you. I remember as an employee, I had filled out yearly surveys but nothing was done about what we really cared about. Go back to past survey results and do something about them. And beyond that, hold a town meeting or have one on one conversations to find out what employees really need and discover what they are really going through. Walk through the halls and connect with as many team members as possible.

“The 30 minutes your take out of your week to connect with employees will result in dividends that 30 minutes in your corner office will get you”

I remember watching an episode of Undercover Boss where the CEO of a fishing company disguised himself as an employee and spent some time with them at sea. As a result of doing this he was able to discover what the employees were experiencing and caused their work life to be more stressful. He was on a ship that was out at sea for six months. It wasn’t until he experienced this and talked to his employees that he realized that there was no way for the employees to communicate with their families. Imagine working for six months and not being able to talk to your family members. This prompted the company to add Wi-Fi capabilities on the ship. This is all because the CEO connected with employees. Imagine how morale and productivity would have improved. It is little things like this that will make a devoted employee stay with your company and continue to do their best work.

“People listen to those who listen to them”

3. Have Ongoing Leadership Training — I know a lot of people at organizations roll their eyes when it comes to leadership training. Personal and Leadership development will help executives, leaders and employees raise their awareness and grow their people skills. People behave the way they do mainly because of a lack of awareness.

Studies have shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) is needed as much IQ, functional, or technical knowledge. Uber has grown to a Billion dollar company but it takes effective leadership to stay there. Leadership ability determines the level of your effectiveness, and the only competitive advantage you have as an organization is your leaders. In order to improve employee engagement, reduce turnover rates, and build a great company culture, you have to possess a strong leadership foundation.

Continue to develop your leaders and you will have a conducive culture where employees can thrive and do their best work. At the Growth Studio, our leadership development programs always has a section on integrity. Because integrity, which leads to trust is the foundation of success. Something as simple as integrity can make or break an organization.

“Ability may take you to the top, but it takes integrity to stay there. Everything rises and falls on leadership”

4. Cultivate a Safe and Inclusive Environment — Cultivate an environment where it is safe for employees to make mistakes and fail. When employees get the feeling that they will be reprimanded for mistakes or failures, it holds them back from trying new things and from sharing ideas. This in turn leads to lack of innovation for your organization. It also affects morale and invites a non-challenging environment for your employees. Employees who are not challenged end up leaving. A safe environment is also a place where your employees are free to report any wrong doing without the fear of retribution and with the assurance that management will do something about it. The biggest error at Uber was that complaints were filed and nothing was done about them.

A safe environment is a place where everyone can be trusted. Trust emanates from integrity, consistency, competency and good motives. Trust begins from the top down. When your leaders display good character, keep their promises and are driving results, it drives up trust.

An Inclusive environment or culture is a place where no one feels left out. An employee who does not look like, think like or fit what others are already familiar with or used to may be discriminated against or have their needs go unmet even if in a very subtle way. For example, how accommodating is your company to women? How is the introvert treated in meetings? Who do your leaders inadvertently leave out of conversations and decision making? Just like with the contract worker mentioned in the introduction above, how are your leaders treating those who don’t have the same status as others or someone who has an accent? The solution to this is to raise awareness through training and education, and put a structure in place to help your management lead inclusively.

“Trust is the foundation of Leadership”

5. Set an Example and Take Action — This ties in with no. 4 above. As leaders, one of the best things we can do is to set an example. People do what people see. People respond more to what they see not what they hear. When one violation occurs and nothing is done about it, it means it is okay regardless of whether the rules and expectations are written down somewhere. You may have your core values written down and communicated but if your leaders are not abiding by them and setting an example, it is of no use. Everything United Airlines did during the plane dragging incident earlier this year did not match up with their written core values. As an organization, create a system to help your leaders set good examples and take immediate action when things are not done the way should. Ensure that everything your organization does matches what is written on your website, what you say at the all hands meetings and what you tell your investors and other stake holders.

“Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying”

The Growth Studio provides performance improvement and leadership development coaching and training services to help science, engineering, technology and healthcare organizations discover and close the gaps keeping them from reaching their goals and achieving sustainable growth that comes through a strong organizational culture. We work with organizations, individual contributors and leaders by providing the tools to help them solve problems, improve performance and reach their greatest potential. We believe that growth, success and fulfillment comes from continuous improvement and a strong leadership foundation. We provide jargon free and easy to implement solutions to help you crush the problems that are keeping you from achieving the results you want.

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