Depending on the type of business, company culture can evolved due to the adoption of new technologies, changing demographics and workplace norms, forces and competition from within the industry, and several other factors. Business cultures are extremely varied and wide-ranging and continue to shift and change.
Human resource departments play a vital role in helping to come up with policies and norms that define the company culture. On one level, a healthy and stimulating company culture can drastically affect employee performance and output. In fact, one recent study found that happy workers are 12 percent more productive than the average worker. On a national level, disgruntled workers are estimated to cost American business around $300 billion each year
Furthermore, in today´s environment a healthy company culture can be an essential tool to attract and retain the best employee talent. Below, we take a look at some of the ways in which human resource departments can influence and even define the culture of a company.
The Importance of Culture
While managers and other company leadership might have the final say on salaries and other employee benefits, HR departments know that many workers are looking for more than just a good paycheck. Creating a solid company culture will largely depend on what type (and age) of workers a company is wanting to attract.
Understanding the defining needs of the current generation of high talent employees is essential when deciding on what aspects of company culture you want to highlight. For example, Millennial employees have shown themselves to be team oriented. It is also important to them to be able to feel as if they are contributing to a larger social goal or purpose. Gen Z, on the other hand, are more career oriented. Having grown up in times of economic uncertainty, finding a company that offers them a certain sense of career stability will be an essential aspect of the company culture they are attracted to.
Both generations, however, are interested in actively participating in the direction of a company. Because the Internet and the digital revolution have opened much more opportunities for entrepreneurism and small business ownership, companies wanting to retain young employee talent will need to actively engage their employees in spaces that allow their creativity to flourish. It will be important for almost all younger workers to find themselves in a company environment culture that encourages independent, creative work that contributes towards a larger company goal.
Human resource teams thus need to understand the preferences and needs of their workers and aim to implement policies that allow a company culture to align with those needs.
Going Beyond the Office Cubicle and the 9-5 Job Definition
Many workers today, and especially the younger generations who grew up in the digital age, will most likely expect to find opportunities for flexible and accommodating work conditions. Whereas older generations of workers likely grew up in more traditional office work settings, younger people will appreciate and even expect the prospects of working remotely on certain job tasks.
Human resource departments can coordinate with other company leaders to shape a company culture that allows certain, trusted members of the workforce to work outside the office. In some settings, this might be necessary for job tasks and descriptions that require workers to be mobile and engage with clients outside of the office. In other occasions, job perks and benefits can be centered on the opportunity to work from home or other areas when physical presence in the office is not required.
A solid human resource team that crafts and implements a flexible work environment can be an important part of a company culture that can attract new employee talent. Of course, remote employees also need to be accountable to their superiors and show a solid work ethic. Using the latest time and attendance software to help observe, monitor and oversee job tasks performed remotely can help to create a company culture based on trust and shared responsibility. This is a great human resource strategy that can attract the best employee talent who value and demand a non-traditional work environment while also helping to stimulate a sense of mutual confidence and accountability.
The Importance of Transparent, Digital Communication
Another important aspect of company culture is related to transparent, open, and honest communication that allows employees at all levels to understand what is expected of them, the opportunities for growth within the company, and other fundamentally important information related to the direction of the company and their specific tasks as they relate to those company goals.
Inclusion in Decision Making Processes
Obviously, every employee in a company will not be able to intimately involved in every decision that a company takes. There is a need for visionary leadership that determines a company´s goals, ambitions, and direction. However, an inclusive and inviting company culture will provide needed spaces for workers to offer their opinions and feedback in certain areas.
For example, while a lower level employee should probably not be involved in a team drafting a strategic five year business plan to expand into new international markets, he or she could be encouraged to participate in a collective decision making process related to employee benefits and perks that pertain to the job tasks they are involved in.
Human resource teams can and should be involved in opening spaces and opportunities for workers of all different levels to have their voice heard and thus feel like they are an integral part of the decision making process.
Define and Communicate the Larger Social Impact of Your Company Culture
People want to be involved in initiatives that they feel contribute to the improvement of our world. While every employee has a financial motive for the jobs they take on, a good salary and decent benefits might not be enough to retain your best employees. Studies have shown that many workers want to feel that they are contributing to a larger social good.
As social and environmental awareness continues to grow, HR departments should be actively engaged in explaining to employees and the larger public how their company is reducing its carbon footprint, improving lives and opportunities around the world, and contributing to a better future. In a certain sense, HR departments are responsible for creating a brand that their employees can identify with and feel proud about.
It is the People who make the Culture
Even if a company has done the work to come up with a successful business plan and the required policies that allow for a healthy company culture to emerge, the people who make up the company will always be actively shaping how that culture actually plays out. Human resource departments are essential in defining the characteristics that ideal employees can bring into a workspace to enhance the culture that is trying to be created.
The most sacred and important task of all HR departments is to help managers and company leadership identify, hire, and retain candidates who combine top-tier talent with a personality that will contribute to a healthy and thriving company culture. Open lines of communication, high quality hiring practices that make an effort to go beyond a written application and a five minute interview, and spaces for actionable feedback are essential for a healthy company culture.
What about Gen Z?
Past generations might very well have been more open towards tolerating a “less than ideal” company culture as long as the financial incentive remained intact. The Gen Zers who are set to flood into the workplace in the coming decade, however, will most likely demand company culture that fits their personal interests.
While every person and worker is different, Gen Zers, as the first digital native generation, will generally be looking for company cultures that openly embrace the full digitalization of the workplace. Furthermore, they will also be searching for company cultures that allow for flexibility while maintaining protocols for getting the work done. Lastly, Gen Zers will also be attracted to a company culture that offers their employees opportunities to collaborate and innovate, instead of being tied to monotonous tasks.
Human resource teams have a unique opportunity to genuinely shape and mold a company´s culture. The establishment of a solid, positive, encouraging company culture will help company´s attract the best talent on the market while also stimulating a happy workplace environment that can actually increase productivity.