People leaders face a brand new set of challenges in 2022. Not only are employees looking for new positions, but their needs have also changed. That means our strategies for building a positive company culture must change, too.
These 5 people leaders are in the vanguard of culture change at their own companies. Find out what they’re doing to drive employee engagement—and why it’s working.
The leader: Dave Carhart, VP of People
Earlier this year, VP of People Lattice, Dave Carhart, spoke movingly about underestimating the challenges hybrid work would pose for the entire company.
“I was overconfident, both in my own assessment of what the pandemic would bring and I think all of us as a leadership really felt that we knew what hybrid working would be like,” Carhart told HR Daily Advisor.
“All of that was wrong…It’s taught me to embrace experimentation, optionality, and emergent strategy much more than I have in the past and also to be really open with employees about uncertainties, unknowns, and the undecideds,” he added.
Why it matters:
The realities of hybrid work have changed the priorities of employees. They’re looking for leadership not only to communicate hybrid work plans effectively, but to also offer more flexibility, higher base pay, and better opportunities for growth.
In response to these Great Resignation trends, it might be time to re-think your “rewards strategies,” suggests Carhart.
“Changing relationship between pay and location, new comp tools, the rise of the importance of benefits for remote employees, and the need to continue to shape benefits to support an increasingly diverse workforce,” will all drive how companies attract, reward, and engage their talent.
The leader: Ashley Yousafzai, Area Vice President, People Insights
BetterUp is a people coaching platform for organizations and individuals. In addition to overseeing BetterUp’s counseling partnerships, Dr. Ashley Yousafzai is a tireless advocate for gender equity in the workplace.
For Yousafzai, equity is part of valuing the employee as a whole person. “Our family leave policy caught my attention early in my job search,” she told her company blog last year.
“I feel supported in living a well-rounded life where financial pressures are not forcing me to choose between doing the work that I love and being a great parent.”
Why it matters:
As employees seek new opportunities, they’re looking for companies that will respect work/life balance and treat them as people with lives, responsibilities, and relationships outside of work.
According to Jim Harter, the Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Wellbeing at Gallup, policies that promote wellbeing will be the differentiator during the Great Reshuffle.
“As people start having more choices about where they work, they're going to remember what happened during the pandemic, and they're going to choose organizations based on those that help them improve their overall life,” Harter told the Gallup podcast.
These policies might include strong family leave, flexible hours, and a focus on equitable pay, as Yousafzai suggests above.
3. Culture Amp
The leader: Craig Forman, Lead People Scientist
As an enterprise platform for employee engagement, Culture Amp empowers its clients to transform their culture with better tools for performance management and employee development.
No one knows how to use performance data to create positive culture outcomes better than Craig Forman, Culture Amp’s Lead People Scientist. On the Culture Design Show podcast, Forman shared one of his top lessons from leading during the pandemic is the importance of emotional intelligence, or “EQ, EQ, EQ!”
“I’m able to grow from my failures, I’m able to learn, I’m able to take feedback, because I’m able to, like, get me out of it, and want the deep desire to grow,” Forman said. “And I think we need more of that with our leaders. It’s not a one and done, it’s not a training, it is a practice.”
Ultimately, your leadership’s ability to be vulnerable, reflective, and listen to your team drives culture change.
Why it matters:
At unhealthy companies, there’s often a big disconnect between employees and leadership. This leads to team members feeling overworked and undervalued, and, in the Great Reshuffle, that means they’re more likely to leave.
In fact, as many as 42% of employees surveyed by Gallup said that management and organizational culture were part of the reason they sought opportunities elsewhere. The manager or team leader alone accounts for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.
Employee engagement doesn’t begin and end with individual workers. How your managers and top leadership recognize good work and make employees feel valued matters more than any reward you could choose.
The leader: Shane Metcalf, Co-Founder & Chief People and Culture Officer
15Five is a human-centered performance management platform. As its Chief People and Culture Officer, Shane Metcalf strives to create an environment of psychological safety for his team.
Safety and trust make it easier for employees to communicate with one another—and with their managers. Establishing this sense of safety is even more important during a time like the Great Reshuffle.
“If you can be in a more continuous conversation with your people, you'll know if they're thinking about leaving, you'll know if you can actually provide them what they really want,” Metcalf told the Rec Tech Media podcast.
Why it matters:
If you’re only surveying your team once or twice a year, you’ll miss out on meaningful opportunities to improve employee engagement as you go.
For Metcalf, this means establishing “continuous feedback loops, so you can know where the squeaky wheels are.” With regular, personalized feedback from your employees, you’ll be able to address culture issues more quickly.
Whether you use surveys, one-on-one meetings, all-hands meetings, or all three, make a plan for how you’ll use feedback. After all, it’s just as important to collect the feedback as it is to make an action plan. Be sure to communicate the action plan directly to your team and hold leadership accountable for reporting their progress toward change.
The leader: Anna Binder, Head of People
One of the premier project management software companies, Asana is also making waves for its company culture. Anna Binder, Head of People, is a big reason why.
When asked to speak about her culture building successes, Binder told the Culture Amp podcast that one of Asana’s main values is “rejecting false trade-offs.”
This is especially important for fast-growing companies that may wish to emphasize opportunities for career growth, says Binder. “Sometimes the most effective and fastest way to grow personally in your career is to get layered, is to have somebody to come in and hire a manager or another layer above you,” she said.
This counter-intuitive move helps employees grow more quickly, giving them a mentor with more experience to learn from in a hands-on way.
Why it matters:
The Great Reshuffle is being fueled by employees who are looking for opportunities to grow. And if they can’t find those opportunities in their current roles, they’re looking elsewhere.
You may wish to hire additional management and leadership roles to support your current employees, as Binder suggests. Investing in skill-building, coaching, and better onboarding programs can also transform your employee experience and help you navigate the Great Reshuffle.
As employee experience becomes the primary differentiator in tech, these lessons from top people leaders point the way toward a better company culture. From adjusting your compensation and benefits packages to developing more supportive work policies, there are tactical things you can do to attract and retain talent. Most of all, the ability of your managers and leaders to reflect, grow, and respond to employee feedback will drive a culture of company-wide growth. After all, culture—and employee experience—comes from the top.