Tag Archives: Corporate Culture

Empathy: Corporate Performance Enhancer?

If you’ve heard me speak on “Humanity Means Business,” you know I pay a lot of attention to the intersection of corporate culture, business performance, and people. And I mention several organizations that measure and/or rank employers on scales of relevant cultural attributes. It is sometimes surprising to audiences that top ranked (on a number of lists) employers are also top financial performers. So lists like FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and WorldBlu’s annual list of certified employers, along with BCorp certified companies and devotees of the Conscious Capitalism movement – all provide road maps for leaders to enhance corporate performance through creating strong, human (of varying sorts) relationships with their people. And it’s always interesting to me that many organizations show up on more than one list.

Through  my Facebook feed, I found a different list posted on Harvard Business Review Online on December 1, 2016:  The 20 Most Empathetic Companies, 2016. This “corporate fitbit for empathy” is about “understanding our emotional impact on others and making change as a result” and its authors believe that empathy “is more important to a successful business than it has ever been, correlating to growth, productivity, and earnings per employee.” While the authors don’t share those correlations, they do share the 2016 list. And the listed companies do not surprise; they show up on other lists.

“The Empathy Index seeks to answer the question: Which companies are successfully creating empathetic cultures? These are the companies that retain the best people, create environments where diverse teams thrive, and ultimately reap the greatest financial rewards.”

Based on this list, I’ll easily believe that they all have better than average retention statistics, and certainly strong records of financial performance. But I wonder if each company on their list is truly an organization “where diverse teams thrive.” One just needs to note the number of Silicon Valley tech companies on the list. We all recognize the diversity challenges these organizations face – including those on this list.

The article’s author, Belinda Parmer, says “the tech sector continues to lead our ranking, now accounting for an even bigger share of our top ten (60% in 2016 versus 50% in 2015), with Facebook knocking Microsoft off the top spot, owing to its focus on improving its internal culture and the introduction of the Empathy Lab.” So trying counts. But should it?

I wonder at the assumptions being made by the researchers. These are their research parameters:

  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • Company culture
  • Brand perception
  • Public messaging through social media
  • CEO approval ratings from staff
  • Ratio of women on boards
  • Number of accounting infractions and scandals
  • A carbon metric was added in 2016

That’s a lot. They don’t say how they measure these components, just that many are from public sources. Counting the number of women on boards is easy. Measuring ethics and culture are not. Defining and measuring brand perception is doable, measuring leadership is not.

I think we’d all agree that empathy is a good thing – for people and organizations. I’m really not sure, however, that empathy – as a leading organizational culture characteristic – is that meaningful. Are these 20 companies on this list because they’re trying to be empathetic? Or are they on the list because they pay people fairly and well; have intelligent, approachable leaders; are competitive in their sectors and have business plans that take advantage of – and lead – their market conditions? I’m not sure we can tell.

I’m not convinced that empathy as a corporate culture cornerstone is something that moves the performance needle more than respect, intelligence, humanity and flexibility – or any other list of current cultural attributes. It’s an interesting discussion, though, and I encourage you to read the HBR online article. It will definitely get you thinking.

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Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, Empathy, Employee Engagement, Employee Productivity, Engagement, HBR Online, Workplace Culture

I’m Not Your Mother!

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This is a popular post from a year ago. I was reminded of it at the WorkHuman conference earlier this month.

Some things are simple. Some things are complicated. And some things that seem simple are actually pretty complicated. For example, it seems like a simple observation that happy employees are better employees. And, in fact, data abound to prove that point. But how to get happy employees is a little more complicated.

Early in my career as a business leader I always believed that people were my critical competitive edge and that creating a strong, caring culture was my job. But happiness? Come on. I wasn’t my employees’ mother. The nature of the employer/employee relationship, I believed, was a commercial relationship. Employees come to work, do a good job and I pay them. The more I could remove obstacles from their ability to do good work, the more I could offer development and thanks for a job well done, the better they performed. It wasn’t rocket science. Treat people well and they’ll treat your employees well. I got that. But trying to make them happy? I didn’t think that was part of the deal. (And I was a pretty effective business leader.)

But as I matured as a leader, I did begin to wonder about this notion of working to create happiness at work. I spent some time at Zappos – a culture whose leader is all about making his workforce happy. And while the Zappos culture wouldn’t be a fit for me, it worked for them. And they were happy. Really happy. And their business results were such that they could sell the business to Amazon for over $1 billion.

And then I became CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute and was covered over in data that prove a direct line from employee well-being to financial performance. And so while early in my career the notion of employee happiness didn’t register as a leadership imperative, I now believe that creating a culture that, in Tony Hseih’s words, delivers happiness to employees is quite clearly a practical and effective way to achieve top line growth, profitability, customer loyalty and, most importantly, employee loyalty.

In preparation for the Globoforce WorkHuman Conference in a couple of weeks, I was reading up on employee happiness and ran across one of their white papers, The Science of Happiness. It’s a quick read and makes some rather simple but profound points backed up by reliable data.

Here are 6 reasons why you want happy employees based on research from the Wall Street Journal and the iOpener Institute. Happy employees:

  • Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues
  • Believe they are achieving their potential 2x as much
  • Spend 65% more time feeling energized
  • Are 58% more likely to go out of the way to help their colleagues
  • Identify 98% more strongly with the values of their organization
  • Are 186% more likely to recommend their organization to a friend

Download the paper. It’ll take you less than 10 minutes to read and will give you some simple ideas to begin to see the benefits of focusing on employee well-being and happiness. And then join me at the WorkHuman Conference next year and let’s talk about happiness, gratitude, culture, and employee and organization success.

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Filed under China Gorman, Conferences, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Engagement, Globoforce, Gratitude, WorkHuman

Do Employees Give Leaders Points For Trying?

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In honor of next week’s WorkHuman Conference, I thought I’d draw your attention to this white paper:  The ROI of Recognition in Building a More Human Workplace.  It was published by the WorkHuman Research Institute at Globoforce, the social recognition solutions company. Because it is a white paper, it has a definite bias towards recognition, but it also has some very interesting insights to share about the larger question of the impact of culture on employee engagement.

The value of bringing humanity – a recognition that employees are more than 9-to-5 skillsets – into your culture, your policies, your practices, your leadership behavior is being documented in organizations of all sizes, in all industries and in all geographic locations. This white paper gives further insight into the attributes of “humanity” in the workplace through an analysis of a survey that was in the field from Nov 4-7, 2015 and had 828 randomly selected, full-time employees in the U.S.

The key findings of the survey analysis include:

  1. When employees believe leaders are striving to create a more human workplace, culture metrics improve.

  2. Recognition not only significantly improves engagement, but also creates a more human culture.

  3. Employees’ attitudes toward change and optimism for the future correlate with recognition efforts and efforts to build a more human workplace.

  4. Employees trust colleagues most, but it is trust for leaders that most impacts culture.

  5. Recognition and a human workplace are drivers of employee well-being and happiness.

I was very interested in findings #1 and #4 – the leadership focused findings.

Finding #1:  “When employees believe leaders are striving to create a more human workplace, culture metrics improve.”

This is fascinating. It implies that as long as leaders are trying to be more human, they get the benefit of the doubt. It would seem that employees give their leaders points for trying. Here’s a particularly informative graph from the report on this point:

ROI of Humanity 1

It seems clear that if employees believe the leaders of their organization care about them as a people – not as skillsets – they are willing to engage more across the board. Care. Not the usual word to describe the relationship between leaders and employees. But that seems to be changing. And that’s a good thing.

ROI of Humanity 2

Interesting connections.

Regarding finding #4, trust in leaders most impacts culture, I found the comparisons informative. Comparing the effects of trusting colleagues vs. trusting the boss vs. trusting leadership on various culture dynamics, the trends were clear. The impact on engagement was telling:

ROI of Humanity 3

Creating and maintaining trusting relationships with colleagues, bosses and leadership are, of course, hallmarks of more human-focused cultures. Most highly valued by employees are, interestingly, the relationship of trust with senior leaders. Many would have us believe that it’s all about the work unit, the close-in colleagues. The “best friend at work” syndrome. Others believe it’s all about the immediate boss.  I’ve long believed that trustworthy, authentic and approachable leaders – at every level – can overcome most any cultural issue – with trustworthiness being the key. And this data would agree with me. This report looks at several dimensions of trust that are quite interesting.

I like this white paper. It provides some thought provoking analysis that support the growing focus on creating more human workplaces. Workplaces that are more productive, more collaborative, more innovative and more engaging for employees. What business model couldn’t use more of all of those?

 

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Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Globoforce, WorkHuman