It’s no secret that employees spend the majority of their lives working. At a minimum, eight-plus hours a day, five days a week are typically spent in offices, or increasingly, working remotely. It’s unrealistic to expect people to shut off their personalities when they go to work.
But at many companies, there is a trust deficit between leadership and staff that stymies individual expression — which is the foundation of a great company culture. Human connection can help maximize the potential and productivity of employees, so company leaders and human resources need to concentrate on building trust by investing in their employees as whole people. Here are a few things we can do to help restore humanity in HR.
You’re never going to know what inspires and motivates your employees if you don’t actively listen. How can employees trust you to do what’s best for them and the company if you don’t make an effort to find out what they think? Annual, quarterly or more frequent pulse surveys can give you a good temperature check of your workforce and are incredibly helpful tools. Surveys allow you to identify pockets of discontent and pinpoint areas for growth. They also signal to your employees that you care what they think, can help you determine how they are feeling and inform you on how to enhance their experience. When employees feel heard and respected, their trust in management grows. More importantly, though, you must act on their feedback as swiftly as possible. Otherwise, you risk losing any trust the survey built.
Our team discovered through an internal culture survey that the No. 1 thing our team members wanted was the Friday after Thanksgiving off as an official company holiday. The survey was completed in September, two months from Thanksgiving. It took some quick decisions and commitment from our entire leadership team, but we rallied around our team member experience and made it happen just in time for the holiday.
We as business leaders always need to make sure we’re taking care of our customers, investors and clients — even on the Friday after Thanksgiving — but it’s important that you put your heads together and find a way to give team members a meaningful reward that they’re expressing a need for, while still striving for customer service excellence. Actively listen and then act on what you hear as best you can. Your employees will see that effort and the growth of trust will be significant.
Once you listen and have a better understanding of your workforce and what your employees need to succeed, it’s important to start intentionally building programs that support your employees and create an approachable, trusting environment. A great place to start is developing a thoughtful diversity and inclusion strategy. We’ve seen a lot of success in this area through the establishment of employee resource groups, such as a women’s network, LGBTQ pride group, an African American network, a military veterans group and more.
Communities give employees a place to come together and feel more comfortable expressing themselves, while also serving as a valuable resource for the company. Embracing and supporting diversity through an inclusive work environment fosters new ideas and innovation by helping people feel more empowered to be their authentic selves.
Constant communication is key at every stage of a company’s journey to build a better culture. While corporate communications are a necessity, the most effective communication starts with leaders who are willing to engage. Leaders who are transparent, provide good feedback, communicate frequently and take time to connect with their team are better able to build trust. Trust, in good times and bad, is how you define a great culture.
To sustain that trust, HR and communications teams need to collectively work together to provide more engaging, less formal channels. Think through ways your organization can offer informal forums that create more personal conversations between leaders and employees. Offering skip-level meetings where your junior-level employees are given more access to senior leaders is one good way to foster face-to-face communication. These meetings allow junior employees to feel heard and become more invested in their leaders. Another idea, and one that has worked well in our company, is providing an internal social networking channel that encourages a two-way dialogue. This type of platform gives your workforce an opportunity to connect with leaders and employees across teams and locations.
In the end, putting humanity back into human resources is about building trust. Employees who feel comfortable being their whole selves at the office will do better work and be more dedicated to your organization. It requires constant reevaluation, flexibility and frequent communication, but in the end, is worth it as you cultivate the right culture to help your business and your people succeed.