Reimagining Corporate Culture to Engage Employees

By JoJo Harris | October 7, 2019

Today’s work environments are vastly different from those of a couple decades ago. Open floor plans are the norm and physical doors are often reserved only for top executives and meeting spaces. Technology has made it possible for professionals to work from anywhere at any time. Smartphones are never far from reach and wearable technology makes individuals accessible at all hours of the day. In today’s hyper connected environment, the lines between personal and professional lives are blurred and often intertwined.

At the same time, younger generations have different expectations of their employers and office environments than the generations before them. Work is seldom reserved for the hours of nine to five and it’s not uncommon for offices to offer complimentary meals and snacks, on-site gyms and even dry-cleaning services. In today’s employment landscape, insurance organizations must create collaborative, forward-thinking workplaces that attract and engage employees of all generations.

However, as most know, creating a culture that resonates with employees involves much more than free snacks, cappuccino machines or a foosball table.

By reimagining the office environment with a focus on engagement and growth, employers can increase retention, innovation and productivity.

Building on employee strengths rather than trying to fix weaknesses results in much greater productivity.

Start with Leadership

Culture permeates throughout an organization, with leaders setting the overall tone. Great leaders ensure all employees feel valued and connected to the company’s performance, regardless of their levels within the organization. These leaders are clear on what needs to happen to achieve goals, as well as how each employee’s role contributes to the greater organization’s success.

The leadership team is also responsible for exemplifying and encouraging transparency and collaboration. Keep employees aware of company initiatives, plans and priorities and admit when you don’t have all the answers. As modernization efforts become more commonplace, employees should understand their roles in the process and how those roles may change in the future. By aligning employees with company goals and demonstrating how each employee is vital to company success, leaders can help their teams feel a sense of purpose and belonging to a greater cause.

Involve Employees in Defining Culture

While leaders set the example, encourage employees to have a stake in how culture is built and recognized throughout the organization. This may mean creating an activities committee tasked with developing opportunities for individuals to interact outside of work and get to know one another.

It could also include seeking input from employees on how to best recognize wins and acknowledge colleagues who go above and beyond their standard job descriptions. True culture must be created, lived and breathed by everyone within the organization. All employees should feel a sense of ownership for the company’s culture.

Leaders must also create an environment where employees are empowered to bring their ideas forward, knowing that they are being heard and considered. This is more than a simple survey or suggestion box. Encourage managers to continually ask for employee feedback with the full intent of applying their thoughts and ideas whenever possible.

Foster Inclusion

Encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Gone are the days when employees kept their professional and personal lives completely separate. Individuals have interests and priorities outside of work, which help shape their perspectives and ultimately make them well-rounded professionals. Encourage your staff to be themselves at work, rather than conforming to a separate “work” persona. This means cultivating an environment where differences and unique experiences are embraced and celebrated. Afterall, diversity of thought and backgrounds are key contributors to innovation and problem-solving.

Additionally, by recognizing people have responsibilities and obligations outside of work, employers are creating environments that keep people fulfilled and engaged. Flexibility in hours and work locations demonstrate organizations are understanding and respectful of employees’ needs and willing to accommodate family obligations and other interests outside of work.

Focus on Employees’ Strengths

Tap into employees’ superpowers by identifying unique strengths and developing and focusing on those attributes. Think about how skills can be leveraged for the betterment of the business, while helping employees shine. Professionals who regularly use their strengths are also noticeably more engaged, according to research by Gallup.

It’s likely that employees will excel in some areas and lack skills in others. Enable staff to bring their unique talents to the table and don’t try to fit them into a specific box. Building on employee strengths rather than trying to fix weaknesses results in much greater productivity. By embracing different work styles, you’ll build an open culture where strengths are highlighted, celebrated and leveraged to increase productivity.

Emphasize Development

In today’s candidate-driven market, growing talent within the organization is more important than ever. However, it also impacts retention and overall job satisfaction. Gallup found that 87% of Millennials consider professional development to be important. According to Deloitte, 28% of Millennials who plan to leave their organizations in the next two years say it’s due to lack of learning and development opportunities.

This is more than growing employees within their current roles. Have talent reviews at least once a year and take the time to ask about employees’ long-term career aspirations.

Then, create a plan to help move them toward those goals. Facilitate mentorships across departments and functions. Provide exposure to other business units and teams. Encourage projects and experiences that will take individuals outside of their comfort zones and stretch their professional skills.

Have Fun and Celebrate

Don’t forget to celebrate the great work your employees are doing. This may be through peer-to-peer kudos or more formal company recognition programs. It can be easy to get caught up in projects and deadlines; encourage employees to take some time to reflect on their work and enjoy their wins. It’s possible to do great work while having fun along the way.

Company culture can take many forms, but it goes much deeper than office decor and a handful of perks. By helping employees connect to their colleagues, work and company, insurers can cultivate an environment that attracts and retains professionals from all generations. Culture is actively created and lived, starting with leaders and permeating throughout the entire organization.

About JoJo Harris

Harris is senior vice president of human resources of The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578. Email: jharris@ jacobsononline.com.

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Insurance Journal West October 7, 2019
October 7, 2019
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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