By Steven W. Pearce
In the past, companies used to engage in a high-pressure, take-no-prisoners culture to drive their financial success. But as times have changed, so have the expectations of employees. The younger generations want to work for companies that they work for to share their values. We now know that a cut-throat work environment is harmful to productivity over time. It has also been proven that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.
A caring culture has been defined as an organizational culture in which leaders consistently act in ways that help team members to thrive, and team members consistently act in ways that help other team members to thrive. As a result, the organization is able to care very well for customers.
The caring culture of a company begins with leadership that truly cares about employees and consistently demonstrates that care by putting people above profits.
The University of Massachusetts Global gives three suggestions that business leaders should subscribe to to ensure that their company is a caring culture:
- Build a foundation of empathy and trust: Most relationships are built upon two key elements: empathy and trust. If either is missing, the relationship can fail to progress or end completely. In a professional capacity, many leaders make the mistake of assuming their employees are predominantly motivated by money and status.
- Create a “Want To” environment: There are two types of environments leaders can create: a “Want To” environment and a “Have To” environment. They can focus on establishing a workplace culture where employees want to show up, work hard, and produce high-quality results. The alternative is a culture in which employees begrudgingly feel that they have to go to work, often leaving them feeling disengaged, bitter, or even coerced.
- Set a tone of appreciation: Author and speaker Brian Tracy said it best, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” In order to maintain that morale consistently in the workplace, caring leaders must learn the importance of recognizing and acknowledging the hard work of their employees.
When employees feel seen and valued, they don’t just do better work — they also feel empowered to offer their own innovative ideas, try different strategies, and collaborate in new ways. A supportive company culture that is appreciative of employees’ contributions will result in professionals who naturally take ownership of the outcomes. Productivity and profitability are likely to follow.
Employees can also do their part to ensure that their organization engages in creating a culture of appreciation. Harvard Business Review offers four ways in which employees can achieve this:
- Get to know people on a personal level: The first and most foundational thing you can do is to get to know your colleagues as people — not just coworkers — and support them. Be the person who goes out of their way to befriend new team members, many of whom may feel out of place joining your organization remotely or adjusting to a hybrid environment. Invite them to lunch or to chat over a virtual coffee. Suggest other people that would be good for them to connect with, or if you are in the office, take the initiative to introduce them yourself.
- Celebrate others (and be creative): Recognizing and celebrating team members for their work is a great way to set an example and develop a positive culture, even if it’s only within your department. Your actions will signal that you’re paying attention, that you notice other people’s contributions, and that you’re an advocate of their work.
- Show up for people without resentment: Consider how much you may be helping a colleague out by supporting them during a difficult time. At some point, you’ll need others to pitch in for you. Why not contribute to a whole-person workplace culture that makes mutual support more likely?
- Set the example: Many companies need employees to join employee resource groups, short-term projects, or long-term committees focused on building a better workplace. By participating in these efforts, you also help yourself by building your internal network, developing communication skills, demonstrating your willingness to take on more responsibility, and, of course, improving your workplace.
The importance of a positive work culture cannot be overstated. Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron wrote an article titled Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive for the Harvard Business Review. They cite a study by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization that reports disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications.
Research also shows that workplace stress leads to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary turnover. People go on the job market, decline promotions, or resign. And the turnover costs associated with recruiting, training, lowered productivity, and lost expertise are significant. The Center for American Progress estimates that replacing a single employee costs approximately 20% of that employee’s salary.
Not only is a caring and supportive work culture conducive to a higher work output, but a lack of it leads to more costs which affects the bottom line. In an age where employees desire working for a company that truly cares for them, it behooves a company to genuinely work on creating a positive work culture.