We’re finally getting to the bottom of what’s causing the Great Resignation. And, despite popular opinion, it’s not just burnout or salary. It might be more about company culture.
Being overworked and underpaid certainly contributes to the mass resignations we’ve seen across the globe. But it turns out corporate culture plays a bigger role in attrition. In fact, culture was the single biggest predictor of which companies lost employees during the first six months of the Great Resignation, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review/Glassdoor Culture 500.
With the war for talent intensifying, companies can’t overlook the importance of company culture.
But as corporate culture has become increasingly more important to employees, it’s also become harder for corporations to establish and maintain. After all, culture is hard to shape – even when employees sit in one central office.
Sharing and fortifying culture is one of the reasons why Google, Spotify, Airbnb and Deloitte focus on objectives and key results (OKRs), a management methodology for setting goals and measuring results. It often creates a common language for entire organizations to discuss what’s valuable.
I’m the Head of People and Talent for a fast-scaling technology company with five offices across the world and employees in eleven time zones. Our employees aren’t just located in different places. They bring diverse perspectives and differing cultural values to their work every day. Despite the diverse and decentralized nature of our company, we’ve developed a strategy for using technology to solidify a unified, clear company culture.
Uncover and enable values
The most effective corporate values are held with conviction. Otherwise, they feel flimsy and hollow and won’t have staying power.
In the quest to find your culture, examine the company’s genuine core values. What do people do when no one is watching? What are the operating rhythms that you hold dear? Once you answer these and other fundamental questions, own your company’s authentic culture and give employees the tools to actualize it.
My organization puts less weight behind company rituals and special occasions and more emphasis behind how people work. The business believes in accountability, focus and transparency at all costs.
To reinforce that, our OKR program focuses on:
- Accountability: Aspirational objectives and measurable results keep employees and teams honest. Managers collaborate with employees to set OKRs, and we track each employee’s and team’s progress toward achieving them in a platform everyone can see. As a result, everyone knows what success looks like and if they hit the mark.
- Focus: Too often, employees get distracted by “shiny object syndrome,” and big initiatives — cultural initiatives included — are never realized. We regularly broadcast strategic priorities across the organization, so the entire workforce can concentrate on what’s important, make better decisions and execute efficiently.
- Transparency: Many organizations expect their workforces to work cross-functionally but don’t provide the transparency to do so. We make each set of OKRs available to everyone in the organization. Because our employees know what’s happening around them, they can adjust their objectives while supporting the goals and work of others.
Make your culture actionable
In the race for market leadership, companies often grow quickly and sacrifice the culture that made them successful in the first place. Culture gets lost because it feels nebulous. Or, organizations set it and forget it, missing out on opportunities to align, refine and celebrate those core tenets of what makes the company unique.
Try to incorporate corporate values into each employee’s everyday life by making them actionable. We create action from values and measure progress. By setting OKRs at an individual, team and organizational level, and then making them visible across the enterprise through technology, we articulate which culture-driven actions we’re all working toward.
The explicit goals and measurable outcomes are critical as it shows (rather than tells) teams the actions we’re taking and progress we’re making. We also use OKRs to bridge the communication gap and ensure our whole workforce is on the same page – no matter the time zone, department or office they sit in.
Words of caution
Of course, our culture and approach isn’t a fit at every company – it isn’t one size fits all. Every company needs to uncover the culture that fits their own true ideals and find a way to unlock that culture for everyone across the organization.
But companies will want to establish and empower culture early. Many companies don’t spend the time defining cultural clarity and enabling it until it’s too late. And once a company has scaled, it’s challenging to work backward to map out an intentional culture.
In that case, culture can develop organically, and sometimes it’s not in the right direction. Instead of a company intentionally shaping its culture, the culture can shape the company. And it could end up with unintended cultural mainstays or even face toxic culture issues.