Culture is more than words

It has been a while since I’ve been moved to write and share my thoughts.  Today, Kickstarter got my attention.  Here’re my thoughts…

When I think of Tech companies, I think of pool tables, sofas, cool and edgy interior, trendy snack bars…but perhaps my thinking is dated.

Kickstarter just announced that their company voted to unionize 46-37. While collective bargaining has been around a long time, healthcare, education, manufacturing, communications and service industries seem to get the most activity. Not Tech.

Apparently, there is a storm brewing that should get the attention of any organization that doesn’t focus on their organizational culture, regardless of industry.  Those who probably never gave a thought to what could happen when employees are disgruntled may need a wake-up call.

Google started an anti-union campaign last fall, diversity has become a concern in the hallowed halls of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, and it seems that the “fun stuff” – the creative and innovative work of technology has been challenged as Tech companies become more embroiled in investor relations, politics and government influence.

That a Tech company has become unionized is a big deal, a reminder that employees who feel taken advantage of do have a way to be heard.  Maybe it’s time to revisit the importance of culture.

Values

When employees’ values conflict with the organization’s values there is a culture clash. Sometimes it really is a clash; other times it might be a misunderstanding.

What can an organization do?  First, state the organizations values clearly and succinctly.  Then, make organizational decisions within the context of those values.

Communication

Employees are smart. When leadership communicates, employees may hear the words.  But you can bet they will watch the actions.  Take values for instance.

When an organization says they value innovation but establishes rigid procedures and limits resources, the employees see reality – rigidity and limited resources.  They start to compare what they hear with what they see and recognize the disconnect. The bigger the disconnect, the more intense the cynicism.

Authenticity

Organizations have the right to be themselves.  They also have the responsibility to communicate who they are authentically and believably.

Telling employees there is no problem when it’s obvious there is, is silly. Today’s media picks up problems in a nanosecond, and employees are tuned in. Addressing the problem and the actions to resolve the problem (and then following through) lead to trust. If trust is a value, authenticity is the way there.

How do you know?

If you must ask that question, you have a problem.  Organizations that ask their employees and act on that information know when their values are clear and communicated authentically.  I don’t mean doing an annual survey then putting the results in the drawer.

I mean have regular conversations, asking questions and listening to the answer.  When leadership doesn’t spend time on the front lines, they have no clue what is really happening. While employees are doing their work is the time to ask how things are going.  You don’t see the real work with only a Town Hall meeting once a month.

Today’s environment is growing hostile. #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, political polarity and anger are a breeding ground for discontent. Perhaps those who are disgruntled will read about the unionization of Kickstarter with interest.

 

 

 

The subtleties of gender bias

In the eighties, I worked on a project that required me to travel with a team to a site where we had to sign in and wear badges. We went there about once every month for over a year. It drove me crazy because the security guards (both male and female) would hand me my badge and say, “Here you go, Carol,” and then hand the male team member his badge with, “Here you go, Mr. James.”

Today, thirty years later, the same thing happened. A receptionist called me “Carol,” and my husband, “Mr. Anderson.” Dang. Wouldn’t you think we would have evolved, given all of the focus on diversity and inclusion?

In the nineties, I headed a diversity initiative for a bank. One of the elephants hanging around the room in those days was the chatter among female executives who were learning to play golf because they were tired of having business discussion occur on the golf course when they weren’t there. (more…)

Don’t be embarrassed…

embarrassAn article titled “These Ten Policies Are An Embarrassment to the HR Profession” appeared in my newsfeed yesterday. Posted by Liz Ryan in Forbes, I devoured the content and tweeted it to my network saying, “Right on! Absolutely! Embarrassing is a good word!

I read it again this morning, and had a slightly different reaction. I really like Liz Ryan’s writing; she says it like it is – no words minced. And what she says always makes sense. I nod my head and go, “Yup.”

But then I came back down to earth and realized that, while the words resonate, thar’s danger in them, thar waters.

In the post, she slams policies like progressive discipline, doctors’ notes for absences, funeral notices to justify bereavement leave and reference policies that prohibit managers from providing references for their employees.  There are others, but these I mention all share the element of trust. If trust were present, there really would be no need for policies such as these.  Can’t argue there. (more…)