The Secret Weapon to Reducing Stress and Improving Organizational Effectiveness

It was a Thursday afternoon and I was on Metro North taking the train back home from New York City after a day of meetings. I usually drove into the city but for some reason decided to train it instead. As I sat there, I noticed people’s faces, their body language and more surprising, their exhaustion. Most had headphones on listening to music or maybe a podcast, some were on their phones playing games, but all of them were decompressing from a day of hard work and probably stress.

It was obvious to me that this commute was something they looked forward to as a way to let go of the day and come back to a place of calm. I was looking to decompress too after my hectic day, and so I used the time to practice my Mindful meditation. My practice has evolved over the last 12 years from a practitioner to a teacher and guide, having the honor of studying with and being certified by Dr. Jack Kornfield and Dr. Tara Brach, two of the world’s renown experts in Mindful Meditation.

From the moment I close my eyes and begin my practice, a warm sense of calm washes over me and I can feel the day fall off me like shedding a skin I no longer need. The stress disappears and is replaced with a sense of peace.  People, places and things take on a different, softer perspective and my mind becomes sharp and clear.

As a change agent managing large projects, this comes in very handy when things get hectic or issues arise. My role is more than just implementing change, it’s also to limit stress within the organization and create a safe, meaningful experience for everyone involved.  I do this using change management techniques but also Mindfulness techniques. I wondered…if it helped me so much in my work, why isn’t every company using Mindfulness to combat stress in the workplace?

I have been studying the benefits of Mindfulness at Work for some time at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and while some companies understand it’s benefits to reduce stress, the majority of the corporate world is still on the fence about it.

My goal (or shall I say challenge) is to prove that Mindfulness is a secret weapon companies need to learn and understand to give them a little push off the fence.  To demonstrate it, I decided to us a simple process (DMAIC) to explain work related stress and the benefits of implementing a Mindfulness program in the workplace.

DEFINE: What is work-related stress?

  • Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with unrealistic work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.
  • Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes.
  • There is often confusion between pressure or challenge and stress, and sometimes it is used to excuse bad management practice. We see it in managers and leaders bad behavior towards employees.

MEASURE: What data conveys the problem?

Data from The American Institute of Stress shows just how stressed out employees are. These are just a few of many data points, but you get the idea, stress is a major problem in most companies.

  • 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly 50% say they need help in learning how to manage stress
  • 42% say their coworkers need help learning how to cope with stress
  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
  • 60% to 80% of workplace accidents result from stress
  • 1,000,000 employees miss work each day because of stress
  • $300 Billion in lost productivity due to stress according to a recent report by Health Advocate.

ANALYZE: What are other companies doing to solve the problem?

One of the biggest interventions companies are using to reduce stress in the workplace is a Mindfulness program.Some companies include SAP, Google, Aetna, Beiersdorf, Bosch, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Intel, Royal Dutch Shell, Target, the UK’s Parliament, and even the U.S. House of Representatives.  What helps leadership buy into programs is that it’s based on neuroscience with real evidence to back it up. So there is a strong scientific explanation of why this is helpful.

At Aetna, it’s not a surprise to have someone start a meeting with a two or three minute Mindfulness practice.  I’ve used this concept at many clients to set the tone for the meeting by removing stress, opening minds and providing a forum for collaboration and open communication.

There’s lots of evidence to support it’s benefits. A new comprehensive analysis of Mindfulness research, co-directed by a management scientist at Case Western Reserve University, suggests that injecting a corporate culture of Mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.

What is Mindfulness at Work and why is it a secret weapon?

Mindfulness is defined as present-centered attention and awareness.  It’s easy to learn, doesn’t require a lot of time and anyone can do it, making it a secret weapon most companies are unaware of.

After considering 4,000 scientific papers on various aspects of Mindfulness, Science Daily recently reported that Mindfulness in the workplace improves:

  • Stress reduction
  • Reduced rumination
  • Decreased negative affect (e.g. depression, anxiety)
  • Less emotional reactivity/more effective emotion regulation
  • Increased focus
  • More cognitive flexibility
  • Improved working memory

Specifically, Mindfulness has been shown to improve three qualities of attention — stability, control and efficiency. This is huge when it comes to reducing stress to increase productivity in a company.

Mindfulness increases our ability to be resilient after a tough meeting, conversation or event and provides the coping skills to bounce back instead of being stressed and stuck.

It allows employees to be more open minded and less reactive, reducing the automatic reaction and providing enough space to have an unemotional response.

Mindfulness can stabilize attention in the present. Individuals who completed Mindfulness training were shown to remain vigilant longer on both visual and listening tasks, making them twice as productive as those who didn’t do the training.

Consider this. Our minds are wandering from what we are doing 46.9% of the time, as research by Paul Gilbert and Matt Killingworth reveals. In a work context, this means that almost 50% of our time we are not truly present with our tasks. In fact, other businesses are making money from our wandering attention like Facebook, Amazon and Google. 

Although Mindfulness is an individual quality, initial evidence suggests that it affects interpersonal behavior and workgroup relationships driving better collaboration and innovation. 

To that end, Mindfulness may improve relationships through greater empathy and compassion — suggesting mindfulness training could enhance workplace processes that rely on effective leadership and teamwork.

Mindfulness at SAP

A great case study is SAP,  the world’s leading supplier of business software with 290,000 customers, 75,000 employees in 130 locations. While it’s a poster child for a Mindfulness program, it didn’t start out as a program at all, rather a community of like minded employees.

Peter Bostelmann is an industrial engineer from Germany working for SAP for 17 years.  About 10 years ago, he found Mindfulness made its way into his life and he realized how much it helped him in his role as a program manager running large scale software implementations. It would help him to settle himself, to be more calm, perceive people and relationships differently and allow him to be open minded about new concepts and ideas.  Because of this, he came to the conclusion he wanted to find a way to bring this to SAP.

Peter began with a grassroots approach and was able to build a strong team across the globe with people who understood the benefit of the practice and who could guide small groups in their prospective regions.  They began using surveys to track the short term and longer term affects to prove the positive affects Mindfulness had on the employees. The scores came in at 6.5 out of 7 and you can see the blue part is how people reported after four weeks, and the green part is how they reported after six months, proving it had sustained benefits.

After 1 and 1/2 years, they had a wait list of 1,500 people to join the community and practice group. The shift came when the global learning center of excellence decided to make it a global Mindfulness practice inside the company. This is where it went from grassroots to a global sponsored program.  It became centrally funded and accessible to all employees.

More than 6,000 employees have taken two-day Mindfulness courses.  “For many managers, it has become the new normal to open meetings with short meditations,” commented Peter.

SAP has seen dramatic results in the reduction of stress, but also in other areas. And the best part is the changes have been sustainable, proof that it works.

 

IMPROVE: What are the steps to implement a Mindfulness Program?

The biggest question I get from clients is “How do I start?”.  This can be a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with Mindfulness, but it’s actually like any other project

Get Sponsorship

Have an executive sponsor or sponsors who understand the value and the science behind it. The most important factor is sponsorship by a leader in the company, whether the BOD, the CEO, or an Executive, you must have support from the top. This is where most companies fail. They hand it over to Human Resources and hope they can garner up enough interest through focus groups and newsletters, but it’s not enough.

Identify SMEs

Find people within the company with a deep experience in Mindfulness and also have proven success in your business, and identify one to lead the program.  If you are smaller or don’t have anyone, you can hire an outside consultant.  Make sure whomever you hire has a personal practice and walks the walk.  Check their credentials and have them guide you through a Mindfulness exercise to see their style and approach.

Create Interest

Create a specific pitch for your organization that speaks to the rewards of such a program. Employee buy-in is critical to this being successful, and the first step is teaching the employees what it is and how it benefits them. The key is to share the information in a simple format that’s easy to digest where they see the impact to their lives immediately. Using a story of a colleague and how it helped them is a great way to get employees bought in.

Conduct Pilots

The best way to start is with a pilot program to test the adoption. Begin with a small group in a couple of different areas and see what works well and what needs adjusting. Use a survey to get feedback on the sessions. There are many different Mindfulness practices and you may want to try out different ones to see what works best for your groups. Warning! Don’t make it mandatory.  Instead, allow them to make the decision to be part of it.

Link to Company Goals

Link it to the objectives of your organization, whether employee engagement, productivity, change resiliency, customer service complaints, even innovation or creativity.  While there have been lots of studies proving the effectiveness of Mindfulness in organizations, you want to make sure what you’re doing is working. Set up surveys that measure key metrics and track the results for short term and long term benefits. Metrics to look at include employee turnover, employee sick days, employee productivity, number of accidents, number of products produced, etc.

 

CONTROL: How to sustain the results of a Mindfulness Program?

Keeping a good thing going is hard. Like anything else, it takes focus and attention of one or more individuals to sustain a program and keep the benefits accumulating.  The best way to do this is to identify an owner for a period of time and make it a stretch assignment that gives the person exposure to senior leadership. Again, this should be run like any other project and should have a cadence of report outs to the sponsors with data and updates on how the program is doing.

Making this an “annual” assignment that allows for others to take the reins and continue to infuse new blood into it. With new blood comes a different perspective and maybe new ideas. This should be a learning and growth experience and should not add more stress to the individual.  Make sure it’s someone who is passionate about the practice and the program.

While this is not an easy, quick fix, it does have long term benefits that are guaranteed to help your employees and the organization improve effectiveness.   Anyone wishing to shift their culture and create a “Best Places” to work environment should consider Mindfulness as an internal part of your employee experience.

The Super 8: The Best Corporate Cultures of 2019

Corporate culture is such an important factor in whether a company succeeds, and it’s becoming the key factor that separates the good companies from the great. Yet most companies have no idea what it is and how to improve it. They think putting wellness programs in place to eat better and exercise will make a significant change in employees lives, but the data shows otherwise.  Or maybe you had a speaker or teacher come to teach stress reduction tips or meditation like I did for a Fortune 10 company. The problem is, those things all touch on the symptoms and not the root cause.

A company culture is a living organism that, because you’re dealing with people, it cannot be controlled or contained.  It’s not something you can “fix” easily. You’re dealing with people’s heads and hearts, and THEY decide if what you’re selling them as a company works for them. And the one person responsible for it is the CEO.  And the CEO has a hell of a job to create a culture that adds value to the business, shareholders and the employees.

Some CEO’s think it will happen organically and don’t do anything to create a culture, and some try to control it by creating goals. Their goal might read: “Create an innovative and collaborative culture”. That’s the cool one these days.  Or how about; “Create a culture of open and honest communication that simultaneously drives business results.”  That’s the serious one. Or maybe you have a more emotionally intelligent CEO and it reads; “Inspire a culture of passion and respect for others, allowing for acceptance of others ideas while delivering the utmost in customer satisfaction.”

While all of these are pretty good goals, they don’t really matter unless the behaviors of the CEO and leadership team demonstrate them day in and day out. On top of that, if behaviors don’t align but are allowed to remain, employees will see it as lip service and lose interest in demonstrating the behaviors themselves.

While this may seem difficult, there are plenty of companies that just “get it” and walk the walk.  Below are The Super 8 Top Corporate Cultures based on information and research I’ve conducted over the last few months.  As you’ll see, most of the them have CEOs that were named to the “Top CEO 2018” list, which validates the point that culture starts at the top.

The Super 8: The Best Corporate Cultures of 2019

1.Bain & Company
Glassdoor rating:  4.7 out of 5
CEO: Manny Maceda
CEO Approval: 98%
Recommend to a friend: 96%

Why is Bain’s culture so good in an industry known for extensive travel and burnout? It starts with their leadership who understand their employees, (or “Baineys”) are their greatest asset.

Just ask Keith Bevans, Global Head of Consultant Recruiting for Bain. In a recent interview he brought up humility as a common personal attribute of the leadership and employees. He states there is “a certain level of humility that every person at Bain has.”

Why is humility so valuable for a culture? Humility is the key component to collaboration by creating a safe space to share ideas and help one another. It’s the backbone of values like teamwork and resilience too.

And while pay is not on the top of the list for why employees stay at a firm, Baineys work hard, but their compensation reflects it. From paid paternity leave to incredible health and insurance benefits, it’s clear why Bain is on this list.

 

2. Procore Technologies
Glassdoor rating: 4.6 out of 5
CEO: Craig “Tooey” Courtemanche
CEO Approval: 98%
Recommend to a friend: 89%

At Procore, teamwork is the key to its success. They promote a team culture with one simple value: Openness.

Openness relates to so many things for Procore. Open communication, open to ideas, open door policy…this screams transparency, and their employees love it.

I read a quote from an interview with Sara Borneleit, Director of Business Development, and it really hit on what’s needed to lead in this new era. She said, “I try to embody the philosophy of servant leadership blended with democratic leadership. It’s important for my team to know I care about them when giving critical feedback, and it’s important for me, as a leader, to be vulnerable. By admitting my weaknesses and faults, I allow the team to feel safe in knowing personal areas that need improvement or attention, and that that’s OK.”

When leaders aren’t afraid to share their failures, employees find it easier to relate and find compassion for the leader.  That compassion creates a better relationship, which in turn creates loyalty and trust, the two biggest reasons employees stay or leave a company.

Procore claims their culture is the reason they are growing so fast, and from the looks of it, the sky is the limit.

 

3. Radio Flyer
Glassdoor rating: 5.0 out of 5
CEO: Robert F. Pasin
CEO Approval:  100%
Recommend to a friend: 99%

If you’re like me, some of your childhood memories were with your red Radio Flyer wagon.  I used to use it to cart the family dog around, or to dig up dirt for no apparent reason. And when it showed during my research I was surprised. But it has some seriously loyal employees and a leadership team that figured out how to build an amazing culture.

Their SVP of HR, Amy Bastuga, said in an interview that she wanted every employee to be able to say, “This is the best job I’ve ever had.”  That seems easy to do when 25% of the employees started as interns, but it’s not. The “Flyer” get a chance to test drive their job before deciding if they want to work there.  It’s a great concept that I’ve been promoting for years but doesn’t seem to stick at most companies.

A quote from Glassdoor seems like a warning to prospective candidates who may not have what it takes. The quote below stems from dedicated employees who take pride in their work.

“While this is not a downside, applicants should know that here at Radio Flyer, you are expected to give 100% each and every day. We are a high performing team and everyone pulls their weight! We work hard AND we play hard!”

 

4. 23andMe
Glassdoor rating: 4.8 out of 5
CEO: Anne Wojcicki
Approve of CEO: 100%
Recommend to a friend: 95%
Top CEO 2018

23andMe, Inc. is a female lead consumer genetics and research company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Named to the Top CEO 2018 list, Anne Wojcicki’s approval rating tops 100%. Wow!

She has created a culture that promotes innovation, conversation (even the uncomfortable ones), and challenge.  Most employees feel they are doing meaningful work and have purpose. If you know anything about “employee engagement”, you know this is one of the key factors in retaining employees.

It also has a flexible work environment with dogs allowed to come to work with their owners, delicious lunches and a beautiful rooftop terrace to work or just relax on.

Because the employees live all over the Bay Area, they offer a free CalTrain GoPass to everyone to use for their daily commute, or during your own free time.

I think a quote from one of the employees sums up why the culture is so good. “It is so inspiring to be in an organization with a female CEO — this means a lot, and Anne’s leadership and energy is awesome!!”.

 

5. Ultimate Software
Glassdoor rating: 4.6 out of 5
CEO: Scott Scherr
Approve of CEO: 95%
Recommend to a friend: 90%
Top CEO 2018

Ultimate Software has a People First mentality and a culture that is unprecedented. There is a phrase that people say about the company and its “once you come to Ultimate you never leave.”

It is ranked #1 on this year’s Best Workplaces for Women list by Fortune and Great Place to Work. With 50% of our workforce being women, this really says something about their commitment to gender diversity.

With benefits like 100% Employer-paid health coverage for employee and family (includes medical PPO plan, choice of dental plan, prescription, and vision), 401(k) Retirement Savings Plan with 45% company match on every dollar of employee contribution (no cap) and Unlimited Personal Time Off (for all exempt employees), they put their money where their mouth is.

And additional perks such as on-site massages; an indoor basketball court; recreational classes and wellness programs; monthly birthday celebrations; periodic breakfast, lunch, and ice cream treats; and departmental reward trips/programs are the icing on the already delicious cake.

What about career advancement, a key driver in employee retention?  They are committed to helping employees “upskill” into higher-paying positions, including helping America’s military veterans find work.

With this kind of culture, it’s clear why Scott Scherr was named to the Top CEO list for 2018.

 

6. Zoom Video Communications
Glassdoor rating: 4.8 out of 5
CEO: Eric S. Yuan
Approve of CEO: 98%
Recommend to a friend: 95%
Top CEO 2018

Eric Yuan came from China 22 years ago barely speaking English. A tough start you might think but today he’s worth $3B and named Glassdoor’s big company CEO of the Year with a 99% approval rating.  Even better is Zoom ranked No. 2 among large companies on the Glassdoor list of best places to work in 2019.

Yuan started Zoom in 2011 after helping build WebEx which was then bought by Cisco for $3.2B.  Now his company is worth $15.9B after an IPO just last week.

His approach to building a great company? The culture. And the employees believe Zoom’s culture is top notch. Just read some of the quotes from an employees on Glassdoor, like this one; “The product is incredible and the mantra of Delivering Happiness is completely legit”

Yes, that’s Zoom’s motto; “Delivering Happiness.”  Some of the benefits Zoom employees enjoy include unlimited PTO, free food, gym and wellness reimbursement.  Reimbursement for any book they purchase, including children’s books promoting his desire for his employees to be self-learners as well.

It’s not just about the employees for Yuan.  “When you do business with customers, you’ve got to make sure your process is very simple but very easy.”  He believes the product is the result of your company culture.  “If you do not have a great culture, occasionally you might develop a good product. However, that’s not sustainable.”

 

7. DocuSign
Glassdoor rating: 4.7 out of 5
CEO: Daniel Springer
Approve of CEO: 98%
Recommend to a friend: 93%
Top CEO 2018

What’s not to like about DocuSign! I use it almost every day and love it. And so do the employees.

Over 102 reviews on Glassdoor talk to the culture, leadership and product.  “People work hard but there is good work/life as well” and  “DocuSign hits the trifecta: great team, great product and great work“.

I was impressed with the values I saw on the website that the leadership lives and breathes.

Trusted. We will always listen, be honest, and try to do what’s right, every day.

Loved. We will give everyone the opportunity to do the work of their life.

Responsible. We will be fair and treat everyone equally. Equal pay, equal opportunity, equal everything

CEO Dan Springer was voted as a Top CEO of 2018 and I see why. He states; “One of our goals is for DocuSign to become the best place any of our employees have ever worked at in their careers.”

What are some of the benefits they offer their employees?  Extended our parental leave globally up to a full six months off. And they have taken steps to expand diversity and inclusion through the growth of their Employee Resources Groups pioneered by our very active [email protected] group and by hiring more female senior executives directly reporting to our CEO to ensure diverse voices are at the table.

 

8. St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital
Glassdoor rating: 4.6 out of 5
CEO: James Downing
Approve of CEO: 99%
Recommend to a friend: 92%
Top CEO 2018

For president and CEO Dr. James Downing, fulfilling the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital starts with ensuring employees have “a sense of pride” and purpose in their work. He does this through his inclusive and transparent strategic planning process and a leadership team “that’s not afraid to speak up and disagree with me.” Voted a Top CEO for 2018, Downing knows the power of transparency. He keeps employees in the know with transparent decision making and quarterly reviews outlining what’s next.

Downing implement some pretty interesting benefits that most employees would die for. The St. Jude employees enjoy on-site massages, dry-cleaning services, a farmer’s market and car detailing.

How does a non-profit afford that you ask? By being creative. They invite vendors onto its campus for the employees to use without ever having to leave the site. Genius!

But one of the best perks is on Halloween, where St. Jude pretty much shuts down for a couple of hours so the staff can dress up and play with the children.  As a hospital dedicated to children, it’s clear the employees love taking part in the Halloween event, and love working at St. Jude.

I’m sure there are many more companies that aren’t on the list that also have great company cultures, like Salesforce, Intuit, Hubspot and T-Mobile, but they didn’t even come close to these 8 when it came to the factors considered for my assessment.

 

What do all eight have in common?

 Each of these companies have a CEO that believes the employees are their biggest asset, and treat them as such. They provide some of the key elements that make employees feel loyal and want to perform to the highest of their ability.

  • Employees first. Happy employees translates to better interactions with customers
  • Transparency in communication and decision making from leadership
  • Empowerment to challenge and improve no matter what role
  • An environment that enables teamwork and collaboration (physically and mentally)
  • A vision that allows employees to find purpose and passion in their work

 

Want to learn more about how to improve your culture? Contact me for an assessment by clicking here.

 

Top 10 Worst Corporate Cultures

As the war for talent becomes more and more fierce,  job seekers are doing their research before making their decisions.  One the key things they are looking for is a good work environment. With employees flocking to Glassdoor and Indeed to tell the world what’s going on inside the company, it’s becoming more difficult to hide a bad culture.

My experience looking inside 50+ companies ranging from $10M to $150B has given me the ability to notice trends, and even more so, to predict why a company is having problems. And what I’ve found is getting to the root of operational problems usually involves uncovering cultural ones.

A toxic culture can sabotage the best strategy and make it impossible to hire talent. So how do you know if your culture is toxic?  Sites like Glassdoor and Indeed make it easy.  For this article I used Glassdoor’s company review information to make a list of the top 10 worst corporate cultures.

How does Glassdoor get this information?

“Glassdoor calculates company ratings using a proprietary ratings algorithm, with an emphasis on recency of reviews. With this improvement, we’re giving job seekers and employers what they’ve asked of us – the freshest perspective on what it’s really like to work inside any company, according to employees.”

Company ratings are based on a 5-point scale, and the CEO percentage and the “recommend to a friend” are part of the company review process. While I like this format, the variance seemed too big and therefore I’ve added my own rating using A through F, including – or + depending where they fall into the range. 

  • 0.00 – 1.50 Employees are “Very Dissatisfied” (CZ rating is F)

  • 1.51 – 2.50 Employees are “Dissatisfied” (CZ rating is D-, D, D+)

  • 2.51 – 3.50 Employees say it’s “OK” (CZ rating is C-, C, C+)

  • ​3.51 – 4.00 Employees are “Satisfied” (CZ rating is B-, B, B+)

  • ​4.01 – 5.00 Employees are “Very Satisfied” (CZ rating is A-, A, A+)

I’ve listed these in order using the overall rating, with the lowest score last.

 

1. Kraft Heinz

Glassdoor rating: 3.0 out of 5 (up from 2.7 in 2018)
CZ rating: C
CEO: Bernardo Hees
CEO Approval: 57%
Recommend to a friend: 39%

It’s easy to understand why this company culture is in the dumps. After the merger of Kraft and Heinz, major shareholder 3G Capital appointed the cost cutting CEO Bernardo Hees to take the helm in hopes of monetizing their investment.  Hees ruthless strategy of major job and expense cutting worked for a short time, delivering over 20 percent margins, but appears to have fatigued the organization.  Unless you strategically invest in improved technology, processes and people to streamline work, these cuts can bleed an organization to death.

An example of this is captured in these comments;

“A lot is expected from the employees, making work/life balance challenging.”

No work life balance (11 hour days have become the norm)” or “Toxic environment” sums up the culture at Kraft Heinz.

This theme of work life balance showed up in over 400 reviews, which screams red flag for any employee considering going to work there.

I’ve said this many times in my book on restructuring and I’ll say it again, you CAN NOT cut your way to growth.  And you will never create loyal, engaged employees with this mindset. I have my eye on Kraft Heinz and Hees to see their results for the next quarter.

2. Sears

Glassdoor rating: 2.8 out of 5
CZ rating: C-
CEO: Edward S. Lampert
CEO Approval: 18%
Recommend to a friend: 29%

Are you surprised?  Sears has been on a downward spiral for over a decade, with no hopes of ever recovering. As for the culture, I have some inside information from two people who used to work as executives for Sears about the culture and “Eddie”.  Mr. Lampert scored the lowest CEO Approval on the list, for good reason.

If you work in the corporate office and want a life, forget it. This workaholic CEO expects his employees to put in weekday evenings and weekends without any recognition or financial rewards.  If you work in the stores, it’s just as bad based on reviews from Indeed, like this quote from a former employee.

“Unrealistic expectations, unbalanced  work load. upper management do little to no work” and “underpay, got mistreated by the managers”.

Another issue in the stores is the negative remarks from the customers. “When do you think Sears will declare bankruptcy?”  This can’t be a healthy environment, but the salespeople say it’s a pretty normal response from customers.

The future of Sears is pretty dim, it’s only a matter of time before the light goes out for good.

3. CompuCom

Glassdoor rating: 2.7 out of 5
CZ rating: C-
CEO: Greg Hoogerland
CEO Approval: 44%
Recommend to a friend: 36%

Labeled as some of the most dissatisfied workers in the country, CompuCom, a wholly subsidiary of Office Depot, will have its fifth CEO in the last five years, as Dan Stone leaves and Greg Hoogerland steps in. And boy does he have some icky shoes to step into.

With that kind of turnover, there’s no way the employees feel loyal and certainly can’t be engaged. These musical chairs are killing the culture and creating fear in the employees. Not knowing the leadership style, and having to figure it out once a new CEO takes the helm is extremely stressful to employees. So it goes without saying that fewer than half of the company’s employees approved of CEO Dan Stone, and just 37% would recommend a job at the company to a friend.

Given the turnover at the top, it’s not a surprise to read this from a director level employee on Glassdoor;

“Worked for a few companies and this company is one of the most dishonest, unprofessional organizations I have be acquainted with” .

Woah…that hurts!

4. DISH Network

Glassdoor rating: 2.7 out of 5
CZ rating: C-
CEO: W. Erik Carlson
CEO Approval: 47%
Recommend to a friend: 38%

Back in 2012, Glassdoor named Dish the worst place to work for and the then CEO Joe Clayton said “That’s ridiculous.” He didn’t believe the employee complaints and focused instead on the technology DISH was creating.

In 2017 Erik Carlson was named CEO and restructured the organization in hopes of better synergies and communication. While it’s not THE WORST company to work for, it’s still in the top 10.

A former manager stated, “I left DISH because I was over worked, over stressed, and not appreciated for the amount of time I gave the company (12-15 hours a day as a manager). “

A the center of most of the employee complaints was the feeling of stress and under appreciation. When people feel supported, respected and appreciated, they will put the extra work in. I’m interested to see Mr. Carlson’s approach to improving the culture, if at all. The good news is he didn’t call the reviews ridiculous, but then again he probably won’t read them.

5. Xerox

Glassdoor rating: 2.7 out of 5
CZ rating: C-
CEO: John Visentin
CEO Approval: 38%
Recommend to a friend: 34%

John Visentin was named CEO in May 2018 with the hope that Xerox will be transformed back to it’s glory days of being a market leader and an admired company to work for. He’s got quite a challenge after reading through some of the more seasoned and experienced employees.

I reached out to John since I am about 10 minutes from their offices to offer some help. I’ve seen this before and have had success getting quick wins that the board and analysts like to see. Have not heard back but I get the sense he’s up to his ears trying to make an impact to a business that has sharp competition from Ricoh, Konica Minolta and HP.  With that much pressure, where do you the 39,000 employees fit into his schedule?  I can’t imagine CULTURE is top on his list to things improve, but I could be wrong.

Take a read from CURRENT employee reviews on Glassdoor. I was shocked by the candor of some of these employees who still work there!

Executive with 9 yrs
“New leadership with no real vision other than maximizing cash flow.  The company is in shambles….

“Wall Street investors (you know who you are) have forced senior leadership to abandon our core belief system. The customer is no longer #1. In fact, they no longer solicit customer feedback – at all.”

FP&A Manager
“20 yrs employed. They treat people very badly and are constantly sending jobs overseas. Are not running the company as a going concern.”

Manager with 6 yrs at job
“THEFT!!! Robbing employees to improve balance sheet. Hard working employees getting screwed so Xerox’s cash flow is better for earnings.”

6. Alorica

Glassdoor rating: 2.6 out of 5
CZ rating: C-
CEO: Andy Lee
CEO Approval: 46%
Recommend to a friend: 38%


Mr. Andy Lee founded Alorica Inc. in 1999 and still serves as its Chairman and CEO.  While his goal was to improve customer experiences and his entrepreneurial talents, he clearly has no idea how to build a safe work environment.

One thing is for sure, there are major problems with their culture. In an EEOC lawsuit filed in September 2017, the suit alleged widespread sexual harassment by managers at Irvine-based Alorica

As one of the nation’s largest call center firms, they ended up paying $3.5 million to settle charges that its customer service representatives were “openly propositioned for sex, leered at and touched by supervisors and co-workers,” and the company retaliated against them when they complained.

This review by an employee on Glassdoor said it best;

“There are no redeeming qualities to working at Alorica other than the fact that you can get hired on the spot.”

7. Genesis HealthCare

Glassdoor rating: 2.5 out of 5
CZ rating: D+
CEO: George Hager
CEO Approval: 29%
Recommend to a friend: 28%

While Mr. Hager has taken the company from $200M to $5.4B in his tenure, the employees don’t think too highly of good ole George. His low approval rating is less to be desired.

What’s interesting about Genesis HealthCare is the pay.  An average salary is $85,000, well above the national average for the most common position in the industry.

While their tag line is “We change lives”, the employees think otherwise as seen in these reviews;

Upper management not in touch with the needs of staff in the facilities” (in 81 reviews)

“Large corporations can some times be impersonal for patient care” (in 53 reviews)

With this kind of remark the idea of patient care as a business first comes to mind. It makes you wonder what short cuts they may be taking to continue Hager’s growth track record.  Whatever the case, the all too common theme of management not in touch with the people doing the work evident here. The people may stay for the paycheck, but their heart isn’t loyal to the company and that will always flow down to the customer.

8. Conduent

Glassdoor rating: 2.5 out of 5
CZ rating: D+
CEO: Ashok Vemuri
CEO Approval: 39%
Recommend to a friend: 35%

Like many other companies on this list, Conduent is having financial issues that are impacting the culture. The company’s revenue fell from $6.7 billion in 2015 to $6.4 billion in 2016 to $6.0 billion in 2017. Job pressure from a companies’ poor financial performance can be felt all the way down the organization.

As the stress mounts the managers push harder on the employees doing the work as seen in this quote from an employee on Indeed;

“The management does not care about the employees. The hours are horrible. Overtime is expected at the last minute and it is mandatory. “

From the research I’ve conducted it looks appears the senior managers are untouchable. If that’s the case it’s nearly impossible to have a trust, respect and a good culture.  Reading some of the statements made me cringe, including this one by a former mid- level employee.

“It’s constant work and you can’t even take a break without a manager following you to the bathroom to ask what you’re doing. ”  Yikes!

The job is not hard, it’s just not a place to stay unless you have nothing else to do in life.

Run, don’t walk, away from an opportunity here.

9. Frontier Communications

Glassdoor rating: 2.4 out of 5 (declined from 2.5)
CZ rating: D+
CEO: Dan McCarthy
CEO Approval: 17% (declined from 22%)
Recommend to a friend: 25%

The company as a whole is mess.  In the last year, Frontier’s share price took a 50% nosedive, falling from over $19 a share to less than $8.  If that didn’t hurt enough, senior executives have been denied bonuses in each of the last two years — partially a result of the company’s poor performance on Wall Street. With this kind of track record it’s amazing anyone goes to work there.  It is common place for employees to post about its negative culture on Glassdoor and Indeed.

This comment pretty much sums up Frontier’s employee issues;

“Worked their 4 yrs, never received a performance review, never received any formal coaching, was basically on my own from day 1 to figure things out. People were great, however Senior Management lacked a clear direction. Moved the business offshore and back onshore 3 times in less than 2 years.”

With that kind of haphazard changes, it’s no wonder the company is having the issues with employees and management.  Forget about loyalty and retention.

10. The Fresh Market

Glassdoor rating: 2.3 out of 5 (declined from 2.4)
CZ rating: D
CEO: Larry Appel
CEO Approval: 30%
Recommend to a friend: 26%

 

Based on employee reviews on Glassdoor, grocery store chain The Fresh Market is the worst U.S. company to work for. It is the only qualifying company with a Glassdoor rating of 2.3, a decline from 2.4 only a year ago.

The Fresh Market employees regularly complain about the company’s senior leadership. Just 30% of reviewers approve of the job CEO Larry Appel is doing, and his leadership team scored even lower with a shocking paltry 1.9 out of 5.0 rating.

If this isn’t a sign of a major culture problem in the company I don’t know what is.  But what are they doing about it? I called the corporate office to speak to Human Resources to get some insight, but alas, no one returned my calls.

In summary, these companies are just the tip of the iceberg.  Other notables all in the retail arena are Forever 21 and Family Dollar, but there are hundreds of companies, both public and private, whose cultures are hurting the companies financial performance.

With the war on talent, employees have options, and having a great culture ensures attracting the best people.  Culture is a competitive advantage, period, end of story.  As millennials continue to flood the job market, they are looking for a company that provides a mission and values as demonstrated through their actions and not just words.

But, when a company has warning signs like the ones above, it’s usually a too late and a major change management plan must be put into place that will take years to see any benefits. Why do CEOs not understand their biggest asset are their people and by creating the right environment for them to thrive, this helps them achieve their business goals.  It’s easier to manage people who like coming to work and doing their job. Pretty simple, yet hard to understand by these companies and many more who look only at the bottom line as their sign of success.

 

 

 

 

How to Create Work Life Balance at Work

To start, what’s my story and why do I think I can help you create Work Life Balance?

I was just like most people working full time…

  • Corp career of more than 20+ yrs
  • Long hours and travel for work
  • No time for me or my family

I was unhappy at work and home due to lack of work/life balance.

So…

I studied for 10 years with top neuroscientists, PHD’s and behavioral science experts to create the techniques I will share with you today. My goal for today is to teach you how to take control of your time and set up your life in a way that makes you feel good about work and your life.

Today I’ll teach you 4 HACKS to increase Work/Life Balance:

BUT FIRST…Let’s take a poll:

How many of you struggle with balancing work and your personal life?

If you said, “I DO”, then you’re not alone and there are studies to prove it.

Recent work in 2018 at UC Berkeley defines work/life balance or “Happiness at Work” as:

“An overall sense of enjoyment, feeling intrinsically driven to make progress towards goals and knowing that what I do matters at work and home.

Does that resonate with you? It did for me. The feeling of “Ugh” I have to go to work today, was weighing heavily on my personal life and I wanted it to stop. But first I had to understand what it was.

What does Work/Life Balance look like?

  • An overall feeling or sense of enjoyment at work and play.
  • Being able to gracefully handle conflict, situations and setbacks at work and home.
  • Connecting amicably with colleagues, coworkers, clients, customers, friends and family
  • Knowing YOU matter. Knowing that your work matters to yourself, your organization, and beyond.  You know you matter.

 

Studies show that 55 to 80% of us believe it’s normal to see work as something to be endured, not enjoyed.

HOWEVER, Not only is it possible to find happiness at work, but that doing so is unambiguously good for you!

Happier employees do better on all fronts, from day-to-day health to productivity to career advancement, and this consistently perks up the bottom line for the organization as a whole.

Do me a favor and answer these questions:

  • Is your job the #1 source of stress in your life?
  • Have you taken a day to just “chill” and re-coop from work?
  • Do you feel exhausted or burned out every day after work?

Take a look at the data below.  It’s scary how much job stress affects so many people!

Scientific evidence proves these 4 pillars are vital to work/life balance or Happiness at Work and it’s PERK.

  • P = Passion
  • E = Engagement
  • R = Resilience
  • K = Kindness

 

Let’s take a deeper dive into what these mean.

Purpose:   “knowing that your work matters to you, your organization and the world.”

Engagement: a “positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind.” In other words, an engaged employee has a strong sense of “vigor towards, dedication to, and absorption in work activities.”

Resilience: being able to “handle adversity with grace, to face challenges and recover from setbacks, be accountable for failures and resolve conflict at work.”

Kindness:  a broader orientation towards forming strong, supportive, social connections at work that scientists call “pro-social”, that help us interact in trusting, inclusive, and cooperative ways with people at work from customers to bosses.

So how do you achieve PERK? With these 4 Hacks!

Hack #1:  Lifestyle Engineering

Unfortunately, in American culture, we tend to build our entire lives around our work – from where we live to who we socialize with.  This type of work-centric focus can really wreak havoc on the whole work-life balance thing.

Lifestyle engineering is a pretty cool concept that has to do with deciding what you want out of your life.

Exercise 1:

  • Start by writing what your dream day might look like while during your personal time.
  • Then look at your personal time and add a value to how much you like this activity.
  • Maybe it’s going to the gym, or painting or playing an instrument or on a baseball team or doing crossword puzzles…whatever it is, put a rating from 1-5 how much you like it.

 

 

ActivityTimes per WeekRatingEmotionTime
Family Dinner Time55Love1 hour
Friends: Dinner/Movies14Happy 3 hours
Yoga35Zen1 hour
Hiking15Inspired1 hour
Writing14Creative1 hour

 

Total time: 14 hours a week

Now, set aside that time for yourself to do these things. Maybe you can’t do all of them, but find a way to do at least 1-2.  Do not let work infringe on these activities. Put the phone on silent and enter an               automated message that says, “I’m sorry, I’m not available now.” Eventually, you’ll make it a habit and   look forward to these activities.

 

Hack #2: Set Up Boundaries 

  • Probably the most important thing you can do for yourself is set up boundaries with your manager and co-workers about what is acceptable to you when it comes to work responsibilities during personal time.
  • Answer these questions:
    • Do you find you’re answering emails, texts or phone calls at 10:00pm at night or over the weekend?
    • Does your manager assume you’ll take work home?
    • Do you have flexibility in your schedule to attend to family or take care of your health?

The thing is, the company will go on, so take that time off, take that vacation and be at the important events in your life, because work is not your life, it’s just want you do to earn a living.

In a recent study, it showed that 50% of employees don’t take the full vacation time given by their company.

Why would you do that?

It’s the time you need to refresh your mind, to renew your body and soul, even if you do a staycation, being away from work for a period of time actually increases your engagement which increases your performance.

Exercise #2

  • “Schedule” time for yourself. Use the Lifestyle Engineering as your guide.
  • Block out on your work calendar your personal time so it is clearly seen.
    • If you work until 6pm, then block out from 6-11pm “personal time”.
    • On the weekends, block out the entire weekend so when people try to schedule a call or a meeting, it shows “busy”.
    • Put your phone on silent with an automated message that says, “It’s after hours and I’m not responding to phone or emails.” Eventually, your boss, manager and colleagues will get the hint and stop bothering you.

Hack #3: Learn to say “NO”

Why is it so hard for people to say NO?

This counts for work and in your personal life. Our inability to say NO is exhausting us!

AND

It is making us bitter and resentful because we feel obligated to help and say yes.

One way I like to say NO, in a nice way, is to use these short phrases.  I memorize them so I can just say it without having to think.

* “I’d love to help, but I have other responsibilities I need to focus on right now.”

* “What a great idea, I wish I could help but I’m committed to another project and would not do a good job at getting this done.”

* “Thank you so much for asking, and I’m definitely up to help out next time, but can’t right now.”

* “I give 100% when I’m at work, and I also give 100% when I’m at home to rest, recover and revive so I CAN give 100% at work. Without down time, I’m not going to perform my best.”

Memorizing phrases creates an automated response and trains the unconscious mind to react with “NO” response before YES.

Exercise #3

  • Make a list of 1-2 phrases for each category of your life:
    • Work
    • Friends
    • Family
  • Next, practice with a person you like and trust.

To practice, one person acts as the boss, a friend, and a family member, and asks to have something done. Then switch. Both have had the chance to practice.

Hack #4:  Communicate Expectations

Communicating expectations is such an important piece when you’re creating work/life balance.

Expectations are set through clear communication about what you can and cannot do.  Communicating with your boss is crucial if you are struggling at work.  Most managers have been in your shoes and know what that struggle feels like.

  • The best way to communicate expectations is with regular 1×1’s.
  • Set up a meeting with your boss with a specific written agenda regarding your work AND your work/life balance.
  • Getting this subject on your agenda makes it easy to discuss the subject.
  • During the conversation, don’t get emotional, just state the facts about your situation and tell them what you need to be more balanced and productive.

A few examples of how to approach this are:

  1. Be honest.

Using the sentences below as an outline can help you when you are ready to have that sit down or phone conversation. The key is to provide examples!

“I’d like to discuss how I’m feeling about the balance between work and my personal life.”

 “I love my job, but I also love my _______________ (fill in the blank).”

“I would appreciate it if I was able to enjoy my (fill in the blank) uninterrupted from calls,

emails or texts during off hours.”

  1. Be empathetic:

Look at it as if you were in their shoes.

“I know you have a lot of responsibility and I do my best to exceed expectations at work.”

 “But I can’t be my best if I can’t unwind from work.”

“I am here if you need me, and respect you and the work you do. Please understand it is important to me to have the space to find happiness outside of work.”

  1. Ask for HELP:

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to ask for help.

Communicate through clear, concise language, even tempered, without EXCUSES.

“I value your experience and leadership and would really like your help with  _________________ (fill in the blank).

If they can’t help you themselves, they can point you to someone or a resource that can.

  1. Use a simple measurement to manage Work/Life Balance

Using a rating scale that’s easy for your boss to understand and allows you to be aligned.  Come to every meeting with the scale. Be consistent with updating your boss on how you’re doing.

Here’s a fun one I like to use.

Final Thoughts:

Work/Life Balance is UP TO YOU.  By incorporating these 4 Hacks you can create an environment at work

that brings the best out of you.  Happiness at work is critical for employees BUT also for companies.

 

The happier you are at work, the more productive you’ll be and the better the company will perform!

Empathetic Leadership: Why CEOs Need It To Improve Their Culture And Bottom Line

Empathetic Leadership, it’s a skill most CEOs aren’t aware of that could make the difference between meeting numbers versus exceeding them.

Think a companies’ culture doesn’t affect the bottom line? How about a CEO’s empathy?

As competition in the market becomes fierce, the need to differentiate and create a competitive advantage is palpable. We all know having the best “talent” and “innovation” are key components of a company that stands out from the rest, but what if I told you “culture” is an untapped vehicle to increase the bottom line?

If culture is the gold medal, then empathetic leadership is the secret weapon to win it.

According to research by Deloitte, “mission-driven” companies have 30% higher levels of innovation and 40%  higher levels of employee retention. In addition, a 2016 poll by Gallup showed that higher workplace engagement leads to 37% lower absenteeism and 41%  fewer quality defects.  Clearly, having a good culture with engaged employees results in lower costs, but how do you quantify it?

There are lots of survey companies ready to help you measure your employee engagement, a $1Billion marketplace in fact, but the problem is the survey companies simple supply the data, they don’t tell you what actions you need to implement to improve.

In an article by the Conference Board called, “The Engagement Institute: How organizations create and sustain highly engaging cultures,” some surprising data was revealed from a survey including 80 of the most advanced users of engagement surveys; only 50% believe their executives know how to build a culture of engagement.

And why would they know how to create a culture of engagement, their job is to run the business, not be a culture expert, right?

Wrong.

It Starts At The Top

A corporate culture starts at the top.  We all know the saying, “a fish rots from the head down,”  and the same goes for a company culture.  The leadership takes cues from the CEO, the managers take cues from the leadership and eventually it trickles down into every layer of the organization.  Even HR policies are reflective of the CEOs attitude, values and ideals.

In other words, the CEO is the captain of the ship, and whichever way he or she steers, the rest of the organization is going to follow.

With that much power to affect a companies culture, what skill does a CEO need to improve it?

Empathetic Leadership

In a study conducted by Businesssolver, 87% of CEOs agree that a company’s financial performance is tied to empathy, and 43% strongly agree.

More data suggests empathy is the foundation of employee engagement. Empathetic behavior shows people they are being heard and therefore appreciated.

 

  • 8 in 10 CEOs, employees and HR professionals agree that an empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance.
  • 9 in 10 employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathizes with their needs.
  • 8 in 10 would be willing to work longer hours and take slightly less pay for a more empathetic employer and empathetic leadership.
  • Majorities in all demographics of employees responded that empathy motivates workers and increases productivity.

 

In a blog post last month, I outlined the model for “Happiness at Work”( the PERK model ) from my training at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.  What is implied in that model is under the K (Kindness) is Empathetic Leadership.

Empathy enables those who possess it to see the world through others’ eyes and understand their unique perspectives. And YES, it can be learned, which is why I call it a skill.  Being more mindful, aware and open to others is something that requires practice and observation.

Best In the Business

A great example of using Empathetic Leadership is by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. In his new book, “Hit Refresh” he describes how he views empathy in business and in life .

“At the core, Hit Refresh is about us humans and the unique quality we call empathy,
which will become ever more valuable in a world where the torrent of technology will
disrupt the status quo like never before.”

“It’s a quality my wife, Anu, helped me begin to learn when our son was born with severe
disabilities 21 years ago. It’s a quality that shapes our mission of empowerment at Microsoft
and our quest to meet unmet and unarticulated needs of customers.  And it’s the quality that
helps us as a society move forward in creating new opportunity for all.”

 

Satya also discusses how empathy has led to Microsoft’s newest products.

“Empathy makes you a better innovator.
If I look at the most successfulproducts we
[at Microsoft] have created, it comes with that ability tomeet the unmet, unarticulated needs
of customers.”

 

 

Measuring Empathetic Leadership

Still not convinced Empathetic Leadership is a CEO’s Superpower? Take a look at the data that proves the point even further.

The Global Empathy Index, spearheaded by Lady Geek founder, Belinda Parmar, is an initiative that relies on data to validate the importance of empathy in business. Within the yearly index, companies are ranked not by an empty public commitment to empathy, but by measuring tangible indicators — from employee opinions to environmental practices. And the results show a “direct link between empathy and commercial success.”

One of the best examples is KIND Founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky. He is a shining beacon for young executives to follow as leadership changes direction and evolves from a top down management style to a more open and empathetic style .

 

“What’s interesting is that as my thinking has evolved – I’m on my fourth business now –
it has become clearer that empathy and kindness offer a distinct competitive advantage.
When I understand people with ease, I can accomplish more in both my business and my
private life. ”


“Being able to access these skills is especially valuable in those moments when you feel
threatened 
and your fight/flight instinct kicks in. If you can ask yourself questions like,
“where is this person coming from?” then you’re able to get to a more productive
place quicker, thereby creating value for business and society.”

 

Proof of Empathetic Leadership creating value in companies can be seen in the top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2015 that increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50% more earnings.  Average earnings among the top 10 were up 6% this year, while the average earnings of the bottom 10 dropped 9%.

Empathy also has a positive impact on employee retention.  According to Businessolver’s study;

– 95% of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathized with their needs

– 81% of workers would be willing to work longer hours for empathetic employers

– 60% would be willing to take a pay cut to work for an empathetic company and empathetic leadership.

and shockingly,

– 92%of CEOs believe their organizations are empathetic while only 50% of employees report having an empathetic CEO.

Closing the Gap 

Why is there such a big gap between what the CEOs think and what their employees think?  It’s simple really.

Millennials think, act and communicate differently than their baby boomer bosses. They have different expectations from their jobs, the leadership and the company as a whole.

They are looking for a deeper connection to their work, a purposeful position with a company that means something to them, that walks the walk and doesn’t BS them. Salary and benefits are secondary to this generation.  This generation has new ways of seeing and doing things, they are technology savvy and have a voice, and they want to be heard and understood.

As talent becomes more difficult to acquire, companies with CEOs who understand culture and empathy as key pieces to improving the bottom line, will come out on top.  A poor culture and a CEO who doesn’t learn Empathetic Leadership will find their employees jumping ship for less pay but a better environment.

Empathy is a skill to win the hearts of employees and create a culture that is good for the bottom line and a competitive advantage for the company.

Ways To Demonstrate Empathetic Leadership

What are some basic things a CEO’s can do to demonstrate Empathetic Leadership in their organization?

  1. Surround yourself with diversity. Seek out employees from different countries, religions, races, etc and listen to their trials and tribulations with a project or goal or even a personal event that they struggled with. This helps to give you insight into what others have experienced that can make an impact on their thinking.
  2. Cultivate relationships at every level of the organization: Conduct Skip Levels roundtables where the managers are not present. Go to every office and have a discussion about what they like and dislike about the company using metaphors in stories or charades. It’s fun and gives you insight into what’s happening in the organization.
  3. Listen to hear and observe, not respond. Do not speak in a meeting, allow others to manage the conversation and simply observe body moments, tone and tempo of their voice, how they communicate their ideas, the words they use, etc.  This is give you insight into how people are feeling and whether they are living the company values or not.
  4. Do not speak until the other person feels they were heard. In person-to-person meetings, reflect what you heard back to them, and check for understanding.  Do not look at your phone, 100% precent by focusing on what the person is saying. Follow up with an email outlining what you heard and any plan of action required.
  5. Choose your words carefully and deliberately. People can get triggered by words like, “don’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t.” Using phrases that provide a more neutral feeling like, “Have you considered…?” or “Have you thought about…?” will ease any fight or flight response.  Even if there is an issue, reframing it to focus on the improvement rather than the problem will help people to move forward with right action.

There are many solutions to improving a culture and training leadership on empathy.  If you have questions about Improving Culture or Empathetic Leadership, please feel free to contact me here.

The Best Tool to Assess Your Culture

Why is it so important to have a good corporate culture?

The list is endless, but let’s get right to the point; a good corporate culture means a better bottom line. It’s about business, plain and simple.

If the corporate culture is good, the employees are more productive, they are more loyal, you have less turnover, yada, yada, yada…you get the point.

And most companies know this and spend LOTS of time and money on assessing and tracking their culture through employee engagement surveys.  Some companies hire expensive consulting firms to administer these surveys and then slice and dice the data so they can determine what’s working and what’s not.

Smaller companies with limited budgets put it all in HR’s hands and hope they know what they’re doing, and in most cases they don’t.

A corporate culture starts at the top and should be owned by the CEO and their leadership, not HR, not a committee or a task group.  And it’s a HUGE change management project that never ends as long as the company is in business.

When I go into a company to identify areas of improvement, the very first thing I do is ask for any data around employee engagement.  This is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t always provide the information that I know is below the surface. And a very simple tool will tell you where to look deeper.

If you’re asking “what is it?” here’s your answer.

It’s a Pulse Survey.

It is a 3-question survey sent out quarterly and owned by the CEO.

It’s simple to administer through any survey tool, (Survey Monkey is still a good one) and any person at any level of the company can fill it out.

The reason it’s so effective is because most people don’t mind filling out a short survey versus the long engagement surveys and it focuses on the way you do business versus how the employees feel and provides valuable insight into where you need to improve.

Let’s look at the questions in detail. Of course, there is a scale, usually 1-5 for employees to rate these questions on and anything under a 4 is cause for concern.

Question #1: I feel good about the changes the company is making.

The response to this question provides feedback on how employees feel about the DECISION MAKING of leadership.

What does this questions tell us?

  1. How agile the company. Companies who are agile make decisions faster and move to action faster, creating a quicker response to market and customer demands. This is a key differentiator in companies who grow and those that see minimal growth.
  2. It also informs on the autonomy people have within the company. The decision-making authority can make people feel frustrated if every decision needs to go to their manager’s manager or through some complex system of bureaucracy. This, in itself, is enough to make people want to leave their job. Giving people the change to apply critical thinking and decision making helps them get and stay engaged.
  3. This is also a key indicator of a poor structure. In most cases it means the company has too many layers.  Imagine a decision having to go through 6 or 7 people to get approved. The ideal number of layers is 4-6 depending on revenue.  The benchmark for a company with $1B in revenue is 6, so use that as a baseline.
  4. Finally, this tells us if people believe in the strategy the company is following is correct. If employees aren’t aligned with the strategy, then any decision following that strategy will not be accepted.

Question #2: I am confident that we are heading in the right direction.

The response to this question provides feedback on how the employees feel leadership is COMMUNICATING.

What does this question tell us?

  1. To start, it tells us how well the managers and leaders of the company are communicating. In most cases when you see low scores in a function, it’s because the manager doesn’t have a regular cadence to delivering information. Whether a staff meeting, an email, a video or face to face meetings, communicating information keeps people “in the know” which results in them being engaged. There is nothing worse than not know what is going on, and this is all too common in companies who withhold information and keep it only for the top managers and leaders in the company.
  2. It tells us how bought into the strategy the employees are. The CEO needs to have regular events to update the employees on the “big” picture, the direction the company is heading and ultimately tie in how the employees are all part of making that big picture happen. Creating the awareness that it’s them, the employees, who deliver the strategy by executing every day is a powerful message to hear and creates loyalty beyond the paycheck.

Question #3: The changes in the organization help me work smarter instead of harder.

The response to this questions provides feedback on how the employees feel the changes the companies is making relative to helping their PRODUCTIVITY.

What does this question tell us?

  1. It tells us how good the companies systems and processes The most frustrating thing for employees is to be working and knowing there is a better way. Either through technology or a more streamlined process. You can’t have a good culture if your people are working inefficiently, it’s IMPOSSIBLE. Employees who feel that they work efficiently are more engaged and happier in their jobs. This not only leads to less turnover, but
  2. This question focuses on time to deliver to customer, and it’s at the heart of low profit margins and affects the bottom line. Imagine if you had a system that helped employees make products 2x faster, or see 30% more customers?  It doesn’t matter the task, what matters is, how quickly they are able to complete it, and how fast the company can deliver it to its customer.  Quicker turnaround means less cost means more profit means more money available for employee bonuses.
  3. A hidden benefit of this question is it tells you the companies capacity to grow. If you have inefficient processes and a lack of technology systems, you will have to add more and more headcount and resources to get the work done when you want to grow. Whether it’s adding new products, a new location, or just organic growth, the harder it is to get the work done, the less capacity employees must add to their plate. The best way to grow is to SELF FUND it through capacity building. Imagine you implement a system or process that helps an employee do their job in half the time. You’ve just created a 50% productivity gain. Do this across the company and imagine the amount of time saved that you can now use to focus on your growth.

As you can see, this very simple tool has a lot to offer and provides a wealth of information that most engagement surveys provide but in a less costly and complex format.  Measuring your corporate culture has never been so easy!

Try it out and let me know how you do. I’m here for any support you may need when implementing or assessing the results, so please feel free to contact me.

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