Is your company's work culture increasing happiness?
Are your personal values the same as your workplace? Do you want to lead a balanced life, while your company values workaholics? A clash of cultures could be stopping your personal and professional growth!
The HR Head of a reputed IT Company reached out to me after reading one of my articles. Some exchange of communication and a phone call later, he candidly shared the challenges the company was facing. What was emerging to be the biggest concern, according to him, was that he felt the employees lacked motivation, passion and were becoming increasingly difficult to train.
He pinned this down to the slowing financial incentives to the employees, due to a reduction in profits. As a result, the overall morale and happiness levels were at the lowest and the attrition rates had never been higher. The atmosphere at work was palpably stressful and a solution was needed urgently.
Each company and organization have their own metrics of gauging different parameters at work. For me, the key to understanding human issues like morale, happiness, productivity and so on, is to have a more holistic and human approach. I believe that the human touch is very important to break barriers and get to the root of the problem.
For me to step in, it was important that I had direct contact with the employees – with the people who went behind making the company and not an analysis of some dry results of a survey or a feedback form. While it was not possible for the company to have all the many thousands of its employees at a single platform at once due to logistics, it was decided to have a selection of around 500 people from the various sections and divisions of the company who were going to be representative of the diverse mix at the company.
A two-day seminar at a nice five-star hotel was organized which had in attendance people ranging from senior leaders and mid-level executives, right to newly recruited engineers, marketing and sales teams. It was the first time all these people were meeting each other in this sort of an environment.
Through the course of the two-days, the idea was to not only have me share practical strategies that could be implemented by each one of them to increase their potential, but more importantly to get them to open up and share their own goals, values, fears, challenges and passions. Of course, at first, everyone is hesitant, but as we built a rapport and they felt they were in a secure environment, they started sharing more and more, giving a deeper insight into what the real issues were.
It’s astonishing what the simplest of questions can unearth in such an atmosphere, as sometimes all that people are looking for is their voice to be heard.
For instance, when I asked “What makes you unhappy?” the responses I got revealed one of the primary, yet unspoken, points of divergence between the company and its employees.
“I couldn’t make it in time for my daughter’s 12th birthday as I had to be in the office till 9 in the night”, said someone, as a tear welled up in his eye.
“I barely ever get any time for myself. I want to exercise, I want to eat better, I want to be healthier but there never seems to be any time. I have a severe backache but I’m not able to do anything about it”, responded a lady in her mid-30s, visibly frustrated and dejected by what seemed to her like unsuccessful attempts at managing her own life.
“I always feel stressed out by some thing or the other. It feels like there is an inner battle going on between what I believe in and what I find myself doing”, replied someone in his 50s.
For most, it was an intense experience with lots of different emotions and ideas flowing. There was also a lot of laughter and jokes, selfies and smiles. And the fulfillment of the purpose of this experience.
While it was extremely satisfying to see so many people feel empowered at the end of the day, what was equally valuable was being able to discern how this company functioned. Amidst all the conversations and opinions, it became easy to identify the real reasons for discontent among the employees. It was something much deeper than the reduced financial incentives.
There was a massive clash of cultures.
The company’s culture, simply put, was very different from the culture of almost 90% of its employees. While the company valued workaholics who were tied to their desks with focus on numbers and figures, most of the employees were yearning for a more balanced life where they could leave work on time and share the important moments in the lives of their loved ones, and create some moments of time for themselves where they could do what they needed to have a healthier state of mind and body.
The company never drew its attention on the personal, mental and social wellbeing of its employees, and had a singular goal of increasing profits.
It is crucial to recognize and respect, for any company, that its employees are not mere machines or robots and are real people with all the attributes that come with being a human being. The solution, therefore, lies in ensuring the corporate culture evolves to include more holistic values.
Once the employees feel mentally, physically, socially and financially secure and happy, their performance levels automatically increase. Attrition rates come down and they work with more passion for the overall success of the company and their teams.
That one seminar was like a seed that was planted into the minds and hearts of people to think about a new direction. I am happy that since then, a lot of major steps have been taken and there had been an overhaul in the company’s approach towards its employees. There are visible changes with increased happiness levels, renewed passion and productivity at work.
The world’s most successful and profitable companies bear testimony to the fact that investing in their people indeed does give the highest returns.
Is your company’s work culture focused on increasing your happiness? What sort of investment are they making to make this happen? I would love to hear from you!