The culture hump

The Culture Hump will be recognisable to anyone involved in a growing small to medium sized organisation.  It is the stage when the bonhomie of the early days starts to fade.  It is when members feel less part of an entrepreneur’s gang and more part of a formal organisation, where the focus seems only about delivering financial results, when the close bonds that used to exist start to strain and break.  It is when everyone is working flat out to fulfil the demands of the organisation but not getting anything back beyond their pay cheque, when scale of operation means the leadership team can no longer be as close to everyone as they once were. When  you hit the Culture Hump the honeymoon period of your growth phase is over and your employees are susceptible to the advances of new suitors. As key sectors of the economy continue to recover, entrepreneurs expanding in high growth environments want people with the skills and experience to deliver what the market is crying out for. Current statistics released by the Hay group estimate that 756,000 more employees will resign from their organisation this year than last.  If your business employs any of them the imperative is on you to make sure they take home more than money at the end of the day. You need to push on over the Culture Hump. PWC did a fascinating survey in to the demands of what they term Millennial Employees.  These are people that have grown up with a digital economy and whose aspirations in life are markedly different to those that came before them.  Key findings include that:

  • Work-life balance is more important to Millennial Employees than it was to previous generations – the promise of a high salary in the future is not the same incentive to work excessively long hours now as it once was.
  • Flexibility around where and when work is carried out (so long as deadlines are being met) is important to both Millennial and non-Millennial Employees, but pay and promotion is not the same motivator it might have been in the past.
  • Creating a strong, cohesive team-orientated culture at work that provides the opportunity to work on interesting assignments is a highly attractive proposition.

Although the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennial and non-Millennial employees, there is a greater emphasis on being supported and appreciated amongst the former group, with the latter placing a greater emphasis on money and development (although they too are showing a marked rise in their desire for greater emotional fulfilment in the workplace). What it all points to is one thing; pay and progression is not enough – culture is critical. If your organisation has hit the Culture Hump,what can you be doing to attract, retain and engage the best people before your competitors try to tempt them away? Think about the things you did with the team in the past, and the things you could be doing to engage them in the future.  Think about how you are going to weave these activities in to the fabric of the business so that they don’t get pushed out by other pressures (your Employee Value Proposition if we’re going to get formal about it). Take the time to listen to all your employees – use a staff survey if you like, but if there’s less than a hundred people then externally enabled and reported focus groups will give you a better feel for the reality than pure metrics.  Being able to really listen to your employees is just another advantage you have over your bigger competitors.  Most of all, as the balance sheet is getting better and better, don’t ignore the culture sheet, because without one the other certainly won’t be as attractive.

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