When we talk to HR directors, we always hear the same thing: “We need to improve our culture.” In fact, my company took a survey of 29 respondents at the 2017 California HR Conference and found that about 55% of these HR professionals would like to improve corporate culture. This trend is not new.
For years we’ve seen all kinds of programs and training to create the best corporate culture — everything from short-term motivational tactics to standing desks. The problem with these trends is that they fade; they don’t address the real issues that exist in an organization.
In our survey, we also asked the HR professionals what their biggest challenges are related to corporate culture. They said overwhelmingly creating a cohesive culture (55%) and retaining talent (41%) gave them the most concern.
So let’s start there: building a cohesive culture and retaining talent. Luckily, they are very closely related. If you are able to build a strong cohesive culture, your talent will stay. In fact, everyone will want to stay.
The Key Is Emotional Connection
Emotional connection is the foundation on which you build the culture. It provides the emotional safety humans need to thrive and perform, and maintaining its strength is what gives you the teeth for long-term success. By disrupting negative cycles of interactions we can reset relationships and inspire secure connections. This is based on attachment theory and group bonding.
Basically, when everyone is in emotional balance, each team member can finally reach their potential. It’s truly a team effort because each person impacts their fellow team members in unimaginable ways. Emotion is contagious, so when emotion is negative, you have to act fast.
Research shows that emotional connection
is our strongest motivator — not money or power. This means that if you can create a corporate culture that emphasizes connection, you will not only have more fulfilled teams, you will also retain and attract talent. Treating employees to lunch is a great way to show them you care, but the conversation at the lunch will determine if it will create any long-term motivation.
Back to our challenge — creating a cohesive culture. This takes some commitment. Introducing and then maintaining emotional balance can be tough, especially if the culture is stuck in a negative cycle. If team members are constantly arguing or criticizing one another, it may seem overwhelming.
The Process Of Emotional Connection
At my company, we use a three-stage process called the Board/Team Dynamics Process
or BDP. When everyone is familiar with and understands one streamlined process the culture becomes much more cohesive. Team members start speaking the same language and using the same tools to work through conflict. This is where you start to see some really positive changes.
In our work, we’ve found that culture has to start from the top. Everyone tends to look up to learn behavior. This is backed up by a recent study
from Duke University that says 52% of executives feel that culture is primarily set by the current CEO. And, while boards of directors do not directly choose the firm’s culture, they influence the choice of culture by picking the CEO. Boards also modify the eventual success of the culture by reinforcing or undermining it through their approach in addressing challenges together and making that emotional connection with the executive team.
So to have a long-term effect on culture, you have to start with the board and the executive team. This might seem overwhelming, but in that same study, 91% of executives said culture is important at their firm and 78% view culture as one of the top three or top five factors that affect their firm’s value. Executives and boards understand the value of culture and they are looking for long-term solutions.
Improving culture is within arm’s reach. We know how to fix culture for the long haul; it’s just a matter of committing to it. Addressing emotional connection is the way to arrive at a cohesive culture that retains and attracts talent. This is the HR revolution — are you on board?