How does HR maintain or drive company culture in the “new normal? As most companies battle to adjust, it’s more crucial than ever to zone-in on four key areas to engage, retain, and attract high performing stakeholders with employee relations concepts. These focused areas are not only for HR roles, but should also be driven by managers and all members of leadership teams.
During my 20 years of professional experience, I bounced from an HR generalist to a therapist in private practice later landing back into a high-stepping HR director role. All through these accumulative episodes, I discovered valuable insights to some quick and easy strategies that had fast-tracked many of my former therapy clients. A few years ago, I realized these same strategies were transferable to employees and began producing significant results in the workplace.
As a problem solver by nature, I was struggling to find the answer to help employees, managers, and executive levels find harmony. I was seeking a way to shift the unstable company culture to one that everyone could stand behind. As anyone in HR knows, changing company culture can take years. Pulling from the powerful benefits of my psychology education and therapist backgrounds, I was able to pinpoint direct correlations between four distinct concepts that overlapped with individual’s personal and professional lives.
The discovery first came when I was constantly dealing with manager and employee conflicts. As these conflict rounds became more frequent and seemingly more like speed-dating style meetings, there appeared to be a never-ending line outside my office door. I started noticing patterns, the same as I had seen in personal therapy sessions. I identified four common issues: unclear goal setting, ineffective communication, out-of-step decision-making, that in-turn limited relationships. These four areas became the bottleneck to a former employer’s culture growth. The negative interactions truly stagnated growth across employees, departments, and leadership teams, resulting into a company-wide culture backslide.
During a spontaneous moment, I decided to grab from my previous experience and began implementing the easy-to-use strategies to test them out in a workplace setting. To my surprise, these same strategies produced similar positive results as they did in personal settings. This was great news!
Having another ah-ha moment, I concluded that I needed to capture as many of the universal strategies that could be applied to these four key areas. I started writing them down onto some sticky notes that were sitting on my desk. I wanted to transfer this knowledge somehow in some way in order to help my former employer to improve their employee’s performance along with turning around their troubled company culture. Before I knew it, there were over 100 sticky notes and employees were using these strategies with positive outcomes. As employees began gaining momentum in turn, so did the company. These short and simple strategies started working on overdrive.
The first concept focus, to no surprise, is placing a significant degree of attention on effective communication. The top two essential ingredients to strong communication is being a good listener first then being a mindful messenger second. Listening does translate to thoroughly reading, comprehending, and absorbing company emails. Most misunderstanding surface due to lack of attention during listening or reading information. Pointing out, that it’s difficult to be an effective communicator if you’re only grasping a partial message by whatever mode of communication.
When communicating, carefully select the best form of communication by evaluating the target audiences preferred method. This is critical to considering the sensitivity level of the person’s personality. Consider if an email, in-person, phone, or video chat has proven to be the receiver’s best outcome. During social distancing, gear towards video or phone chat. These should be your go-to if the best method is unknown. Give high consideration to crafting the message with careful thought to word selection. Depending on the nature or goal, this can set you up for a meaningful and successful interaction. This is my definition of being a mindful messenger.
The second and third concepts work in conjunction with each other. Specifically, goal setting is second then followed by decision-making, which is third. By clearly defining and setting realistic goals and attainable timelines, decision making should be aligned with each goal set. For this reason, goal setting and decision making are direct partners in crime leading to success.
Goal setting should be strategically placed before making decisions due to needing to know what the actual goal is will depend on how you focus your attention and what decisions need to be made for alignment. Decisions not aligned with individual, department, or company goals is the fastest way to steer off course. If decisions are out of alignment, employees become derailed and become unable to hit the targeted goal. The higher the level of the employee the more detrimental a missed stepped decision has on the fall out and errors trickles downhill.
The fourth and final concept area of focus ties the other three areas together, which is building and maintain relationships. This places employees and managers on a solid foundation. Effective communication, efficient goal setting and effective decision making all lend to building strong and durable relationships. The quickest way to build solid relationships is through trusting the other person. The best way to do this is by being transparent in our intentions during our interactions. Transparency also means sharing equal amounts of respect during the relationship building process that eventually builds trust. Trusting each other offers a bridge to cross back and forth in relationships, which points back to all four areas of focus.
We reduce the likelihood of sinking in professional quicksand when we are no longer hiding behind our own agendas. We foster relationships when we encourage not discourage colleagues. Another way to foster a professional relationship is to actively become a mentor or seek one out. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to grow and build professional relationships.
As I quickly rationalized that assumptions create barriers, they can be removed by linking these four focused concepts together. By using all four, HR and companies can enhance an employee’s performance, tighten leadership roles, and improve a company’s culture. As with the company mentioned here, all four areas of focus became monumental and paved new paths to overhauling a more desirable company culture.