Since COVID has become widespread, there has been increasing talk of rethinking the company as an organization. It’s about time. It’s almost as if we’ve suddenly realized that companies are made up of people working together to create something, and that without those people, well, there is no company at all… Yes, people matter, and it’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic to figure that out.
The reality is that we didn’t want to address it or see it. It was so much easier to focus on results and performance. Wasn’t that what Milton Friedman taught us? That the company should first serve the interests of the shareholder-owners?
The crisis has only highlighted an obvious fact that we have deliberately neglected, namely that net income is not a sufficient condition for a company to be successful. The other condition is the well-being of the employees, that they feel engaged and motivated at work and that their work has meaning.
How can we ensure that this condition is met? By building a meaningful corporate culture and by improving the employee experience. Here is how to do it. In four steps
1. Define the mission you want your company to have
This is about defining why you do what you do. Get to the bottom of it. Keep asking yourself this question until you can find what defines the essence of your business or, in the words of Simon Sinek, the “just cause” you want it to be embodied in. Once you have found that, focus on defining the strategy that will allow you to create REAL value, i.e. revenue but also a positive and lasting impact on society.
Your goal must be crystal clear so that all your people can understand it and mobilize to achieve it.
2. Mobilize your employees around your “why” and your values.
To mobilize them, you need to involve them in the very definition of your strategy, by asking them what societal issues they consider most important and what values they hold most dear. It is not necessary to involve everyone from the start. This can be done through workshops, targeted communication and especially by creating an internal team supported by an expert in coaching and value creation.
As for motivation, it can also be done through play. See how gamification has improved HIV prevention and care… Research has shown that many problems have been solved in this way. Organizing one with the objective of reaching an SDG or reducing the company’s carbon footprint could be mobilizing, empowering and motivating initiatives.
3. Empower them to act
For all of this to happen, you need to give them a tool empowering them to act for the common good in a way that is aligned with their values and the just cause you have defined.
It is high time to change the culture from “thinking for people” to “helping people think for themselves” and empower them to take action and initiatives. A good way to do this is by fostering connection, collaboration and (social) innovation within the organization.
Connection: Hybrid work has accelerated the disconnection between employees. Stress and fear of the future have only made them more isolated. It is important to allow them to create their own internal community, such as an LGBTQ community, or a community of people who share the same passion for water sports or for cooking, which will have the effect of reinforcing the feeling of inclusion within the company.
Collaboration doesn’t happen without making sure people are connected first. It can be done through solidarity actions, for example, like distributing meals to seniors who may have become more isolated due to confinement.
(Social) innovation can be done even more easily if linked to the company’s raison d’être (hence the “social” thing). Connection, collaboration and innovation will form the ground for a successful and impactful corporate culture.
Without the first two steps, you can have the best community engagement platform in the world, nothing will happen and your ad will look like a damp squib.