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The rules of the workplace were written by men for men over 100 years ago. Today, we still see a “boys club” mentality in every industry.
In fact, a recent one Harvard study shows that male employees are promoted faster than their female counterparts while under male managers. Conversely, the study found that among female managers, all genders receive equal promotional treatment.
Researchers predict that about 40% of the gender pay gap would disappear if male-to-male promotional benefits were eliminated. But eliminating the toxicity of boys’ clubs won’t happen overnight.
So how does a company change its culture?
Let’s take a look at what it takes for a company to make a cultural shift towards more equality in the workplace.
Corporate culture change: change the focus of recruitment
Knowing what skills are needed to get the job done is the easy part of recruiting. Searching resumes for a candidate’s family tree is as easy as scanning for the right text. Where they went to school, how much experience they have, and what titles they have held are all easy to identify and quantify.
It takes more skill to predict how the new team member will fit into the office dynamics and what contributions and new skills they can bring. This requires a more personal approach in the interview process. Rather than focusing solely on someone’s professional background during an interview, it’s important to spend time discovering whether the candidate is an emotionally intelligent person who can not only contribute to the team, but also strengthen it.
Shifting the focus to hiring both passion and skill can give your organization a different kind of employee. Skill can be learned, but passion is innate. It’s there or it isn’t.
From culture fit to culture addition
Much has been written about ‘culture fit’ in today’s hiring climate. Hiring managers are told to emphasize how likely a potential candidate is to align with core values and adapt to the diverse personalities that make up an organization.
But improving company culture is not about maintaining the status quo. Searching for a “fit” culture can be more like fitting a square peg into a round hole. This approach is very demanding on the employee and creates an expectation that they must adapt to the culture, rather than the existing culture evolving and improving over time.
A culture addition, however, is someone who joins the culture of an existing organization and brings something to the table. In this way the whole becomes more than just the sum of its parts.
With a culture ad, a CEO can say, “What’s missing in my current company culture?” and allows the employees to take advantage of the new gifts the team receives from a diverse hire. More importantly, it removes those who might bring an “end justifies the means” approach to job performance.
Everyone is needed to create an inclusive company culture
Having friendly, inclusive people on your team creates a friendly culture. Hiring to improve culture starts with leadership, making emotional intelligence as important a performance indicator as any other professional requirement. This gives hiring managers and team leaders the opportunity to incorporate this into their recruiting, recruiting and management practices.
But CEOs can’t just dictate this from the top down and expect the grassroots to march along. CEOs need to demonstrate the kind of qualities they want in the employees their hiring managers bring on board. Part of this is activating solutions for change. Setting the tone by emphasizing core qualities or pillars that guide the organization.
CEOs need to communicate of their employees do not until them. Transparency makes employees feel more secure in their jobs. It’s the CEO’s job to make sure employees know what’s going on and feel informed.
When leaders communicate at a high level, it helps team members feel more secure communicating with them and each other. In a toxic workplace, open communication can be seen as aggressive or intrusive. In an empathetic workplace, communication promotes honesty and an open exchange of ideas.
Sharing is more than just communicating. It means adding something personal to your communication. If the CEO isn’t just another person who is constantly hiding in a corner office, it brings humanity to their leadership style.
When employees share with each other, they are talking about more than just work. They are involved on a more personal level, which goes a long way in improving the culture of a workplace.
Some see vulnerability as a weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. Admitting a mistake, acknowledging a mistake, or asking for help takes courage, and that courage needs to be acknowledged. Employees need to feel safe to share what’s on their mind – from problems with a job to problems caring for children or hardships at home – without fear of it negatively impacting their job.
The best leaders inspire people to do their best, and that works both ways. When a leader shows his vulnerable side, it can encourage greater involvement from his employees. Showing compassion to team members who are struggling by offering support, whether offering help or words of encouragement, can go a long way in increasing employee commitment and satisfaction. When we create space for vulnerability, we create a culture that feels safe, and a safe culture is productive.
Company culture and the happiness factor
The purpose of corporate culture is to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and where all employees can contribute and succeed. An improved company culture can certainly make people happier in their personal relationships with their bosses and other team members.
It can also make organizations more effective. Employees who communicate, share and feel comfortable airing vulnerabilities can overcome obstacles that hinder the performance of other teams.
Companies that improve culture for diversity, empathy and friendliness can turn a “high resignation” into a “high retention” by creating an environment where everyone wants to work and no one wants to leave.
Shelley Zalis is CEO of The feminine quotient (the FQ).
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