How to Make Your Employees Raving Fans

We had the opportunity to dive into the challenge of creating meaningful company culture amidst hybrid work schedules and a dynamic workforce by speaking to Jonathan (Jon) Brickner. Jon is an Employee Experience Designer at Steelcase, one of the leading companies in shaping workspaces with innovative furniture solutions. His role uniquely positions him at the intersection of employee desires, technological capabilities, and business objectives. We know food plays a role in the bigger picture of an employee’s overall experience on a corporate campus. That’s why we asked Jon about the best ways to create spaces where employees thrive.

Q: How do you determine what employees want when it comes to corporate culture?

Jon: We tend to look at the employee journey. For years, the employee journey was viewed as a very mechanical thing. You screen, you select, you onboard, and then you expect them to perform – very mechanical. We try to be more experience-based in our approach.

We want to create more good experiences than bad ones along the employee journey. To do that, we try to look at it from the employee’s point of view, just like you would with a customer. We know that there are other job opportunities in the market. When people are considering Steelcase, we ask ourselves ‘Who else are they considering?’ and ‘Why choose us over those places?’

And when they do choose us, how do we help them accelerate quickly? Because when they start a new job, it’s an investment. They want to get up to speed and start contributing quickly. How do we help them with that?

And as employees continue with us, how do we help them move with ease throughout the organization? It’s a continuous process not just an onboarding one. Even with the best programs, people move on, right? So, how do we create raving fans? It’s through positive experiences of feeling supported and shared values.

It’s important to think about that entire journey from an employee perspective versus the organization perspective.

Q: What do you think is threatening corporate culture today?

Jon: I would say there are two mismatches in organizations that are causing trouble. The first is a disconnect between corporate and individual values. People’s values are always changing. We know from our research that family and loved ones are now at the top of the list, where work used to hold the top spot. Organizations need to balance their choices against what employees currently value. When there is a mismatch between personal values and organizational values, the company culture suffers.

The second is when employees have a perceived lack of control over the choices organizations make that directly affect them. For example, if an organization is investing in new areas but doesn’t let go of other areas to make room for the extra work, they are creating a strain. Some people become underworked while others are doing the job of three people. Organizations need to truly empower and resource people to effectively go after the goals that are set after getting employee input on what is needed to be successful to reach those goals.

Q: What would you say to companies that have core values but the lived experience at those companies doesn’t reflect those core values?

Jon: If it’s on your website as a core value, but not lived internally – then you need to reevaluate.

The beliefs that people have are formed by experiences they have. If an organization has family as its core value, having a family picnic once a year may fall short when the reality is that the first time somebody has a family emergency, and needs to take time off but are told they can’t take leave. Their experiences don’t line up with the core values stated. It all goes back to employee experience.

How do you check? Double click into your stated values, then double-click into the three or four experiences that align with those values. When this is done, there ought to be multiple things you can point to that say this is now reinforced.

Q: What are ways companies are attracting top talent beyond financial compensation?

Jon: I would say they give intentional thought to what makes them different, new, and attractive in the marketplace. Everyone is competing for talent, and they are all saying the same things.

Maybe you don’t pay 20% above market, but what you do offer is the ability to easily swap shifts with someone. It’s about understanding what employees value and being intentional about what you can offer to align with those values.

Also, think about where the company has “rights of passage.”  Things that we want you to go through that say you’re a part of the culture we’re trying to create. Talk about these things in an interview. How do you support me through difficult, “pit” moments, what are the celebrations?

An ounce of retention is worth a pound of recruiting. Making investments in the people that you know have more potential is huge. That will go a long way to making sure you have equitable paths to promote those people.

Q: How do you combat the perception that employees must move companies to be promoted and that having lots of different companies on their resume is more valued?

Jon: It’s in the stories that you tell — having internal success stories. I think the generation coming in wants absolute transparency. We are used to painting a pretty picture around all the great things, but not all the struggle that it takes to get there. How are managers coaching employees? It’s marrying up where I want to be, where I am, and the path to get there.

Q: If companies want to delve more into improving their company culture, what steps would you recommend?

Jon: First, check on the employee experience. It can be little things like how they update their hours in the system. Do they know how? Do they have to call a 1-800 number and chat with a bot? Did they call someone and were told to call someone else? Did they get resolution the first time they called? The number one driver of burnout is red tape.

Develop a regular cadence of employee listening. I think gone are the days of annual or maybe even bi-annual engagement surveys as the only way to find out what is going on. People are gone by the time you figure out what needs to be changed. So, making sure you are surveying a segment of your population every quarter is a great place to start.

Bring the people closest to the problems together when deciphering the survey results – not just leadership. Challenge them and give them the time and space to develop solutions and come back to you for funding and approval. Your greatest asset is your people – pay attention to them. The more you invest in not just their physical health, but their mental health and their connections is important.

We are seeing the lack of connection as the biggest barrier to organizations moving forward.

Do you want to inspire your employees to come into the office? Click here to learn how to use food as a magnet.

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