Employers are more and more involved in decisions about personal and professional development, and not always in a positive way. The “Great Resignation” demonstrated that millions of Americans often think about changing jobs or careers to achieve their personal goals. This means that employers need to reconsider the ways in which their organizations can provide the right balance of roles, work environment and culture to attract and retain employees.
With over 10 million job offers available, employees have choices, many of them. A primary consideration that many face is the unique challenges of mitigating risk to themselves and their family members due to the pandemic. Others experience mental health pressures, from excessive stress and anxiety to depression, and some struggle with substance abuse or other addiction issues.
With a record of 4.4 million abandons until September 2021, it has become a business imperative for organizations to develop “cultural resilience” that will help foster better overall mental health. It also contributes to workplace efficiency (regardless of setting) and prioritizes employee balance in a world that has become more unbalanced elsewhere.
Cultural resilience aims to institutionalize those aspects of a corporate culture that are distinguished by the way mental health is valued and to understand the inextricable link between mental well-being and productivity.
Simply providing employees with a phone number to call if they have mental health issues is no longer enough. Employers need to see mental health as organic, supported by leaders and well understood by frontline managers who have a vital role to play in the development of the culture. Of course, every organization is unique and there are different methods of creating a distinctive culture. However, in all this variety, a few cohesive approaches usually help strengthen an organizational culture that prioritizes the mental health of teammates.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
“You are short of ears and long of mouth.” – John Wayne
Business leaders should start by assessing the current state, including employee perceptions of leadership and the organization. Leaders should conduct qualitative and quantitative assessments to assess how employees perceive their role, stress level, work-life balance, etc. These assessments highlight the elements of the organization with which employees connect and identify explicit places where well-being is impacted. When done right, it effectively creates a mental health “personality” for the workplace. A major mistake, especially for seasoned leaders, is to believe that they are fully “in touch” or well aware of the corporate culture. Regular reviews, especially when they shed light on the well-being issues of teammates, make it possible to confirm or enrich other points of view.
Important dimensions probably involve things such as managing conflict, investing managers in the success of their team, making teammates feel listened to, understanding the company’s strategy or their work. energizes. People in the workplace are usually linked to perceptions of power and a single issue; “Do what I do / suggest / invest my time in the subject?” When that power is out of balance, teammates are less effective, less engaged, more likely to feel a strain on their individual well-being, and more likely to seek another place to spend their careers.
Advise the company persona
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin disraeli
Once leaders have gathered employee feedback, the next step is to turn that information into actions that address areas of concern. There is no single answer, but there are principles that are generally effective.
First, attack outliers directly. Lead with clarity and urgency when issues raised are unacceptable in the workplace. Racism, misogyny, bullying, etc., are never acceptable.
Second, keep it simple. Choose no more than 2-3 areas highlighted in the assessment process to target and create real, meaningful change with proven, thoughtful initiatives that have validated results. Technology or service partners can often help here, as they can present a framework that engages teammates and provides valuable resources and data to assess progress.
Finally, communicate transparently. Share the goals, share the process, share the initiatives. The past two years have illustrated the willingness of teammates to share their perspectives on how to shape effective work environments. Leaders must reciprocate with the same level of clarity.
Creating a more resilient corporate culture can take many forms. The action may be to review employee work policies to make them more flexible and accommodating. If employees want more access to mental health and wellness solutions, the step may be to implement digital tools to provide coaching and counseling services. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, but the fundamental desire to activate the corporate culture by accepting that employee health is important and reliable solutions to address it is a giant first step.
Leading with vulnerability
“I had always tried to resist supervirility. I liked to show the vulnerability of age. – Clint Eastwood
Culture change cannot happen easily unless senior teams embody that change in their actions. They can help set the right tone by making a commitment to authentically do what employees want their organizational culture to prioritize more. Leaders who can assess and share their personal journey are much more likely to build the confidence needed to effect change. The reality is that all leaders struggle at some point. Communicating openly and honestly opens up the possibility of reshaping the personality of the company more quickly.
This same authenticity supports the emphasis on employee emotional health as not only the right thing to do, but the right thing to do. This has a direct impact on team performance in the form of increased productivity, engagement and retention. Cultural resilience is a powerful strategy for strengthening a great culture or reshaping an emerging culture.
Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images