4 Ways Smart Leaders Are Shaking up Their Culture

A few decades ago, college graduates were more motivated by future financial reward, but recent graduates are more concerned with finding jobs with the right company culture and environment. This shift has made company culture one of the most important components.
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I asked a new college graduate what his "must-haves" were for choosing his first post-graduation job. His answer: "I want to be in a really collaborative environment where I can work with other people while doing something that matters."

A few decades ago, college graduates were more motivated by future financial reward, but recent graduates are more concerned with finding jobs with the right company culture and environment. This shift has made company culture one of the most important components for attracting top talent to a business.

In today's professional world, we know that those starting their careers value all kinds of flexibility and customization. They want a career that lets them be a part of a collaborative team, progress at their own pace, and work toward socially impactful goals.

Here are four new rules of workplace culture for today's workforce:

1. 24/7 Learning

Yes, classroom and formal training are alive and well and must continue. In fact, spending on corporate training is at its highest rate in more than seven years.

Progressive cultures find the ways to create "just in time" learning opportunities that employees can select and manage themselves. Examples include creating an expert network so recognized internal experts can easily share their knowledge more broadly through webinars, virtual discussion groups, or mini-videos. Most valued experts have limited time, which means delivering courses multiple times per year isn't feasible and the reach is more limited.

We worked with one of our clients to define "critical experiences" -- or the experiences that most accelerated growth while working on the job. This emphasis on experiences changed the mindset from jobs and competencies to the situations that accelerate learning.

2. Emerging Manager Role as Teacher and Developer

Managers must be the champions of developing their teams beyond just managing the work.

The old view was that managers deliver on work outcomes and their employees attend training classes to pick up new skills. That idea must be flipped. Yes, attend the training classes, but the manager has an essential role of developing talent, increasing the capability of her team, and teaching. Many organizations would say they have this expectation today, yet this intent must be reflected in how managers are selected, promoted, measured, and rewarded and how their time is spent.

This new manager role is essential for not only changing the culture of work, but also ensuring organizations have the talent to deliver on business outcomes today and in the future.

3. Purpose Over Pay

Today's employees value knowing their work has purpose and makes a difference. Of course, pay matters, but companies that bring their purpose to the forefront create a powerful recruiting and retention benefit.

Companies such as Menlo Innovations have realized that software developers choose that career to make something better -- to create change. In my book, Richard Sheridan says that his company changed everything about how work is done to consistently remind developers of why they chose their profession so they can find joy in their work.

In my research on wave-makers that start change, I found that this mindset of "we vs. me" is an essential ingredient in not only starting change, but also making it spread. A bigger purpose changes the way work is viewed.

As Sheridan stated: "These days, particularly, since the world is so complex, we have to do it in concert with others. There are very few individual heroes anymore. It requires teamwork. Take the focus of individuals and have them cast their eyes up on a much bigger prize that's outside your organization. Once they get to that, you start seeing that nobody's complaining anymore because the coffee wasn't brewed right. People are like, 'I don't care about this; we have work to do! Let's go!' They stop complaining personally, and now they're working on their purpose."

Companies that want to instill this in their culture must also eliminate the hidden internal obstacles. They must ensure their rewards and recognition don't inhibit collaboration, silos don't create internal battles, and job descriptions don't overshadow the power of a bigger purpose.

4. Work-Life Becomes Life's Work

We've been trained to seek work-life "balance." Now, technology has changed how we can work. We can seamlessly oscillate between work and play.

Every employee has a different situation; therefore, a different ideal work setup for maximum productivity is needed. Parents might have school conflicts for their children. Employees with aging parents might need to start the workday later so they can care for their parents in the morning. Morning people want to start at dawn, while others kick into high gear later in the morning. Smart companies allow their employees to work in ways that fit their work, of course, but also their situation.

So many organizations still rely on how and where work has always been performed. Yes, some roles require a physical presence at set times; however, many roles don't. Reconsider how to offer freedom and choice on working, and focus on outcomes, not where the work is done.

These are a few of the changes needed to create an updated company culture and experience. There isn't just one answer. Keep your eye on the business outcome you want most, not the conventional wisdom of the past. A willingness to reconsider how you've always done it is step one.

Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and organizational development consultancy that she founded in 2004. She's also the author of "MakeWaves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life." She and her team advise clients, including PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, and Frito-Lay, on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Follow Patti on Twitter!

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