by Sabrina Parsons
In the age of Lean In and #MeToo, office relationships and workplace culture are shifting drastically, often in ways that can affect employees quite negatively. The recent explosion of #MeToo stories and the Lean In movement have surfaced lots of hard questions about equality in the workplace, inclusive office culture, and employee satisfaction.
As someone holding a leadership position at my company, I am often asked how we create a positive culture that drives our mission . Based on frequent check-ins with our team and years of trying new approaches, I’ve come up with five actionable steps managers and leaders can take to improve their workplace culture in the age of Lean In and #MeToo. And remember — while these steps have proven to be effective for our team, each team should strive to incorporate a few tactics that speak to their specific culture as well.
People have a fundamental need of belonging on a biological level. This shows in family relations, friendships and ideally in a professional environment. Building a community in your workplace is the most fundamental thing you can do. Team building activities and motivational sessions can help bring employees together under one roof and one vision. If you can build community in your company, and give back to the community you live in you will get even better results from these activities with your employees.Everyone like to be part of a positive action that helps their community. Help your employees want to come to work every day to work their friends, and be part of their community.
Building a culture deck should be an essential step in getting all employees onboard with the company culture — and it forces leadership to consider their culture in a meaningful way. Much like learning “right” from “wrong” from an early age, new employees need to be introduced to the company mindset from the very beginning of the recruiting process. This should not only help set them in the right direction, but also eliminate any candidates who do not share the values of the company. At Palo Alto Software, our Powerpoint culture deck is a living resource that we rely on when onboarding and as we actively assess and involve our employees in our workplace culture.
Being true to your company culture starts even before a new employee is hired.It’s important to set the right tone even at the interview stage of the recruiting process. We find that critical to good hiring decisions is assessing an individual’s past experience AND future potential and fit into our company culture. Just looking at what someone has done in their career does not give you a sense of how they will do at YOUR company. Assess the fit of employees and evaluate your recruitees equally by asking these questions during the interview.
To evaluate accomplishments fairly, set clear expectations before a certain project is even started. In the planning phase make sure to include a section on evaluation and expected outcomes along with clear metrics on how project and team member success will be evaluated in the end. This will require you to know what “success” means for your team, encourage accountability and objectivity in the end. Everybody wants to know where the golas posts are, and how they will be measured.
A happy employee makes a happy company, so make sure your employees are healthy, full of energy and motivation to contribute to the company. At Palo Alto Software we try to achieve this on numerous levels: fitness subscriptions, flexible schedules, maternity and paternity leave and allowing employees to bring their children to work to accommodate any scheduling conflicts they may have at home. Giving employees the right benefits, and promoting their happiness will pay off. You will have loyal and happy employees who will stay longer and be more creative and produce more.
Our number one policy at Palo Alto Software is “Use Good Judgement.” We believe this liberates teams to do the right thing no matter the circumstances. While there are systems and policies in place, no one likes to be restricted. So if your employees are more productive working from home – let them do that, but make sure they communicate what they plan on doing. If something in their life comes up – understand and help them deal with it. We are all human and sometimes unexpected things happen in life. At the end of the day, everyone should be asking themselves one question: “is this done well?”, and if so, mission accomplished.
Different companies have different benefits and policies, from small things like unlimited snacks to the bigger ones like 6-month sabbaticals. But what makes all the difference are the human connections we form in the office and it is our job as employers to encourage this.
Sabrina Parsons is CEO of Palo Alto Software, developer of the best-selling business management software, LivePlan. Palo Alto Software develops software and tools specifically targeted for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Sabrina assumed the CEO role in May 2007 and is responsible for Palo Alto’s business planning, fiscal and strategic goals and all of the company’s traditional marketing. She is a staunch supporter of entrepreneurs, and supports entrepreneurial organizations. She is on the board of the Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network, and has chaired the Willamette Angel Conference twice. She is on the Board of Directors for RAIN, the Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator Innovation Network. She is a graduate of Princeton University.