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Workplace Culture Is Key to Employee Satisfaction

New Catalyst reports show what employees want—and how companies can deliver.

NEW YORK (July 7, 2015)—What does it take to keep employees satisfied on the job? According to findings in Catalyst’s new Mind Your Culture Gap, both women and men MBA graduates surveyed want inclusive workplace cultures that not only emphasize integrity and collaboration, but also encourage them to achieve their potential and support others. These “constructive behaviors” are much preferred over more “aggressive” ones like perfectionism, power, competition and opposition—and they predict employee satisfaction with their current organizations as well as their intentions to stay.

Catalyst researchers looked closely at the “Culture Gap”—the difference between employees’ current workplace culture and the culture they say they want—and found that the narrower the gap, the more likely employees were to:

  • Say they planned to stay at their current organizations in the coming year.

  • Feel satisfied with their:

    • Work and advancement.

    • Pay.

    • Supervisors.

    • Organization’s commitments to work-life quality and diversity.

“This is important news for company leaders who are increasingly concerned about finding and keeping top talent and driving organizational performance,” says Deborah Gillis, President and CEO, Catalyst. “Women and men will seek out and stay at companies that demonstrate the behaviors that previous Catalyst research has linked to inclusion and innovation: empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility.”

Yet despite establishing programs and policies designed to improve diversity and inclusion, many companies still find a wide culture gap remains. Why?

Companies tend to overlook the “people side” of change, according to Catalyst’s second new report, Think People, Not Just Programs, to Build Inclusive Workplaces. While programs, policies and assessment tools are important and essential, they’re not enough to build inclusive cultures.

To create high-performing workplaces where employees feel included and empowered to contribute, companies must also involve employees throughout the organization. Here’s how:

  • Connect employees to the company’s core values. Demonstrate what your organization stands for, and how those values extend to everyone.

    • Impact: Nearly 50% of employees surveyed reported feeling a greater sense of inclusion when they felt personally connected to their company’s values.

    • Success Stories: Nationwide brings its On Your Side slogan to life by putting its people first—whether by prioritizing “we value people” as one of the company’s core values, offering comprehensive and equitable benefits coverage to spouses in both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, or empowering employees across its 19 Associate Resource Groups to contribute to and impact business decisions. 3M developed six Leadership Behaviors, including Foster Collaboration & Teamwork and Develop Others & Self, to signal that all employees can and should demonstrate leadership through their actions. The company also created an accountability system to ensure that employees truly integrate the behaviors into their job functions and interactions with colleagues and teams.

  • Show how you’re socially responsible. Share news about your company’s philanthropic and volunteer efforts and how they benefit customers and the broader community.

    • Impact: More than 62% of employees who felt strongly that their company was making a meaningful impact also felt included at high levels. More than 70% of employees who felt strongly that their company was making a meaningful social impact also felt that great progress was being made toward workplace inclusion.

    • Success Stories: Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program makes a global commitment to enabling the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020, and it is a source of pride for employees. Kimberly-Clark’s “Nurture Moms and Babies” initiative includes activities such as educational programs for proper nutrition, diaper donation, and a program that helps low-income mothers pay for daycare.

  • Cultivate champions at all levels. Employees need to see role models throughout the company—from peers to managers to senior leaders—demonstrating their support for inclusive work cultures.

    • Impact: Employees who saw change champions at all levels perceived that their organizations were making more progress toward creating an inclusive work culture.

    • Success Stories: A white senior leader who sponsors a woman of color inspires others to be advocates too. A middle manager who speaks up in an all-staff meeting to ask leadership about the organization’s diversity goals demonstrates courage and role models commitment to making change to his or her peers. And when a male manager announces he’s leaving early to attend his daughter’s soccer game, he makes it okay for others to do the same. As Stephen Ingledew, UK Managing Director, Customer and Marketing, Standard Life, says, “For me, creating a positive, more flexible working environment is absolutely key to getting the best out of our people.”

  • Create pathways for dialogue. Give everyone opportunities to share feedback and experiences about company culture and engage in meaningful conversations about inclusive practices in scheduled work groups, town hall-style staff meetings, manager office hours, as part of team project work, and through focus groups across job levels.

    • Impact: When employees had opportunities to engage with senior leaders and share their views, they felt more included and perceived that their organization was making greater progress in creating an inclusive work environment for all.

    • Success Stories: Rockwell Automation holds fishbowl dialogue sessions where employees are encouraged to engage with each other and leaders on any topic. Leaders form a small circle in the center of the room, while a larger group of employees sits on the perimeter and is invited to join the dialogue in the center to share their views. In one session, shortly after the company introduced domestic partner benefits, an employee expressed concerns since it conflicted with his or her personal beliefs. Rather than go on the defensive, a senior leader asked questions to understand the employee’s perspective, emphasized the company’s commitment to treating all employees fairly, and invited other employees and leaders to share how they are embracing the company’s inclusive values, while still staying true to their personal beliefs. Unscripted dialogues like these have helped employees feel more engaged and included—despite their differences.

“Inclusive workplaces don’t happen by themselves,” says Ms. Gillis. As these two reports show, companies must be intentional about fostering the behaviors that employees want and involving individuals at all levels in creating work cultures where everyone feels empowered to be successful.

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