Sometimes employees feel helpless at their organization. They feel like they have no power to initiate change. When this is the case, employees will become disengaged. Who wants to work in an organization that doesn’t believe in their abilities?
Creating a culture in which employees have an impact on decision-making is crucial for engagement and retention. Our Employee Engagement Report found that organizational culture is the top factor in employee satisfaction, but only one in three employees feels highly valued.
The old system of a top-down hierarchy with management telling employees about decisions that have already been made simply won’t cut it anymore. Millennials consistently say in surveys that they want their work to have a positive impact on the world. That starts with management listening and responding to their ideas.
Traditionally, students and employees are expected to provide answers. Authority figures — teachers and bosses — tell them what the right questions are. But successful companies aren’t satisfied asking the same questions.
Companies that demand more from their employees than just answers are more likely to be innovative. Asking new and different questions alters the company’s environment. This also fosters a culture in which employees are encouraged to make substantive changes to their workplace.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.” This brand of radical commitment to questioning the way things have been done creates a culture in which employees want to speak up and feel their voices will be heard.
Ultimately, in any larger organization, management will be the final arbiter of decisions. But employees can and should be involved in every step of the process — from determining what needs to be changed to brainstorming ideas for how it should be changed and feedback on ideas for how change should proceed.
Regularly seeking feedback from employees about general workplace issues is valuable too. Rather than an annual survey that appears to be at best a token effort, soliciting employee feedback on a weekly basis demonstrates a commitment to employee-guided evolution. Collecting data and then communicating with employees about the best ways to address issues reported in feedback is crucial to a change-oriented workplace culture.
Employees who are part of generating a positive work culture will feel invested in the company’s success. It’s management’s responsibility to create conditions in which this is possible. Spaces that encourage collaboration — big tables with white boards, for example — convey to employees that the company is committed to their ideas. Encouraging employee-led initiatives is also a culture win.
Employee buy-in is critical to the success of an organization. When employees believe that management will do whatever they want regardless of how employees feel, workplace culture will become toxic. Companies that embrace a culture of questioning and show genuine commitment to their employees’ ideas will thrive in the long run.