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Virtual AAPEX Session: Create a Culture Employees Embrace

As the business landscape continues to change and evolve, one of the major contrasts from even five years ago is that employees have different expectations from their jobs and employers. During the AAPEX Virtual Experience educational session “Creating a Business Culture that Employees Embrace” on Wednesday, Nov. 4, Haas Performance Consulting’s President Bill Haas, and Creative Director Sara Fraser, discussed what values and type of culture employees are looking for, and how business leaders can create and shape an environment that breeds success.

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Haas and Fraser advised that the key to influencing employees’ attitudes toward their work is to provide an environment and culture that includes effective management, empowerment, recognition and a balance of challenges and opportunity.

Managers set the tone for their business and its culture helps attract the right people, but it can also be the reason why people leave. It’s important to reflect on your company’s values, ethics and culture, knowing that prospective employees will determine if they align with what they had in mind. So when you are interviewing someone, they are, in essence, interviewing you, explained Haas. With that in mind, he added interviewers need to make a great first impression with a potential job candidate, just as much as the interviewee does with the interviewer.

Welcoming Culture = Happy Employees 

An ideal culture produces happy employees, and when they’re content, they are also more productive and focused, said Fraser. Managers who have good leadership skills, provide solid direction and express a positive attitude can directly impact company culture and also make the customer experience more positive.

Haas said that a company mission statement is a great starting point to set the tone for your culture. While he said that a lot of businesses don’t have a mission statement, they’re essential in keeping a company’s employees focused and productive, and a huge effect on making the customers’ experience worthwhile and exceptional.

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Fraser added that millennials (those who were born from 1980 to the mid-1990s) and Gen Zers (born in the late 1990s and early 2000s) want to feel empowered, have a purpose and know they are making a difference, and a mission statement can help you put them on a path to holding a gratifying position in your company.

The Ideal Boss

Put yourself in an employees’ shoes to see what they want in an ideal boss, and then see if you fit those characteristics. “A boss is more than a boss…a boss is more like a role model,” said Fraser.

Haas said he tells company executives (who he consults) that they’re not just the boss anymore, but rather “think of yourself as a ‘camp counselor.’” The reason they have these dual roles is because today’s employees bring up things that are not necessarily job related to seek advice. Paying attention to this is important because it will impact their job performance, so be a good listener and take the time to help them, he added.

Fraser presented a list of traits of an ideal leader/boss. That person should be approachable, honest, trustworthy, positive (with a passion toward job and good energy which is infectious and spreads through the organization), personable, understanding, calm/patient, organized, consistent and supportive, she said.

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If managers don’t possess these key traits that today’s employees seek, it’s important to change one’s mindset, said Haas. “Take the time to learn what your employees need and find out where you’re deficient and then modify your behavior in the areas you need to work on, and you’ll be a better boss.”

Haas also said to ask job prospects why they left their last job; it’s your opportunity to learn and grow from their comments and improve your culture so that person doesn’t become another casualty.

What are Employees Looking For?

Fraser provided an overview of key company attributes that will attract and retain employees, especially millennials and Gen Zers, who have vastly different needs and wants than Baby Boomers (those born from 1946 to 1964). They include:

  • Safety in the workplace, based on how they’ve grown up. Do you have a plan to protect them from an intruder alert, or a tornado? They also want the work environment to be free of harassment.
  • Equality and respect. Conduct among employees that doesn’t meet these expectations in the workplace must be confronted, or others will feel that the boss condones it.
  • Direction. It’s a good basis so employees can successfully carry out their job duties.
  • Contribution. They are exceptional multi-taskers, incredibly smart and know how to work “smarter not harder,” so be open to their suggestions, otherwise they may refrain from contributing.
  • Acknowledgement/recognition/appreciation. Remember to say thank you; it goes a long way.
  • Positivity. It spreads easily, but so does a negative attitude.

Another way to “win” employees, Haas expressed, is to provide employee “praise in public” (in front of peers) when it’s not expected, but to “criticize in private,” but make it a learning experience.

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Haas added that recognition of performance is an expectation today. “Employees need reassurance and validation that they are doing a good job. It stems from the environment they grew up in,” noting that money is not typically the primary factor in job satisfaction, as it ranks No. 6 on his list of “what employees want.”

Empowerment is also a key contributor to employee satisfaction, so it’s important to give employees authority to make decisions and responsibility for their role, said Haas. “And, because they’ve been powered with ability to make decisions without some level of oversight, they need to know that you have their back,” he added.

The Hiring Process

When looking for new employees, hire with your company culture in mind. “It takes only one bad apple,” said Haas, in reference to how employees who are negative and don’t share your values can harm your culture and drive other good employees away. He emphasized the need to have standard operating procedures for hiring, and, when followed, they should put you on the right path to find the right person. Haas advised “not to settle” if you don’t find the right person for the job right away.

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A solid job description, that outlines responsibilities and expectations, is also key in finding the right person for your team. The interview process, and the type of questions you ask, are paramount in finding employees who possess both the skills and the characteristics to fit your company culture.

To prepare for interviews, Haas suggests doing the following:

  • Call references.
  • Review application and resume.
  • Check social networking sites.
  • Make notes of items to discuss.
  • Write a list of questions.

To prepare for the interview process, Haas and Fraser mentioned a few sample questions, such as:

  • Tell me something your resume doesn’t.
  • What is your best attribute?
  • What is your worst attribute?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • If there was one thing you could change at your last job, what would it be and how would you change it?

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