“Strive not to be a success,” Albert Einstein wrote, “but rather to be of value.” If a company wants to create positive work culture in 2020 and beyond, and to attract brighter talent as a result, it must understand what the famed physicist meant.
It’s been argued, for example, that most corporate slowdowns and failures are not the result of external economic factors, but rather the company’s internal problems with following through. One of the drivers of internal problems, moreover, is employees who aren’t properly “bought in” to the company.
Let’s take it a step further: That problem of enfranchisement is fundamentally a problem of culture. A company defines its culture not by words, but by actions towards customers, towards the environment, towards employees. All of these actions create a framework of motivation, integrity, and social license that drives business forward.
To this end, consider the value of kindness. It’s true that bright people prefer to align themselves with a winner. It’s true that brand recognition also matters. But to be a “winner” in this day and age isn’t a question of brute economic force. If that were true, the world’s most admired companies would always be those with the highest earnings.
In reality, a talented person might pitch up in a corporation they don’t really admire – but they’ll do it for money, and from the moment they take the job, they’ll be plotting a path to higher ground.
What does higher ground look like? A more complete package. The salary and benefits are there, but so is the ethos, the attitude, the flexibility that allows better lifestyles. The bright talents, whether here in Australia or elsewhere, are no longer gritting their teeth in service to a faraway dream of retirement. They want to live – and enjoy life – today.
When companies empower people to live balanced and rewarding lives, they add value to the world. When this happens, a momentum develops; a sort of kinetic energy.
Take, for instance, the practice of putting your rising stars in front of people at conferences, workshops, and speaking engagements. This sends a subtle yet powerful message that your company invests and believes in its people.
Consider the practice of reaching out to past employees who performed admirably and left on good terms. Likewise, think of the effects of contacting past applicants for new job openings. These are actions, not words, and they convey the same message. Namely that your organisation cares about people; that it does not view relationships with talented professionals as all-or-nothing propositions, but as conversations in which values and possibilities are shared.
Paid volunteer leave is a further manifestation of positive work culture and its organisational value. Some of Australia’s biggest and most innovative companies are becoming more generous with paid volunteer leave. Why? Think of it in terms of social media. The earning power of social media influencers comes from their ability to “socialise” a brand message. When an influencer posts a snap of a hotel room they enjoyed, it feels that much more like getting a recommendation from a friend, rather than viewing a paid advertisement.
Companies are investing in community involvement for similar reasons. What’s more important: Pushing a lofty mission statement, or taking concrete action that makes a difference to the community? In the case of paid volunteer leave, work cultures benefit as employees feel the effects of altruism and new experiences. Communities benefits as a result of the volunteer work itself. Companies benefit from the net result.
But a 360-degree view isn’t always easy to achieve without help. Practical coaching and team development programs are some of the most effective ways to unpack these concepts and put them into action. When we work for ourselves, we can achieve a certain level of success. When we strive to be of value, there’s no limit to the things we can achieve – and the talent we can attract.