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Welcome to episode 18 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

In today’s episode, we talk about using this unique moment, to create real culture change at your company using the Employee Experience Framework. It’s our opportunity in HR to create a culture that is safe for all of our employees, while also making sure our stated culture matches exactly how our employee experience our culture on a daily basis.

We start with understanding what culture is (and isn’t), and why now is the time to start rebuilding your current culture into one that supports your company’s views on Anti-Racism and creates a safe and inclusive environment for all employees. How you’ve approached it in the past, isn’t going to build real change, so instead, use four components within the Employee Experience Framework to ensure change happens.

Then we move into how to evaluate your current culture statement, if you have one, uncover the gaps and friction points, four questions to ask your employees about the current culture, and how to move forward with something new.

The key here is that your culture statement must have meaning to your employees’ daily lives, and it must represent how the culture truly IS, for each employee. It’s not an aspirational statement of what you want it to be someday, it’s what it is now.

And finally, what our responsibility in HR and leadership is, to help drive culture change across all levels of the organization.

Listen in, to learn more!

In This Episode

  • What is culture and why is it important to address right now?
  • An example of a culture statement gone wrong… and it may feel a bit familiar to your company’s culture statement.
  • How to create real culture change—the steps to take, the questions to ask, how to ensure it happens.



This is a very starting point of a culture shift. This takes time, but it doesn't work if you're not doing these steps. I'm Melissa Anzman. HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner, responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide. And I struggled to move the needle even after trying everything under the sun, fast forward, past many fail tactics and lessons learned. And you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals, and employees. By focusing on the employee experience, I created the rethink HR podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact. If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, who's looking to stop spinning your wheels, doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results, or you want to have a career.

You love your in the right place. Let's get started today. I am going to talk all about company culture or workplace culture, whichever one you choose to call it. And why now is the time to go deep about it, to really understand our moment in time and have HR step up to the plate. But the way we need to step up is dramatically different than the way we have been acting. So in order for us to create that great employee experience and foster a workplace culture that is safe and comfortable and inclusive for all of our employees, we have to actually start rebuilding the culture that we have right now. The whole point here is to focus on creating those positive experiences for our employees versus focusing on shifting culture, changing it, doing a do this, because I said so or worse, focusing on employee engagement, because if you've heard me at all, hopefully you are listening to the fact that employee engagement is not something that we can influence the same is true as for culture.

However, what we can influence is creating positive employee experiences that are stackable to become more positive over time that really engage our employees. Engagement is an outcome of those good experiences. And to do that, to actually drive change, you need to use components. Part of the experience that move it forward, which are the no feel, act, and touch. And then once we look at those components, we reposition our messaging around the storytelling for HR framework. Now, if you want to learn all about the employee experience framework, you can listen to the rethink episode. Number nine, all about this, where I go in depth around why these components are so effective and how you can right now stop your approach of what you're doing and instantly change to create better and more positive employee experiences. Now, what I'm seeing right now in the workplace is that HR is super uncomfortable as our leaders as to how to move forward on so many different levels and facets.

COVID becoming an anti-racist company and culture while still doing their everyday jobs and managing all the things that are coming with a downturn economy, layoffs, less employees, more work, maybe losing clients, instability, all the things, not just for themselves, but also for the employees that they support. And I'm also seeing a lot of BS out there about how we can change our culture and create better environments for our employees right now, or worse. What's really irritating me is that a lot of the quote unquote, big name HR thought leaders are futurists are completely glossing over this moment. This moment of opportunity that we have by sharing yet another model for how an HR organization should work or refining their own model, or really not thinking about how we need to focus on making actual change. Instead of being busy in the busy work of modeling, we need to do the work.

Now, now is not the time to shift our focus to be busy somewhere else. We have an opportunity to actually create change in our culture. And I'm urging you to use this unique moment as uncomfortable as it may feel as you know, on top of another thing, as it may feel to start building. And for most of us rebuilding the workplace culture that your company wants to be for all of your employees now fair warning my take on culture, what it is, how you change it. And so on is different than how others approach it. Because, you know, as an HR professional here, I've done the actual work. And I know that the theories and the big name consulting firms that come in and create your culture can only take you so far. This is how you change actual workplace culture, not theorize about it, not set out a flag and say, this is what we do.

It's doing the dang work. And since today, it's just a snippet, a quick podcast episode, you can read more about it in the employee experience solution book, or let me know, and we can do another in depth conversation about workplace culture on the upcoming episode of rethink HR. So we all know that there is no quicker way to add friction to your employees experience than a misalignment between what you say your culture is and how your employees actually interact with the culture on a daily basis. When we claim our culture, whether it's a statement, a feeling, a buzzword or something else we're saying our culture is we're putting a stake in the ground of what our employees and everyone externally can expect from us. And what we believe in what's ironic about this is that the importance of culture, no one IX except HR knows actually what culture means.

And HR sometimes doesn't even know either. In fact, there's like not one standard definition of work culture available. It's interpreted differently by every person in company and how we define it as an organization, it's going to carry weight and it's going to be the baseline for your audience to start from whether it's your employees, your candidates, your vendors, et cetera. So following that train of thought, when we say something and the experience, then doesn't match the reality. Our employees have a negative experience because they think we are lying to them and let's be truthful. Sometimes we are, and it's not a malicious lie. It's what we hope to be. But as stated culture, isn't that a culture is what we actually experience as employees on a daily basis. The other thing that often happens is your employees then get confused of like, if this is our culture and I'm not experiencing that, am I missing something?

Is something different for me that isn't the same for others. Is my boss just awful? Or my experience an outlier versus no, this is what it is. We're just not achieving it. So we've all seen a culture statement. Your company probably has one and it's dumb. I don't know another way to say it. I'm sorry. I could probably say it better with the curse, but I try to keep these as clean as they can, but having a culture statement that is helpful, that is pie in the sky is truly like the worst thing ever. I have a bunch of examples. Um, but I wanna, I want to share maybe one or two that I think is the most ridiculous ones I've ever found. Now, one I've actually talked about before. So hold on to that. But I have worked with a company whose culture statement was called, be bold.

That's it be bold? Um, it's I guess a great aspiration and statement. It's telling you what to be. If it's an action, it feels motivating when you read it, it's positive. It's upbeat. I'm sure the marketing group or their marketing consultants had a really good time at, uh, leveraging that and testing it and doing all the things with it. But like, what does being bold in your daily work actually mean? How does that relate to the everyday job? You have to show up and do it, especially if let's say your company, isn't a bold company. This is not a startup friends. This is a long company. This has a long history. This is very corporatey. And what I mean by that is super hierarchical, super slow to make decisions, slew, super slow to change, and their culture statement is be bold. And when you look at the employees that they've attracted the ones who were super attracted to their new culture statement of being bold leave and they leave because once they get there, they realize there is not a bold bone in this company's body when it comes to how the culture is experienced on a daily basis.

Now this isn't a bad thing. I'm not knocking that type of culture. Instead. What I'd like to point out is first of all, be bold means nothing in your daily life. In last, the company actually is a bold, fast forwarding, fast thinking, future thinking company. This is not. And then how is it supported? Like does your manager appreciate you being bold? Probably not. If they're the ones who are at the other end of your bold statements, pushbacks approaches and more, and finally like, how do you reward being bold? Does it have like a direct connection for the company's goals? Is there a success factor around it? Why would an employee care about being bold? Now this is just scratching the surface. I could probably riff on this tagline for their culture for hours on end, because it is so ridiculous. There is not a culture match here.

The workforce does not understand what being bold means and the company isn't supporting that culture. Instead, the culture is slow to make decisions, very hierarchical. You know, mediocrity is okay again, not knocking it, but saying that there's a huge disconnect between what bold means for most of us, how to be bold in our jobs, what it looks like from an experience perspective and what it truly is. Now, there are some things that this company is doing that is bold. They were telecommuting and remote. Well, we all had to be, they really believe in work life balance, again, amazing things, but does that boil into a be bold culture? Probably not. And when I look at maybe their C suite or their board of directors, how does boldness come across in that experience? When I look at their inline leaders, whether it is a supervisor or a VP, are they bold choices?

Are they bold leaders? I don't know, but these are things that your employees are going to look at and want to experience if they're not doing so already, already. Now, hopefully I have convinced you how important it is that having a false culture or an unclear culture statement, how it's going to negatively impact your employees and your employee experience. And also if that doesn't, if you don't care about that, it's going to impact your reputation. And it takes a lot of work to fix this issue. Now you may say, you know what? I don't have that type of sphere of influence. I'm just an HR manager, or I'm just leading a small team. My answer to you is create your own culture within that moment. And to do that, if you're not able to rebuild the culture at a high level, what I want you to do is start micro and then you can build macro.

And the way we built culture, the right way, my friends is by starting with the truth. Now you probably have a sense of how right or wrong your culture statement is since you're an employee first at the organization, that you also are an HR leader for, and you probably feel the rub of the gap between the culture statement and the reality and more so right now, you're probably also seeing that extra layer of questioning of does our diversity equity and inclusive standards. DEI actually match what we are saying. We are as an anti-racist company, if you're even saying it and having a employee action network that doesn't add any value or, um, isn't listened to, or is, you know, 10 people, if you're a company of 30,000, that doesn't match what you're trying to do. So you're probably feeling a rub right now. And if you're feeling the rub, your employees are feeling it 10 times more because they feel it on an everyday basis and still don't quite understand what the word culture is supposed to mean and how they're supposed to live it.

So you may have a stated culture statement. It could be a standalone set sentence. Maybe it's a mission, a direction, the compiling of value statements, something similar. It's usually on your company's about page. If you're not sure, definitely on your careers page of here's what it's like to work here. How many times have you rolled your eyes when you've seen those pages, but it's also something that you may hear from your senior leaders. Um, maybe it's in communications or meetings, town halls, and so on. This is what they are told to focus on. And so it becomes part of your workplace culture because they are being told that it is important. And once you find it, I want you to ask these questions and go deep about it. These are for you to ask and then also get a cross section of your employees to help understand Stan where your gaps and mismatches is truly are, is your statement clear as to what it means?

Does it actually make sense of it? Do you know what the company is trying to say to you as an employee? You are employees or is it more ambiguous or aspirational? Is it clear how their everyday job is going to attach themselves and match with that statement? So that's the first question. The next question is, are you and your employees actually experiencing this? Now I'm going to use this example. A lot of companies have a statement about people first that we are a people first culture. And I talk, talk about this a lot, because most companies truly aren't people first. And so when you're saying your values are a people, first culture and employees feel underpaid, overworked, ignored, and all the things that doesn't match people first, they're not experiencing that statement. And so if you were to interview several, you know, a handful of employees at your company, like, is this something that they agree that is easy, it's required, it's focused, it's understandable.

They know how it is experienced on a daily basis. And it's really important that you get honest feedback here because your employees are going to experience the culture differently than your leaders and especially differently than your C suite. So understanding a cross section of employees, perspectives will get you really far. The next question is what is in place to support this statement now, right now some companies have come up, come out and said, which, by the way, I am glad some have, um, when we started this conversation, no companies really came out and I am also still really bummed that the number of people who had big COVID statements from a company perspective is a lot lower when it comes to being anti-racist. But that aside, what is supporting the statement, whether it's a new co culture statement about how they are dedicating their time and effort to making change or how the culture is described in general, what what's supporting it, how has it being rewarded?

Um, what is like senior leadership doing to make sure that this is reinforced every day? Are there systems, are there policies, are there decisions like how does this actually feel from a support perspective, if they are experiencing it, if they aren't experience, if they were to live your true culture statement. Okay. And the last question is, what do employees get to walk over the bridge? Why do they care about this? Like this is after you've identified all of the gaps and where the friction points are as to what we say our culture is and what it truly is once you've identified those, how are we going to get that statement to ring true. If that's the right statement we want to hang with. Okay. So we need our culture statements to be reflective of the here and now not reflective of who we want to be in 10 years, because there's no way that someone's going to be engaged about it or feel engaged, right?

It's an emotion to something that they aren't actively experiencing. And so how are we going to get our employees on board with what our culture is, needs to be? What we say it is. If they're not already experiencing that, and this step is going to help you determine if that's even the right culture statement for you and how to fix it, if it's currently not true. Now, having a culture statement is one thing, but it's not how you change a culture. It's the first step and not having one that is strong and true and doing the work that I just mentioned in those four steps is going to leave you in a worse off place in you're in right now, because we need to understand where we've gone wrong. Where are maybe you hired in a consulting company to come in and create your culture statement without experiencing the company or doing the work.

And you're going to see all the gaps. We need to understand that because we have to make a determination of, is this the company we want to be? Does this culture statement actually reflect who we are right now, who we can be over the next year and how do we have those things in place and how do we address the gaps? Now that's the start of it. However, you also want to be sure that your culture statement is then aligned with all the other things that your company has in place. I will say a lot of them, in my opinion, are complete rubbish and unnecessary, like a mission statement or, um, your values. Like they're not all rubbish. Um, but if you're not living them, it seems untrue. If they're not part of your everyday culture, if you're not rewarding people for exhibiting those, um, values or the mission statement, or what have you, then it is complete rubbish and just get away from them.

That aside how you create the culture changes, you look at your company and individual goals, do they match? And do they track with that culture statement? My guess is they don't my guess is your culture. Isn't reinforced in your goals. Cause it's rare that I see that. And so it's time to update your company goals. I know it is not ideally the right time to do that, but if we want to make sure that we are tracking toward the right thing, this is how we do it as an employee yourself. Don't you want to know that you are being held to the standard of creating, exhibiting, doing the work that you need to do to reinforce the culture that you think is broken and that needs some assistance to get on track. So to do that, you're going to create goals that have meaning you want smart goals.

Company-wide smart goals around your culture statement and for your employees, you included, you want that as well. And you want to make sure that these goals are really connected to the employee's everyday life of how they experienced the culture. And you're going to do that by looking at your deliverables, you're going to look more broadly as to how that individual can actually influence it. And then you want to create your story snippet, which is really taking a look at how going deep, I should say, as to how the work you do every day actually impacts the employees around you and leads to that workplace culture you desire. And so to do all those things, it's the start of changing your culture. It is the start. The thing is, is we all start very strong. When we get a new culture statement, we're walking around, talking about it.

You hear about it. And as the day goes on, as the year goes on, or what have you, you hear about it less. It becomes less a part of everybody's job because we're busy doing the work. But if you want to create a real culture change, this is something that has to show up every day. This is part of not only how we talk, but how we do our work, how we evaluate our employees. It's also a part of our expectations. And from an HR perspective, we have to stand true in this meaning. We have to police it a little bit. I apologize for the use of that word. And I can't, I'm sure if I had more time, I could position it a little better. But what I mean by this is if we say our workplace culture is one thing, and we see instances of where it's not being held to that standard, we have to do something about it.

We have to take corrective action. We have to put people on a PIP or terminate their employment, or what have you. We can't allow culture in fractions to continue. We can't turn another cheek. We have, I have to ensure that when we see culture violations of what we want the culture to be as a company, we have to swoop in and take care of it very quickly. And this is, this is part of why employees stop listening to the culture. Stop listening to HR, frankly, because we're not taking action when there is misalignment. So for example, for that one, I use the be bold example. You know, if somebody came in and was bold and had a bold statement and went to their manager and said, I'm sorry, you're not doing this right here is a better idea. They obviously were professional about it, or what have you.

And that manager said, I don't appreciate it. Stop it. That manager needs to be reprimanded. The culture statement is we are bold. We are bringing new things to the table. We are innovative. And that's the expectation. Similarly, that employee a different employee, let's say they were mediocre and were showing up, clocking in doing their job and leave leaving and not having a baby bold conversation around looking at their new role. Re-imagining how they can do their work differently. That employee needs to be honor reprimand as well, whether it's a PIP or counseling or whatever, have you, the, if the expectation is to create boldness, we have to reward it. And on the same, on the other side of the coin, we have to also nip it in the bud. When it's not being exhibited, we have to cultivate. They are employees to remember our culture, to be comfortable in the culture statement that we've chosen and to be free to exhibit it and know if they are not that there is a consequence right now, it's a statement.

It's a statement. No one gives a hoot about except maybe HR and your C suite. But what we want is we want our employees to feel bought into that, to feel excited about it, as excited as they were about it when they were interviewing with your company. And it's part of why they decided to work at your company in most cases. And now we have to let them be a part of it. We have to let them live, live our culture, and then they become ambassadors for other employees to live that culture as well. So this is a very starting point of a culture. This takes time, but yeah, it doesn't work if you're not doing these steps. If you're not understanding the gaps, if you're not being truthful and clear and transparent about what the culture truly is, if you're not addressing those gaps properly and appropriately.

And once you have a statement around your culture, that you are it both positively and negatively, when you see things that are doing great and you see things that are missing, we have to be hugely consistent around what our culture truly is to continue to build the momentum behind it. This podcast is brought to you by better microsites with your HR budgets being cut and you being on the hunt for ways to do more with less. Why not consider a total rewards or benefits microsite that not only increases your employee experience, but also delivers increased value at half the cost better. Microsites are a hundred percent designed based on what your employees need to know, your branding and your information, creating a diverse solution. That's inclusive of all improving the speed in which your employees can find important benefit information while seamlessly connecting with your enrollment provider. Learn more about better microsites at bettHR.com/microsites. That's B-E-T-T-HR.com/microsites. Thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the rethink HR podcast. For more information, including the show notes and resources, please go to RethinkHRpodcast.com/18.

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