Leaders: Align Work-Life Promise with Work-Life Reality—Here’s Where to Start

UPDATED: May 28, 2022
PUBLISHED: June 2, 2022
Leaders: Align Work-Life Promise with Work-Life Reality—Here's Where to Start

Culture matters to job seekers and employees now more than ever. According to 2018 research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn, 70% of candidates would pass on what sounded like a cushy job offer if they had to work in a toxic environment. In fact, maladjusted culture has been a key driver of the Great Resignation. People are more willing than ever to take employment risks to find welcoming places to do their best work and sidestep the possibility of succumbing to burnout in the workplace. Many candidates actively search for companies with positive workplace cultures before deciding whether to proceed with their application.

Because of these new changes, preemptively take stock of your employer brand story, starting with how you transitioned over the past two years. Whatever you did to ease worker burnout or make remote work less isolating inherently changed the fabric of your organization. That means it changed your culture and relevancy in the marketplace (whether you knew it or not at the time).

For instance, perhaps you instituted an unlimited vacation policy. Perhaps you adopted the European approach to vacation time that encourages employees to use the time off as needed rather than the American version that penalizes employees if they take any time off at all. Those changes have helped construct the story of your company’s pandemic-fueled transition. They position your business as having a specific culture that has effectively evolved to meet the times.

How to Reposition Your Culture and Employer Branding

Without a doubt, your culture contributes heavily to your employer brand. According to a 2019 survey published by Glassdoor, 66% of U.S. participants responded that their primary reason for staying in their position was the company culture. Consequently, if you want your employer brand to support several factors—including financial stability, employee recognition, diversity, equity and inclusion, among others—your culture has to be firmly entrenched.

So how can you put your finger on what your culture means to both insiders and outsiders, particularly in the wake of the past 24 months of transition, turmoil and transformation? Start by taking the following steps:

1. Talk openly about your desire to reconfigure your culture.

You’re never going to “name and claim” your culture if you don’t tell everyone what you’re doing to inspire trust, empathy and excellence. Young companies with fledgling cultures have the benefit of less friction when reworking the tenets of cultural norms. However, reworking any culture, new or old, takes time and input.

Start by explaining that you understand the challenges, problems and frustrations as well as the epiphanies and high points that have emerged since 2020. Let everyone know that you’re looking for solutions to gain more control over your workplace culture while promoting an empathetic and appreciative work environment.

Maybe you want to talk to your team members about policies you’re considering to alleviate stress and pressure. Perhaps you’ve heard about another company that tried a solution that could be implemented at your organization. The point is to let people know that you’re committed to creating a culture that works for everyone.

2. Ask for input from co-workers, employees, and managers.

You can’t effectively transform your workplace culture alone. You need help. That’s why you need everyone to invest in the process by giving you feedback. Otherwise, you can’t begin to come up with the evolutionary steps needed to get stronger.

Gathering input can be accomplished in many ways. You could begin with employee surveys to get a better sense of how everyone on the team feels about the culture. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to formal evaluations. Setting up safe spaces so people can bring personal or lesser-known issues to the forefront can help in two ways. First, it allows your employees to feel heard and psychologically protected. Second, it allows you to learn what’s really going on in the workplace and what changes may need to occur to promote happiness, productivity or even confidence in the company.

The importance of employee feedback can’t be overstated when it comes to driving a refreshed culture. The more information you gather from a variety of sources, the more you can put into the next step.

3. Listen and react to employee feedback.

Your colleagues have been kind enough to share their viewpoints. Now, it’s your turn to take what you uncover and do something with it.

Great companies are continuously losing great people because they’re making assumptions about what those people need and want. Fortunately, you have the raw data to show you how to act empathetically and compassionately. Use it to ensure that your culture aligns with your employer brand.

Does it take hard work to make certain your employees feel like they belong, have a purpose and are making an impact? Yes, and their needs could change next week. Nevertheless, start putting new policies, rules, or procedures into effect now rather than later. Measure the changes for success. Keep some and kick others to the curb as your culture becomes more defined. In doing so, you create a work environment that is beneficial to everyone and allows your employer brand to be successful.

4. Reinforce your cultural evolution story by telling it often.

The next six to 12 months will be a powerful story of your company’s cultural evolution. Don’t allow it to pass unnoticed. Write down all the changes you’ve made so you can discuss them later.

Being able to demonstrate where you were versus where you ended up can promote goodwill among your team members. They will feel like they were part of something bigger and that they played an important supporting role in the design of the company’s culture.

Best of all, those who become hiring managers or take part in interviews will be able to answer questions about culture immediately. They lived through the process and saw the changes happen in real time. This will allow them to articulate exciting stories to job candidates—and possibly give your organization a competitive edge in the war to snag great talent.

The most important takeaway is that your company has changed a lot in two years. By listening compassionately and empathetically to your people, you can recognize their changing needs and what’s needed of your workplace culture to help them grow. These proactive adjustments help demonstrate that you, as an organization, value your people, their talent and their time. Furthermore, these transformations increase your company’s relevancy in your marketplace because you effectively adapted to the changing world around you.

Photo by Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock

Bryan Adams is the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a global employer branding agency. He is a prominent employer brand thought leader as well as an author, podcaster and speaker.