The talent landscape has transformed in the past few years, putting employees in the driver’s seat. Today, bringing home a paycheck is no longer enough. They want to work for companies that have a true purpose and whose values better align with their own.
George Rogers from Culture of Good and S3 Recycling Systems joined us on Talent Experience Live last week to share how leaders can create a more meaningful, inspiring, and engaging company culture that attracts and retains top talent, fostering an environment that allows employees to “bring their souls to work.”
Get the highlights below or watch the full episode on demand here:
Who is George Rogers and What is “Culture of Good”?
Rogers' career has taken him many places, from starting a successful phone repair chain of stores to his current role as a Senior Director of Business Development at S3 Recycling Systems. But his true passion is people, which led him to serve as a pastor for 14 years.
Because of that passion, he joined Culture of Good — a top-level initiative that began at Verizon TCC — consulting with companies that want to change team dynamics. Today, he coaches and mentors clients, certifying what he calls “Culture champions.” According to Rogers, these are specific individuals in an organization who are selected to lead the effort in “changing the culture, rather than chancing it.”
“Culture impacts a lot,” he noted. “It impacts sales, it impacts the stability of your team and employees, recruitment, and hiring.” To establish a culture of good, employees need to be aware of the company’s purpose, feel connected to it, and know their role in helping achieve it.
How Should We Define “Culture” in the Workplace?
The word “culture” has become a buzzword today, and its meaning can be fuzzy — but to Rogers, it comes down to this: “Culture is how most people feel, believe, and behave most of the time.”
Culture is not defined by the “core values” sign in your lobby, or a mission statement on the company website, he emphasized. Rather, it ties into behaviors and beliefs. Do people believe in those values displayed on the lobby sign? How do they behave when leaders aren’t looking?
“People experience your company’s soul through its culture. Culture is the greatest advantage, but it’s also the greatest risk if it’s not healthy,” Rogers said.
How Should We Define Leaders and Their Role in Building a Culture of Good?
“The truth of the matter is that leadership is an example of love, grace, and trust,” Rogers pointed out. To inspire others, leaders first need to be inspired themselves — with the love and grace which, in turn, will enable them to have compassion for those around them.
That means allowing themselves to be more human at work, and even bringing some love to their jobs, Rogers advised. Love is a word that isn’t often used in the workplace, but — he pointed out — maybe that should change.
How Can Employees be Drawn into Culture and Purpose?
Many employees today say they are burnt out, and are looking to leadership to create a positive environment that will help them get reinvested in the company. As Rogers noted, a culture of good extends beyond the organization by positively impacting its customers and the larger community.
Supporting employees in giving back to causes that are dear to them is one way to build a culture of good. For example, Verizon TCC hosts quarterly and annual initiatives that enable employees to participate in charitable initiatives on a community, team, and personal level — “Big Good, Our Good, and My Good.”
Creating a framework for these programs is easy, but leadership is essential to their success. “Any culture initiative not supported and driven by leaders reveals a lack of priority within that organization,” Rogers pointed out.
How Can Companies Align Hiring Practices with Culture?
“I challenge people to hire for soul, not for skill,” Rogers said. This means designing jobs and processes so that candidates with good character and work ethic can be successful, even if they may not meet all skill requirements for the position.
Word of mouth is the most powerful recruitment tool when it comes to hiring for culture fit, he continued, stressing that if employees love the culture of the company, they will refer their network to any open opportunity within their organization. Showcasing that culture and those values starts with the way candidates are treated during the hiring process. “Ultimately,” Rogers notes, “You attract what you are.”
Is a Degree Still Important When Hiring for Soul?
For many roles, Rogers believes a degree shouldn’t be a deciding factor, although he’s “the last one to ask,” he clarified. “I did not go to college. And here I am. I’m sitting as the senior director of business development for a company.”
Education is, of course, critical to hiring in many industries, but it doesn’t speak to a person’s character. “Sometimes you cannot translate [a college degree] into work ethic. You cannot translate that into integrity and character. That’s why it’s so important for the soul to be the focus versus the skill.”
Why Should Leaders Inspire Employees to Express Their Feelings at Work?
According to Roger, two words hold the key to this: “I’m here.” Employees should feel that their leaders are there to support their teams, welcoming honest feedback and concerns. However, there’s a stigma around expressing feelings in the workplace, as it is often portrayed as inappropriate or unprofessional.
This can be detrimental, as Rogers pointed out, “We just store things, we hold it in until finally, we snap.” He compared this mentality to stuffing things into a trash can until it overflows. Eventually, those feelings affect the workplace, so they need to come out in the open.
Leaders also need to show that they appreciate employees for who they are and their contributions beyond the bottom line. “The business mentality has to change from using people to make money to using money to build people. And that starts with how we handle the feelings of our team, and even ourselves.”
How Can Leaders Encourage Employees to be Authentic at Work?
Leaders should champion open communication among their employees, truly listening to their needs and providing a safe environment to “empty out” the proverbial trash can before it spills. They can also offer support by being transparent about their own experiences, and provide guidance by sharing how they dealt in similar situations.
S3, Rogers’ current employer, hosts a weekly organization-wide group huddle where leaders open the floor to employees, encouraging them to speak about their struggles. Hearing what others are going through helps them feel less alone, and reassures them that it’s ok to be human, even within the workplace.
What Should be the Focus for Leaders Going Forward?
Rogers concluded by sharing a study from Harris, which polled a group of employees to understand their awareness of their company’s purpose. To illustrate the results, Rogers compared them to a soccer team, and here’s how they translate:
- Only 4 of the 11 players on the field know which goal they’re aiming for
- Just 2 out of those four players care about making a goal
- 2 out of 11 know which position they’re supposed to be playing
- 2 believe their efforts on the field actually make a difference
- 8 players could actually be rooting for the opposing team
How many of your team members know and care for your company’s purpose? In the end, employees are the heart of that purpose, and a culture of good requires leaders who listen. “If there’s anything I can leave you with – listen to the voice of your people, and do good by them and yourself,” Rogers concluded.
Need more ways to improve employee satisfaction?
Check out our Definitive Guide to Employee Experience