Great and Best are Not Always Right

I was speaking with a large Society for Human Resources Management chapter last week on the power of Culture Intelligence. The group was lively. And as we were talking about what these HR leaders were doing to measure, assess, and understand their workplace cultures today, one brave audience member candidly volunteered this: “we don’t measure our culture because we’re afraid of what we’ll find.”

A hush fell over the group.

I looked around and there were actually a few others nodding their heads in assent. Mind you, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. I chuckle every time I do; otherwise, it would be just too damn depressing.

But I can’t actually blame you. This fear is not your fault.

Over the years we’ve been conditioned to think there is some small cadre of special employers that have the secret sauce for great cultures. We’ve been taught that unless your business can check all the right boxes, it can’t possibly be a “great place to work.” Workplace posers like Glassdoor have duped us into thinking unless we have a 3.7 or better we suck. And every business journal in the US thinks they can actually objectively identify “The Best” companies to work for in their city.

Do you know what I say to this bunk?!?

“Great place to work” for who? What’s great for you is not necessarily great for me.

3.7? What the hell does that even mean? There is nothing meaningful about that – or any other – number.

There are 30 million companies in the United States. There is no algorithm smart enough to identify the “best.” No way. No effing way. When it comes to your workplace culture, this is what we’ve come to learn at WorkXO.

It’s your culture. It’s unique and distinct, it does not have to be nor should it be like any one else’s; it’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

Get comfortable with this and you’re headed in the right direction. Employers…and often HR teams…spend far too much time trying to figure out what everyone else wants them to be. Rather, we think they should be investing far more effort in understanding first who they really are.

Without this understanding, it is extremely challenging…if not impossible…to do any real culture work. There are certain things that drive your success. They may not work for anyone else. But they work really well for you. You have to figure out whether your culture – your actions, your behaviors, your beliefs, and what’s truly valued – actually supports those things. If it doesn’t, that’s where your work should begin. And if it does, you need to preserve, protect, cherish, and celebrate it. This isn’t an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to do everything well. It is highly probably that there are certain cultural dynamics (pick your favorite shiny object) that won’t have any real impact on your success. So stop chasing those things. They are not “great” for you. They are not “best” for you. And most importantly, they aren’t “right” for you.

So take a breath, ladies and gents. You get a free pass. There is nothing to fear about your culture, as long as you own it. Join the #WorkTrends conversation on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm EDT as we explore how to do that.


photo credit: A for Austerity via photopin (license)