This is the third article in our series focusing on why Board of Directors (BODs) should focus more on HR issues within organizations. In this installment, we focus on creating effective healthy workplace strategies and assessments: how do employees feel about the organization, culture, values, leadership, and development?
BODs will often ask if companies have done engagement surveys and may take some time to review and probe into the results. However, they typically consider this area to be outside their purview and defer to management to act, if at all. Today, we are making the why, what, and how case on why BODs should take this approach.
For example, the why: high profile company culture issues in the news, the negative impacts of extended lockdowns, quarantines, social issues, and remote working. The what: suggested areas BODs can review, and the how: platforms/software that can be used to deliver healthy workplace strategies that are effective.
The first question we address in our case is why BODs need to be proactive in assessing how healthy the workplace is in the companies they lead. Here are key facts supporting our proposal:
- In the news recently, there have been several big-name companies’ BODs such as Boeing, McDonald’s, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) being forced to take a more active role in managing corporate culture issues.
- BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, setting a new culture standard by demanding their staff reveal personal relationships with colleagues as well as clients or vendors.
- Leading polling experts such as Glint are reporting increases in employee burnout, decreasing work-life balance, and poor communication from their management. For example:
- 43% of Americans in a recent Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus survey reported that they were concerned about their job security
- 37% of U.S. workers feel less connected to their teammates than they did before the pandemic and 31% feel less connected to their managers, according to an ongoing survey of employee sentiment, conducted by Glint and provided to Axios.
- Nearly 1 in 5 workers say their firms aren’t doing enough to make employees feel connected to one another.
- Communication is also a critical factor impacting on employee well-being. Employees who felt their managers were ineffective communicators were 2.7 times more likely to use language signaling burnout; it was 2.1 times for those who felt their organization communicated poorly about change.
- Recently in the HRD US Virtual HR Conference, Lindsay Lagreid, Senior Advisor of the Limeade Institute, commented in her presentation “Why Employee Care Matters” that “the Board of Directors will be asking more questions about a company’s culture” and that management will need to be prepared for how to show data that supports their answers.
- Engagement levels are a predictor of organizational performance, according to a couple of decades of research from Gallup, Kenexa, the Corporate Executive Board and others.
The next question we address is what focus areas a BOD should assess in devising healthy workplace strategies that are effective. Should they have a narrow focus on a few subjects, or throw the net over a wide area? We suggest that BODs should focus on a few areas to start, and widen their view as they and the Executive Team better understand the collected data and build effective workplace strategies.
Suggested areas a BOD should start in measuring organizational health are:
- Mental Health
- Diversity & Inclusion
Based on the facts we have highlighted above, these areas of organizational health have emerged as a top employee concern in 2020.
The final question we address is how companies can provide a regular flow of survey data to a BOD. Josh Bersin, a widely recognized HR Thought Leader, recently published “Is the Employee Survey Dead? Nope. It’s Becoming Smarter By The Minute.” He was challenging a current Wall Street Journal article (WSJ) that declares the Employee Survey dead. On the contrary, the Employee Survey software market is alive and well, with very innovative offerings.
This segment of the market is designed to help companies measure in real-time many of the areas we described above for BODs to focus their attention.
Key players in this market include Medallia, Glint, Qualtrics, all which have a broad focus on multiple topics to survey. There are also more focused “disruptive” tools in the traditional survey software market such as Cultivate on mood, Vault on misconduct, Forgeant on culture and Qlearsite on D&I.
In summary, we strongly recommend BODs implement a regular process of workplace strategies that assess workforce engagement and overall health, as well as the actions to improve such. To set the right tone with executive management, we recommend BODs have quantitative measures as part of the leadership’s short and longer-term goals. An additional step to drive their importance, once embedded as a practice, is to have the results tied to their compensation.
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We feel that gaining a deep understanding of leadership’s ability or inability to create an environment where discretionary effort is on display should be on the BODs agenda as a leading indicator of company prosperity.
The research is overwhelming that engagement levels, when properly measured, have a direct correlation to organizational success in the form of safety, productivity, retention, customer relations, profitability, and shareholder return. The next article in our series will address Diversity and Inclusion: What does success look like and how are executives being held to account?
Chuck Heaton, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is an HRD Thought Leader, Sr. Human Resources Consultant for Talent IQ and a global HR Executive with over 30 years of experience leading HR Teams in multi-national companies.
Chuck Kemper is a SR Human Resources Consultant and a global HR Executive with over 25 years of experience leading HR Teams in multi-national companies.
Jason Anderson is Vice President of Human Resources at U.S. Physical Therapy, Inc. with deep domain experience in compensation, accounting, finance and has spent the last 10 years leading HR Teams in multi-national companies.
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