We’ve all heard it: people are quitting in droves. And it turns out that corporate culture played a big part in the exodus. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review/Glassdoor Culture 500, culture was the leading indicator of corporate employee losses at the start of the Great Resignation.
And a recent LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report shows that today’s job seekers are no longer settling for a mediocre company culture. In fact, people are viewing almost twice as many job postings as just a few years ago, stopping at those dealing with culture. (Warning, HR teams: That’s a 67% increase in engagement when a job ad mentions culture.)
Related: Attracting Diverse Talent Starts with an Inclusive, “People First” Culture
So what are today’s knowledge workers looking for in a corporate culture?
In my experience, many companies have the wrong view of culture. They focus on company rituals and special occasions when what employees really want is a company culture that values meaningful work, collaboration and goal achievement. After all, culture isn’t just about holiday parties and happy hours. It dictates how people work and the unique qualities that make an organization successful and is shaped by who you hire, fire, reward or reprimand.
As the big quit gives way to the big shake-up, companies looking to win the war on talent must rely on an employee-centric culture that inspires people through engagement, collaboration and mutual accountability. Here’s how:
Knowledge workers, the billion employees who sit behind desks and deliver business value through their brains, need engagement to thrive. They need to know exactly what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how it benefits their colleagues, organizations, and customers.
But creating the kind of open, communicative culture that liberates engagement is difficult. And maintaining consistent communication with distributed teams or when scaling a business is even harder.
That’s why some of the most successful modern businesses (think Google) use a goal setting and management methodology called Objectives and Key Results or OKRs. OKRs help executives and managers create a common language for the entire company to discuss what is valuable, namely the company’s mission and its strategy for achieving that mission.
The company’s strategy and mission become the core foundation of the OKR methodology – each employee and team sets ambitious goals and measurable results to be achieved over a period of time. And because all business activities must support the organization, all OKRs flow from the stated mission and strategy. As a result, employees at all levels can see how their responsibilities contribute to business success. And that connection to meaningful work inspires a culture of commitment and determination.
How does a modern business adopt and maintain the OKR methodology?
OKRs, or at least the roots of the methodology, have been around since the 1950s, but technology dedicated to OKRs is making it easier to adopt, implement, and scale in the modern workplace. Using one platform, everyone in the company has visibility into organizational strategy, as well as all team and individual OKRs. They can all see how their team and individual efforts elevate the entire organization – and if they’re moving the needle.
There is no doubt that the future of work is hybrid. But organizations distinguish between providing a culture of freedom to work from anywhere and a culture of silos and isolation. The antidote is connectivity through collaboration.
The OKRs themselves epitomize collaboration. The definition team and the individual OKRs must be negotiated between the managers and the owners of the OKRs. Managers may set overambitious goals, employees may set conservative goals (especially in environments where meeting KPIs are rewarded), and together they meet somewhere in the middle to set reasonably ambitious goals. This collaboration continues long after the establishment of the OKRs. They are monitored and reassessed over time. After all, OKRs are solution agnostic and designed to keep organizations agile and able to respond to threats and opportunities.
Thoughtful OKRs are not only developed collaboratively; they also enable collaboration. Whether remote or in the office, employees need visibility into what’s happening around them to transcend natural departmental silos and the “go it alone” mindset.
OKRs help employees understand what everyone is working on by creating a web of goals that tie the roles and responsibilities of one colleague to those of another and anchor them in the priorities of the larger business. By identifying related goals, OKRs show the interdependence of each employee’s responsibilities. This goal mapping helps employees coordinate across reporting lines, enable cross-functional teams, and cultivate a collaborative culture.
The OKR methodology prioritizes measurable results (what the business wants to accomplish) over results (the actions needed to achieve those results). And this laser focus on results sets clear expectations for employees so they can succeed.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned in the real world. So, the responsible culture that OKRs create has to be a two-way street. Managers and employees need to take ownership of the things that aren’t going well. And, with the measurable results provided by OKRs, seeing success or failure isn’t difficult.
There are no surprises with an effective OKR platform. Real-time data shows employees how their efforts are progressing (or not) toward their goals while leaders see the big picture of the business. Analytics, progress tracking, and OKR auditing allow managers and executives to track progress and make changes as needed.
This accountability enabled by OKR has another benefit for employees and leaders. It eliminates micromanagement. With every employee and every team understanding the results they own, managers can focus on supporting their teams instead of looking over employees’ shoulders all day.
Superficial perks are nice to have, but they’re often just distractions. Instead of attracting and retaining talent solely through business perks, companies should focus on what makes a modern workforce thrive: engagement, collaboration, and workplace accountability. work.