Dear Hebba & Friends: Leadership and Culture (and we’re keeping it bulls**t free)
SUPPORTING PEOPLE WITH
Welcome to the ✨ first edition ✨ of Dear Hebba & Friends Friday Newsletter!
Wait, what’s this? If you missed my Monday newsletter, here’s the TLDR:
I Hate It Here will land in your inbox TWICE weekly, starting today. So, we can start AND end our week together. 👏
The only difference?
You won’t be hearing from just me – my friends are joining in on the fun! 🤝
Here’s how it will work: Y’all submit any HR & People questions or struggles you’re facing, and then I’ll tap the expert People Leaders from my Safe Space community to answer your questions and share advice!
These folks are incredible, helpful, and their voices deserve to be heard. ❤️
Hope this turns into a fun Friday treat in your inbox. Reply if you have any ideas for how to make it better!
If your leadership team views employee engagement as “fluffy and unnecessary” or like it’s not a business priority (yet), you can still convince them.
Show them the data. Poll your employees about what is important to their employee experience. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing…. Employee experience is deeply personal, so know one program or change is unlikely to improve things for everyone, but you can identify a few things that will support the most.
Pick 3 things. Start with a limited focus; perhaps your employees are keen for more career development and growth opportunities, recognition, and a better onboarding experience. Maybe they’ve identified communication and connection is a huge challenge. Whatever it is, don’t try to boil the ocean.
Present a realistic budget. How much money will you really need to support your big three initiatives this year? Present a budget per employee, per event, per program. Present alternate options to choose from at a higher and lower price point. Your goal is to secure funding to do something, you may need to start small this year, prove it’s value, and then expand later.
Know how you’ll measure success. Leaders like to see employee initiatives that are tied to business metrics. How will this mentoring/recognition/fun program directly support the bottom line? Generally, happier employees are more productive, innovative, and will stay with a company longer. That’s great! Also plan to show success by measuring employee pulse data over time (e.g., How satisfied are you with your role?), by tracking attrition data (i.e., is it going down), and business productivity.
Q: How can someone low on the org chart influence cultural change in a mid-size organization? I’m a senior IC at a startup that was acquired and merged with another company that has a toxic culture. I feel like I don’t belong here and adapting to their way of communicating and working kills my soul.
I’m sorry this transition is so toxic, and shame on the merged company for upholding such GROSS behavior!
First and foremost, YES, people at your level absolutely have the opportunity to influence cultural change. BUT doing so requires some strong boundaries on your part.
Think about your sphere of influence and what’s within your control. What behaviors will you model loudly and proudly? What behaviors will you not stand for, and how can you make that known? And who do you trust higher up that you can share some tough feedback with? Don’t lose yourself to a place that clearly treats their people like sh*t.
And, can you figure out your “I’m out” point? Is it time to say goodbye and let your talents shine elsewhere? Quitting a job is definitely not accessible to everyone, but if you have the means and opportunity, you have that choice here as well.
I’m sorry you’re in such a crummy situation, but you’re not powerless to fix it. Finding and ‘activating’ a group of people with a similar positive vision can go a long way in creating change and ensuring that you don’t shoulder that burden on your own.
In cases like this, a ‘listening tour’ can be really helpful for a couple reasons:
First, it will give you a deeper sense of context for the source (or sources) of these concerning norms. Does it stem from distrust in leadership? A disconnect between the workload and the resources at hand? Something else?
Second, you’ll have a better sense of how the culture impacts employees who have been there for a while, and how it plays out on teams in different parts of the biz.
Third, you’ll find out who’s open to taking proactive steps for a healthier culture vs who’s just trying to get through the day. The former group are your culture champions – they’re great thought partners and early adopters for initiatives you may want to road test.
Q: How are other companies out there cultivating and driving culture with their remote workforce? About half of our employee base uses our offices on a hybrid basis, and the other half are fully remote.
This is tough for every hybrid company and only becomes more challenging in my opinion as companies scale. We try to balance in office and remote events, what I mean is:
For every scheduled in-office event, we have a remote event in the same month.
In-office people get lunch on certain days, remote folks have a lunch stipend. Not the same but we are aiming for equity here.
We designed a T&E budget for each team and encourage them to meet up twice a year – this doesn’t have to be at our office in NYC! If the whole team is on the west coast, might make more sense for everyone to meet up for the week out there.
We have an annual retreat where everyone is invited to attend. We try to pick places that have a small group of employees so it is an exciting trip for everyone and not just the team coming to the NYC office.
We have a weekly All Hands and we have folks give shout-outs each week to their coworkers and explain how this co-worker (remote or otherwise) lived one of our corporate values. Recognition for in-office employees can be easier since they can be physically seen. It is important to showcase great work at the All Hands so that anyone, regardless of level or location, is recognized for their hard work.
I think a dissertation could be written on hybrid culture building so I’ll wrap it up. As an exec team, we also built a Culture Roadmap to outline the work, resources, and time we are putting into building and maintaining our culture and shared it with the company. Accountability was one reason for this but also, we felt it was important that our teams understood how important culture was to us and that we were actually putting our $$ where our mouth is.
Additional things that help enhance hybrid culture: more robust manager training, bigger L&D budgets, and – perhaps the key – actually knowing what kind of culture you want to build and being mindful of how your business decisions help or hurt in that initiative.
Many more People Leaders had thoughts and advice on these questions…