If you’ve looked at the infographic (if not, I recommend it), you may have noticed “Support” emerged as a key driver of engagement across the companies in the data set. When we dug into this point further, we found the greatest differentiator between top cultures and the rest of the list applicants is employees’ faith in senior leadership. (i.e. “I am confident in my company’s leadership team.”)
This of course begs the question: What drives confidence in a senior leadership team?
Based on my experiences with leaders and interpreting thousands of data points and employee comments, it has become apparent there are 3 C’s that generate confidence in leadership and drive high-performing cultures and organizations:
This is usually the zone of greatest comfort for leaders. The simple fact is that they need to be qualified and capable of performing their jobs. Executives need high business acumen, subject matter expertise and perhaps most importantly, a track record of success. While this shouldn't surprise too many people, it is still important to point out that competence is a critical factor in culture -- and this connection is not always recognized or discussed.
Consistency has two components. First, there is integrity. Simply put, our actions must match our words. This runs the gamut from living the values we hang on the walls of our organizations to keeping one-on-one meetings with our direct reports.
The second element is perhaps even more difficult: transparency. Leaders need to be comfortable delivering sensitive information and tough news to employees. While I’ve never met a leader who would openly admit to not trusting his or her employees, for some reason we don’t always act like it.
Elite SEM -- ranked No. 1 in our large-company category on our Top Company Cultures list – is a great example of how to get it right.. At their annual all-employee retreat, the CEO fields every single question submitted by employees before and during the meeting, no matter how tough. Last year, he responded to over 150.
This level of transparency can feel uncomfortable, but sharing more information enables employees to make better decisions and better deliver for customers. When it comes to tough messages, more information is always better than less, because the fear of the unknown is a far greater distraction than any discomfort caused by known changes.
At the end of the day, employees need to know their leaders care about them as people. This shows up through daily conversations, benefits and pay policies, resource allocation, development offerings and how organizations approach lay-offs.
Many companies do a wonderful job of taking care of employees who experience hardship. This is fantastic but not quite sufficient. Leaders and organizations that can demonstrate empathy and truly support employees on a daily basis will reap the rewards of committed and focused employees.
In sum, the three C’s drive performance. Employees can stay focused on the task at hand and perform at their highest level, because they have all the information they need to be effective. They also know they are part of a winning team and believe in the direction the executive team is charting. In other words, they have confidence in the senior leadership team.