Work culture is important to me — it’s one of the first things I loved about Big Sea. However, I’ve noticed a troubling trend in workplace culture discussions: it’s an echo chamber. Cool companies talking to other cool companies about how to do things … cooler. But the industries, and specific companies, that really need a culture shift, never seem to see it.
Why is that?
It could be greed. If you never give your employees a half-day for team building, or never let a parent leave early because their kid is sick (again), you can probably squeeze a few extra pennies out of the budget at the end of the year. But I don’t think that’s the real reason companies don’t invest in culture.
I believe they don’t think it will work. Not for them.
Manual labor? You guys really need a culture shift.
If I say “construction crew” or “oil rig workers,” you get a certain idea of the employee, right? Hard-working, resilient, and tough, inside and out. They don’t call in sick, never show weakness, and above all — they don’t talk about their feelings.
Company leaders in manual labor fields tend to scoff at the idea of improving workplace culture. They shake their heads, even chuckle. Never work. Not with our crew. They won’t do it.
But, they will.
Remember the oil rig workers example? Turns out, those guys really need to talk about their feelings. It can be a matter of life and death.
A culture of machismo, invulnerability, and aggression was making oil rigs an incredibly unsafe work environment. Why? Nobody wanted to admit they didn’t know how to do something, or were too tired to perform their duties, or overwhelmed with life issues.
Shell Oil realized the severity of the issue, and decided to invest in creating supportive environments on their deep ocean rigs. They brought in a specialist to help the guys on the rig communicate and be vulnerable.
The result? An 84 percent decline in the accident rate companywide, plus an increase in efficiency that exceeded industry benchmarks.
Plus, the guys took some of that learning home. That’s a win-win.
Retail industry? Time to step up your culture game.
If you’ve ever worked in retail, this one should feel like a no-brainer. But knowing something is a problem and doing nothing about is … part of the problem. The growing movement toward living wages is a start, but there’s more to being a people-first culture than paying them enough to live.
That’s really the bare minimum, right?
Ranker broke down the best and worst places to work in retail, and none of them were really surprising. What’s fascinating is the common complaints of retail and how easily they can be solved by a change in company culture.
Irregular work schedules. This retail industry standard makes it just about impossible for single parents to hold down a job, young workers to attend school, and any employee to ever feel like they have a solid grasp of their schedule and budget. If you never know when you’re working or how many hours, how can you plan your life? How can you even have a life?
Holidays. It would be great if everything closed down for the holidays, but in our capitalistic society that ain’t gonna happen.
Both shifting work schedules and holidays are problems your team can help solve. Bring it to them as a challenge and ask for their input. What schedule best meets the needs of each employee? Are there gaps you need to fill? Can your team rotate holidays?
When you ask the people most affected to solve an issue, you get a solution that works for everyone.
Forced sales. Listen, up, retail chains. If somebody wants your credit card and the 20 percent discount that comes with it, they’ll say Yes the first time. When your team on the floor is focused on selling credit cards instead of helping people, nobody is having a good experience. Stop forcing your sweet, personable sales force to sell something nobody wants.
And stop forcing your customers to turn you down three times. Remember, they’re trying to give you money. Push them too hard and they’ll go somewhere else next time.
Stress level. Yep, working retail is hard. Customers can be crabby and demanding, kids make messes everywhere they go, and your hours can change on a daily basis. But culture can really help lighten the mental load. Encourage your employees to give each other props for awesome work. Say “thank you” when someone picks up an extra shift. Keep snacks, water and tissues in your office and let them know they’re always welcome to stop in for a recharge. Tell them they are appreciated. Tell them again.
Want a few tips on helping your team let off stress? Read our article, Grumpiness is Contagious.
Shall we do one more? Okay.
Tech crowd? I’m looking at you.
This industry gets touted a lot for cool workplace perks. Free snacks, bikes on campus, elaborate gyms in the office. But the tech world has a shameful underbelly it would prefer not to talk about: toxic work environments. Talk about needing a culture shift.
For starters, the tech crowd is notoriously biased against women. There are obvious forms of this — hiring discrimination, wage inequality, and sexual harassment — and then there are the more subtle versions.
An office filled with interrupting mansplainers, for example. Or a bro culture so “party hard, ride or die” that women don’t feel welcome.
Even the campaigns tech companies use to attract female applicants can show their true perception of women. Two years ago IBM asked women engineers to hack a hair dryer.
I’m not even kidding.
Women in the field have decided to do something about it. Project Include tracks diversity initiatives at tech companies in an effort to keep them committed to positive change.
Tech companies are also on the hook for never letting their employees off it. Big companies like Amazon and Apple have both earned bad marks for “always-on, always available” workplace cultures. This may sound like commitment and dedication on the surface, but what it leads to is burnout and poor job satisfaction.
These are just three industries where culture can solve business problems. The truth is, having a positive, people-first culture can improve any business. Because people make up your business, and people work harder and smarter when they’re happy, respected, and listened to.