Organizational Culture: It Needs to Help Employees Through the Hard Times



As human resources professionals, we know the importance of creating a positive candidate experience so people will come to work for our companies. And we understand that creating a positive employee experience will result in increased employee engagement, higher productivity, and reduced turnover.  We also understand that we must work on all of them. We can’t sacrifice the employee experience for a better candidate experience. Because if we do, it will create a disconnect that ultimately leads to disengagement and turnover.

But as we’re talking about experiences, let’s be real. No matter what we do, every day will not be sunshine and roses. Sometimes industries and organizations have tough periods. They experience setbacks.

A couple years ago, I had the privilege of hearing former President Barack Obama speak at a conference where he said something that has stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact words, but the takeaway was about being there for people when times are good as well as when times are tough. It made me wonder about our organizations and whether we think about the principles of our organizational culture when times are difficult?

President Obama’s comment reminded me of my own human resources career. I was involved in a major auto accident that put me out of work for almost a year. It’s sad to say, but some companies would have probably tried to figure out some way to get rid of me. And it would have probably been easy. This was pre- the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). But this organization kept me on the payroll, paid my medical insurance, and found me a new role (in HR) when I was ready to return.

In thinking about your own organizational culture, has your company thought about what they feel is appropriate when:

  • An employee faces the death of a close friend or family member
  • The organization experiences a safety issue or emergency
  • The company discovers a major data security breach or hacking
  • An associate finds themselves without a home or transportation
  • The company is considering a layoff or major restructuring

I’m not talking about what is considered commonplace or best practice in today’s business world. Or what is legally required. Does the company offer assistance that is aligned with their culture? For example, it seems like there would be a huge disconnect to say that the company is all about being an exceptional place to work but, when an employee loses a parent, they get the standard three days off for bereavement after submitting a copy of the obituary. You get the point.

Regardless of the unemployment numbers, there is still competition for the best talent. Organizations are working on creating outstanding company cultures because it makes them competitive in today’s job market. They should absolutely continue doing that. But the way a company treats an employee who is facing some hard times will define the organization. To this day, I still remember when I called my boss to tell him that my father passed. He said, “Don’t worry about a thing. Come back when you’re ready.” That was it. I was able to focus on my family.

Employees want to know that the organizations they work for will support them through good times and bad.





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