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Optimizing Culture through Common Values and a Sense of Belonging


Eric Termuende at the WorldatWork global headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In the modern employment landscape, organizations are constantly looking for ways to attract and retain the best talent. One of the concepts associated with this practice is “culture.” But how does an organization go about building a successful workplace culture?

Is it through spot awards and group recognition? Is it wellness programs? Is it happy hours, foosball tables and casual Fridays?

It could be all of this and it could be none of this. Creating the right culture starts with understanding your existing employees’ interests, said Eric Termuende, co-founder of NoW Innovations and author of “Rethink Work.” Termuende believes an organization needs to first understand the type of culture the founder or CEO wishes to have, and then co-design it from the bottom up.

“We need to stop trying to attract Millennials or stop trying to attract females or males or any ethnicity or race,” Termuende said. “Instead, what I think we need to be doing is being really intentional about the people who are here and understanding what life they live as a result of the job that they do and start to tell that story to attract those types of people who want to share a similar experience.”

Termuende’s perspective on the subject of talent attraction and retention is unique in that his core philosophy is employers should build a staff that is equally aligned in personality and interests. On the surface, it sounds like he is in favor of a less diverse workplace, but, Termuende said, it’s quite the contrary.

This belief is supported by findings from a forthcoming Valuegraphics study — a company founded by author and keynote speaker, David Allison. Termuende references the study to illuminate his point about changing the way HR operates. The essential takeaway from the study is that people who are classified as being in the same generation often have very different likes and interest, despite what is depicted of them. Therefore, the idea of attracting talent from a generational frame of mind is fundamentally flawed.

“For so long we’ve been grouping people based on what they are — whatever that may be — and not based on who they are,” Termuende said. “That’s the big shift that needs to happen. Who they are in terms of what they value, what they desire, what they need and what they expect.”

The first part of this equation is having a better understanding of your existing employees’ interests and how they spend their time at the office. By identifying this throughout your organization, it then can translate to better recruiting. Rather than just advertising the skills necessary for a job, you also can share the experience(s) of an existing employee in a similar position to attract like-minded talent.

NoW aims at accelerating this process for organizations by asking very basic questions that require self-vetting for employees. By the end of this process, the employer and employee both should have a better understanding of how they fit together.

“Typically, in the clients we work with, we see 15% of people self-select themselves out after working with them. And the employer could not be happier,” Termuende said. “It’s not that they’ve gotten fired or that they’ve got tension, it’s just they’ve realized now that we’re more intentional about this experience, it’s not the right fit for me. The kicker is that it never was. Even though you can’t put a thumb on it with these people, something just doesn’t feel right.”

The upshot from this way of thinking when building your organization, Termuende said, is better workplace morale, a bigger sense of belonging among employees and improved productivity because the employees’ goals match the organization’s goals.

“And now we start to create more lean, agile companies with these people who have a similar value set, but an extreme diversity in how they approach these problems and who they are as far as age, sex and ethnicity,” he said. “An optimized culture is one where the stated and the realized experiences are the same.”

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