Culture is the New Currency

There was a time when leaders talking about culture was accompanied by eye rolls and chuckles. There was a time when all that an employer could offer—and all that an employee would expect—was money. There was a time when you could say “leave it at the door” and honestly convince yourself that it was possible or prudent. Those days are gone, and shame on you for longing for them.

Were those simpler times? Of course, but we are complex beings and to expect less is to accept a lesser life. Millennials often take the blame for this paradigm shift; but for those that understand most people cannot spend their lives without relationships, you should have known that this was inevitable.

The truth is that when it comes to the culture of employment, most people perform to their pay and not their abilities. At Think 3D, we often use a thought exercise when speaking to audiences on this subject. We start by asking our audience if they feel that they give their spouses 100%, and hands rarely go up. We then ask if our audience gives 100% to their children or to their passions and dreams, and again hands rarely go up. Lastly, we ask “what does your employer expect from you every day?” Typically—in unison—the response is “100%” (sometimes 110%). So, if a person doesn’t give their family, friends, or passions 100%, what do you suppose they really give at work? What do you think that will cost you? What do you think it should cost you?

We could cite any of several studies and survey results that shed light on just how many people don’t feel like they are payed what they’re worth, but what would be the point? There is a very high likelihood you don’t feel like you are paid what your worth—and you would be right, because you can’t pay a person’s worth, you can only pay what their work is worth. This makes it very difficult to pay someone less than what they think they should be paid while simultaneously convincing them that their job is important. So, what is an organization to do if it cannot just throw money at the problem (and in many cases even if it can)? In a word: value. The space between what you can pay a person and what they would like to be paid can only be filled by added value. This can take many forms, from acknowledgement and considerate communications to schedule flexibility and encouraging a healthy work-life balance.

In today’s highly competitive environment, organizations are not only competing against other businesses, but also with freelancers that—when able to take advantage of technological advances in some industries—can provide similar products or services at a far lower cost or at a far higher quality. This of course means that money can’t be the only way you differentiate your organization for prospective employees or customers. The signs could not be more clear that your culture will be your calling card in the very near future.

Make no mistake, there is no substitute for properly compensating someone for their work. However, if you are willing to ask someone to give more in time, energy and efforts than they are likely to give to their own family, friends and passions, then you had better be willing to offer something else of value and invest in your culture or you’re going to need a much bigger budget.

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