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Employee Wellbeing

Rethinking Company Culture by Focusing on Culture Contribution

Adam Grant

Organizational psychologist, Wharton, Author of “Give and Take”, “Originals”, and co-Author of “Option B” with Sheryl Sandberg

organizational psychologist at Wharton and the author of “Give and Take”, “Originals”, and co-author of “Option B” with Sheryl Sandberg, speaks on improving company culture

How can employers improve their company’s culture?

Stop obsessing about culture fit. If you only hire and promote people who fit the culture, you end up weeding out diversity of background and thought. Instead of focusing on culture fit, look for culture contribution. The innovative product design firm IDEO does this well — they’re constantly asking whether employees will enrich the culture by bringing something that’s missing.

What do you feel to be the biggest challenges impacting employee engagement?

Controlling bosses and meaningless work.

In your opinion, what is the most effective way to increase employee engagement?

Show employees how their work makes a difference. I’ve found that after university fundraisers met a scholarship recipient who benefited from the money they raised, they made 142 percent more weekly calls and raised 171 percent more weekly revenue. The same might go for software engineers meeting their users, journalists coming face-to-face with their readers and teachers reconnecting with former students years later. If these jobs didn’t exist, we’d all be worse off — but too often, employees are left in the dark about the impact of their work.

How should companies be integrating technology into their employee engagement initiatives?

Many companies have a suggestion box, but surprisingly few have a problem box. A problem box is a place where you can raise issues that you don’t necessarily know how to solve. Warby Parker has one that’s been responsible for several of their biggest innovations — it’s a Google doc where employees can surface problems, and every month senior managers vote on which problems are important. If you want to work on fixing one of them, you can make it part of your job and build a team around it. Using technology to create an online problem box creates the psychological safety necessary to point out that the emperor has no clothes, and it allows the most motivated and qualified tailor to step up.

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