Benefit managers and HR professionals are always striving to cultivate high engagement and open communication between the organization and employees. To create such a culture, employers agree that it boils down to trust.

“Trust is a really serious business,” Marisa Stoltzfus, a talent development partner with Great Place to Work, said Thursday in San Diego, Calif.

Trust is a two-way street, and one big step in attaining that trust is by having a transparent environment.

Transparency allows employees to feel confident in what they do and to get things done, says Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy. “Every employee needs to feel like they have a ticket to ride,” he adds.

[Image: Fotolia]
[Image: Fotolia]

But culture is always a work in progress, he notes, and hiring for culture is just as important as hiring for talent.

For one employer, culture wasn’t an intentional development, but instead a product that had developed over time from what the company’s founders had instilled early in the company’s development.

“What we [HR] did was find the language to share,” said Ross Grossman, vice president, head of HR at the biotech company Regeneron, allowing for the culture to further develop and connect across the board from scientists to sales representatives.

With the backdrop of a strong culture, Grossman says, the company is able to ask employees time and time again to dig deep and do their best over and over each day as they have the passion to be there.

“If we lose the employees’ passion for the company, we become, at best, like everyone else,” Grossman added.

But that loyalty, just like trust, is another two-way street.

“At a certain point, we realized we didn’t have to squander it,” he says. “So we talk about it.”

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“If we lose the employees’ passion for the company, we become, at best, like everyone else.”

Although there is no exact science to turn to on an engaged culture, Grossman says Regeneron looks to other data points and proxies that give some idea of direction, such as:

  • Third-party engagement surveys
  • Internal spot surveys
  • Turnover rates

And as culture continues to shift due to growing diversity, it’s important to maintain a strategy of inclusion to grow as well.

“Quirkiness is embodied in our culture,” added Josh Mitchell, Regeneron’s associate director of culture and communication. “Whoever you are outside, we want you like that inside,” he added, speaking of having a diverse workforce. And since innovation comes from a variety of perspectives, “we don’t want to lose that,” he says.

The changing workforce going forward is seeking meaning, and culture is the way employers can connect with that desire. Focusing an employee-value proposition is the best way to position culture, he says.

One example of change is the growing generational diversity. For Regeneron, this meant changing its performance management model to a 30/30 approach (30 minutes a day every 30 days) to promote dialogue, engagement and a sense of involvement.

But in the grand scheme of things, Mitchell adds, culture improves the overall human condition and is important to more than just the bottom line.

“In HR, we have an incredible role to influencing the human experience,” he notes. “What happens in our four walls spills over and changes people, and those people change communities, and those communities change the world.”

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