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Perks vs. Purpose: What’s More Important for Retaining Employees?

Dentists recommend that you spend two minutes, twice a day, brushing your teeth. You wouldn’t brush your teeth for 15 minutes, twice a day, expecting better returns on your oral health. If anything, all that additional investment would yield are sore gums. Yet, imagine you quit brushing your teeth altogether. In the short term, you’d experience a build-up of plaque and bad breath. In the long term, you can expect gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss.

What Do Brushing Your Teeth and Motivating Employees Have in Common?

At one time, we believed that job satisfaction could be represented as a spectrum, with “worst job ever” on one end and “best job ever” on the other. In 1967, psychologist Fredrick Herzberg challenged that notion with his revolutionary “Two-Factor Theory” (also known as the “Hygiene-Motivation Theory”).

Herzberg argues that some areas of workplace culture, such as company policies, supervision, workplace conditions, job security, and even salary, are just like brushing your teeth. If these aspects are not up to par, employees will be dissatisfied; however, improvement of these factors is not what creates a feeling of satisfaction with one’s job. Herzberg coined these “hygiene factors”.

When an employee who has exceeded expectations in her current position asks to be considered for a promotion, offering her a raise will only make her feel as if she is being placated. Likewise, no amount of recognition of employees’ achievements will fix the AC in a stuffy office.

Extraordinary Motivation Creates Extraordinary Engagement

At our annual CultureTalk Partner Day, keynote speaker Nathan Havey shared this theory and expanded upon it as it relates to the fourth pillar of the Conscious Capitalism movement, workplace culture.

Our CultureTalk Certified Partners have all witnessed first-hand the transformative power that culture-work has on individuals and organizations. We were energized and inspired as Nathan reminded us of how far those ripples carry. His talk focused on the counterparts to Herzberg’s hygiene factors—the motivating factors.

Nathan defines these motivating factors as:

  • Care—feeling you-as-a-person are cared about
  • Say—being heard and encouraged to utilize the full potential of your genius
  • Growth—becoming the person who you aspire to be
  • Meaning—solving a worthy problem

A company seeking to grow, excel, and invigorate employees should look deeply into these motivating factors.

Nathan’s perspective on these elements is distinguished by an emphasis on the whole person. Rather than seeing just employees, we see complex human beings whose struggles and successes, goals and dreams, extend beyond the office doors. We don’t just care for an employee; we care about them.

As the founder of Thrive Consulting Group and a frequent contributor to Conscious Company Magazine, Nathan Havey has made it his mission to “make conscious business the new business-as-usual.” Extraordinary companies are what Nathan seeks to create and in his sharp and inspiring presentation, he illustrated what separates extraordinary cultures from ordinary cultures.

Think Outside the Suggestion Box

To help CultureTalk Partners understand this difference, Nathan shared an example. The suggestion box, a familiar staple of the office environment, is the most basic manifestation of the motivating factor of “Say”. The ordinary definition of “Say” goes something like this: an invitation for all employees, especially those in non-leadership positions, to have input outside the technical parameters of their job.

The suggestion box is joined by other familiar, well-meaning tactics such as open-door policies and ask-me-anything meetings on the list of things ordinary organizations do to make sure their employees feel heard. Implemented thoughtfully, they are better than nothing. However, practices like the suggestion box can backfire. If the suggestions in the box are rarely read and addressed, it becomes a patronizing reminder that employee input is not valued in this culture.

According to Nathan, although the goal of the suggestion box is noble, it has two fundamental problems: it is anonymous, and it is not proactive. Team members cannot take ownership of their ideas and it waits for employees to decide whether what they have to say is worthy of voicing, or not.

“Metaphorically speaking, the suggestion box requires that “Say” get pushed up the hill. There is still organizational inertia pushing the other way. In extraordinary organizations, they have full team strategy and engagement meetings. So it’s not just the executive leadership that’s doing the strategic thinking, they get everybody in on this game.”

| Nathan Havey

How do extraordinary organizations approach the factor of “Say”? Nathan Havey provided a few examples: full team strategy engagement, a hypocrisy call-out rule, and open books. What many of these practices have in common is that they are radical; they require radical accountability and radical transparency.

Embracing a Workplace Culture of Say

Nathan Havey’s extraordinary definition of “Say” is as follows, “using the full measure of your genius”. In order to ‘use the full measure of their genius’ team members must be trained to think like leaders. This doesn’t happen overnight.

The best college professors don’t move on when a student makes a comment they haven’t thought through, instead, they open a dialogue, asking the student questions which push them along their line of reasoning and help them strengthen their arguments by introducing counterpoints.

Nathan didn’t just speak theoretically.  He illustrated his points with moving stories of what can happen when you invest in people.

For the CultureTalk Partners, Nathan told the story of a Navy Captain in a unique situation where his crew members had to take charge of the ship. Rather than giving orders, he devised a system of approving their intended actions. When the sailors came to him to ask an action be approved, he would then ask them “what am I going to ask you next?”, teaching them to think like a captain.

"Embracing a culture of ‘Say’ is mutually beneficial. It allows leaders to access untapped brainpower and fresh perspective; team members are engaged and feel a greater sense of investment in the organization’s future and success. Big wins are celebrated together."

| Nathan Havey

Extraordinary Growth: Tru Colors Brewing

When sharing the Growth factor, Nathan recounted the story of entrepreneur George Taylor, founder of Tru Colors Brewing. George first became aware of gang-violence in his home city of Wilmington, NC when a 16-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting two blocks from his office. Deeply troubled by this, he took bold action, asking the police chief to introduce him to the leaders of the city’s rival gangs.

What happened next was unprecedented, George Taylor spent time with the gang-members, hanging out with them and their families, earning their trust, and learning about their hopes and dreams. Here, we can see where the motivating factors overlap; George understood that positively impacting gang-violence in Wilmington began with positively impacting the lives of those perpetrating the violence and that helping those men to grow began with caring about who they aspired to be.

Nathan describes how this act of caring changed George’s perspective about gangs,

“Taylor had his head totally turned around about what gangs are and why gangs exist. They’re not criminal by nature. They are community. People find belonging in gangs when they struggle to find it elsewhere. They are terrible at being criminals— they get arrested all the time. They don’t want to be criminals. The criminal activity is more about economic necessity rather than any kind of moral failing.”

| Nathan Havey

George now feels that gangs are a good thing for their members, providing them with social structure and support. With the violence removed, gangs are strong organizations with the potential to be extraordinary; sometimes they are just in the wrong line of business. George saw how he could leverage the social dynamics of a gang to address the problem of gang-violence.

Being, first and foremost, an entrepreneur, George gathered the leaders of rival gangs and made them a business proposition: We’re going to start a brewery and you guys will be my executive team, you will be paid $50,000 a year; however, in order to keep this job you must first go through a two-month boot camp and during this time, you are going to prove to me that you have influence in the streets by making sure that not a single one of your guys pulls a trigger.

All parties upheld their end of the bargain and, in the following year, gun violence in Wilmington was reduced by 90%. Rather than use violence to demonstrate their influence, George challenged them to prove their influence through preventing violence.

Engaging the Growth Factor

In ordinary organizations, the Growth Factor is engaged by giving employees more responsibilities, setting performance goals, and providing opportunities for advancement. To grow the whole person, leaders must make it their job to know who their team members aspire to be, create opportunities to align their responsibilities with their larger goals in life, and recognize and activate their strengths in the pursuit of their success.

George made an investment in the growth of his team members. He put up the startup costs and paid team salaries for two months while they went through rigorous culture training, team building, personal growth exercises, and even jumping out of an airplane as part of a graduation ceremony. Yes, Tru Colors Brewing has the higher purpose of ending gang violence in Wilmington, but Tru Colors is not a charitable venture; it’s a business. A seasoned entrepreneur like George Taylor knows a good investment when he sees one.

"It is precisely this die-hard faith in a person which empowers them to rise to the challenge and grow into the person they want to become."

| Nathan Havey

And that potent, radical transformation of lives creates ripples of growth, both in service of the organizations Higher Purpose, as well as in its financial value. After the astonishing reduction of gun violence, Tru Colors has expanded its mission and plans to expand to other American cities.

Hurricane Florence caused a setback in production, but Tru Colors Brewing is ready to launch their line of beers in early 2020 and, under the leadership of former rivals, already has major distribution requests rolling in.

The Power of Conscious Culture in Organizations

The inspiring stories that Nathan told illustrated the importance of Conscious Culture to the larger vision of Conscious Capitalism and demonstrated the impressive returns, human and financial, that investment in Conscious Culture can bring. These pioneers of Conscious Culture challenge our preconceptions about what a business is. Rather than juggling interests and making trade-offs between stakeholders, the extraordinary organizations referenced in Nathan’s talk employ practices that allow them to create value for all their stakeholders: society, partners, investors, customers, and employees.

As it turns out, those extraordinary organizations Nathan shared about also consistently outperform other companies in measurable ways.

We spend about one-third of our lives at work. For this reason, businesses have incredible potential to be agents of change. If we’re going to spend 40 hours of our week, every week, immerged in an organizational culture, why not make it an extraordinary?