We’ve all heard how people are a company’s greatest asset. And it’s true. But so are thousands of other safe and rather woolly statements made in the world of business. Something I find very contentious is the term ‘workplace culture’.
Personally, I cringe at the idea that to attract, appease and retain the best young talent you need a stack of bean bags and a ping pong table on each floor. Equally ridiculous is the belief that baby boomers and millennials can’t work together effectively due to their differing ages, outlooks and expectations. A recently published report based on Q2 2018 data, revealed that 90% of Canadian workers from all generations believe that having a workforce of different ages is an asset to a company. 1
I’m a firm believer that the best ideas are often born from a coming together of diverse minds. Culture plays no small part in this.
Establishing a genuinely open, inclusive and thriving culture needs to be a strategic priority for every business – and not because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
While personal respect must remain paramount, leaders shouldn’t feel shackled into sticking with the status quo when it comes to establishing a new workplace way of life. There should be no regrets for pursuing a brave and bold new approach, which is designed to inspire staff and take them on an exciting new journey.
An environment where employees feel able to suggest ideas, express opinions and constructively challenge proposals can only result in better outcomes. This type of empowerment helps to attract and retain the best people across all generations, while at the same time inspiring more creativity and innovative thinking.
Case in point, Mark Saunders, Sun Life’s Executive Vice-President & Chief Information Officer, recently announced as the Canadian CIO of the Year for 2018. 2
When he started with the insurance giant during the Great Recession in 2008, he counter-intuitively sought first to transform the headquarters into a modern, attractive work environment so that he could attract talent and rebuild the IT organisation, the agile way. But more than that, he used it as a critical opportunity to communicate, layer and instill the right values into a forward-looking collaborative work culture that is engaged and enabled to put their customers first. With this approach, Mark has been credited for developing some of the best talent in the business in his short time. On the technology side of the equation, the gem in the Sun Life crown is their new headquarters that features more than 400 collaboration and meeting spaces for the over 2,000 employees based in downtown Toronto. 3
The higher number of huddle spaces, conference rooms as well as the wide presence of large interactive whiteboards (also known as Interactive Flat Panel Displays or IFPDs) placed on walls are all there to drive collaboration with other office locations here and around the world and speed not only development but decision-making without sacrificing process to serve their end customers.
So yes, there may be some pains and uncomfortable adjustments as staff get to grips with change. But the benefits are plentiful. For example, products and services becoming better tailored to specific needs (thanks to the diverse range of minds behind them) will likely encourage customers to respond through repeat purchases and loyalty.
Remember, we’re all the same but brilliantly different.
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1. Randstad WorkMonitor Q2 2018 report ‘Impact of a multi-generational workforce’:
2. 5 Lessons from New Technology Leaders: Mark Saunders, Sun Life [CanadianCIO of the Year]:
3. Take a tour of Sun Life’s new global headquarters built for agile work