Today, it is insufficient for companies to have a great culture; instead, culture needs to be conscious.
First, let me preface this article by sharing that I am not an expert on corporate culture. Nor am I a culture consultant. I spent most of my career as an employment lawyer, which gave me a front-row view into varying corporate cultures — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In order to shift the paradigm of how typical HR teams and corporate cultures handle misconduct, I left my career as a practicing lawyer to start the mobile misconduct tech company NotMe Solutions Inc., (aka #NotMe). In 2018, we successfully launched the #NotMe app, which is an open, resolution-seeking platform that allows anyone to report workplace misconduct and is used daily by employees across the country to report workplace misconduct. As CEO of a growing company, and having witnessed many corporate cultures gone awry, I understand and value the importance of a solid company culture. I also spend a significant amount of time speaking to HR and Ethics & Compliance folks and employees.
So, what is a conscious culture?
Culture is the embodied values, principles, and practices underlying the social fabric of a business, signaling how business is done. The culture of your business is its heartbeat. A conscious culture is the cement between leadership and employees, as it fosters respect, dignity, and care, and builds trust between a company’s team members and its other stakeholders. A conscious culture is one in which both management and employees practice self-awareness of the environment they’re part of, and one where everyone feels accountable, empowered, and expected to act in a way that is in accordance with the culture the company seeks to foster. Conscious cultures create a sense of fearlessness, openness, welcomeness, accountability, and transparency. Ultimately, the goal of having a conscious culture is to create great places to work.
Today though, most companies seem to have an unconscious culture.
Having a conscious culture has a ton of appeal, but it’s not easy to create (or is it?). It literally takes a village. And not surprisingly, it starts at the top with the company’s leadership. A lot of companies like to think that they have a conscious culture, but how authentic is it really? Just because management brags about its conscious culture doesn’t mean that the employees also feel the same and that the culture truly is conscious.
What a conscious culture is not.
A conscious culture is not the ping-pong tables in your office. It is not the free food, the happy hours, nor the other “cool” perks companies tend to offer employees, thinking that providing these perks will satisfy the search of meaning we all seek in our work.
When does conscious culture happen?
Conscious culture happens when the actions of leadership/management, the mission of the company, and the employees’ wellbeing, drive, and passion for the business and its mission collide and meet one another, for the greater good of all stakeholders. Again, you cannot fake a conscious culture. Conscious culture cannot happen without authenticity.
A conscious culture requires both intention and authenticity. It happens when what the employees experience at the company actually aligns with the company’s values. It happens where those values have true meaning.
When leaders create a culture that is genuine, intentional, and authentic, and in which the individual is placed at the center, culture becomes conscious. And its by-product is trust.
A key element of a conscious culture is the respect and place given not to diversity, but to identity. Why? Because people want to work for companies that embrace their true self or identity, and expect workplaces in which they can fit in and that they can identify with. People want to relate with their workplace. Work has become a place for identity fulfillment. We are all unique (and hence diverse, but what matters is our unique identity, not our collective diversity). People want to work for and in companies that stop putting them in boxes. A conscious culture is one that allows people to bring their whole selves to work, their whole identity. In a conscious culture, leaders worry about the employee experience and everyone’s identity is respected and treated with the dignity it deserves.
Find the uniqueness of your culture, and then live and breathe it.
Yannis Rodocanachi, CEO at California-based BH Cosmetics, shares, “At BH Cosmetics, authenticity, inclusivity, and sustainability are the guiding principles behind everything we do. Our culture also drives the way we interact with our community. On the sustainability side, we share, in full transparency with our tribe, where we are at and where we’re going. We believe in being open and direct about our commitment to getting better every day and we frequently share our progress and results.”
As the #NotMe team and I continue to build our great company in an effort to make positive change in the world and make workplaces safer for all, we consciously align our mission and values with our employee experience and wellbeing with the intention of enabling and creating trust.
Because I believe in the importance of celebrating each employee’s unique identity, we also work hard to foster a culture that allows each and every one of us to be who they really are. We are very diverse, but our diversity stems from our strong respect for identity.
NotMe Solutions’ culture is geared toward the wellbeing of the employees as individuals, who happen to be part of the collective group of people we call employees. At our company, our colleagues can take as much vacation as they need. They can attend to their family lives and events as they want (graduation, spending time with parents who are visiting from overseas, etc.). They all know that I always attend my kids soccer games (I will only miss them if I am traveling, but if in LA, I never miss a game; my three kids play competitively). They know my wife and I like to take a vacation (the French in us) and time off from work. And as their leader, I expect them and request that they do the same. How can they perform, be motivated, and simply be happy if the only time off they can take is two weeks vacation per year? How can companies expect their employees to buy into the culture, if employees are not granted the freedom to attend to the most important parts of their own lives outside of work?
The ultimate goal of a great corporate culture is for it to become a cult-ure — cult-like in the sense that employees have such a devotion to the company’s mission, values, and products that they each individually intrinsically have the strong sense of belonging we all crave.
Conscious culture starts with having workplaces that care about the physical, mental, and psychological wellbeing of the employees. It is critical that the wellbeing of every individual within your workforce or talent is optimized. If you can add on top of that a common goal, an honorable mission, and positive values that have true meaning and are not just lip service, then you’ve created a conscious culture. And when a company has a conscious culture, it is for its constituents not only a great place to work — but most importantly — a great place to be.