Rethink Your Work Culture. Zappos' Self Management Was Just the Beginning

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

By Lynn Hinderaker, Principal and Speaker, Growth Dynamix Consulting

The growth of the remote working trend since spring, 2020, deepens the impact of the so-called 'gig economy,' which was envisioned by author Dan Pink as early as 2002. Gig workers or freelancers value flexibility to choose when and where they work. All of this is changing the relationship between workers and employers.

This trend is accelerated by automation: artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies will likely redefine and replace many workplace tasks, putting jobs in question and reshaping the kinds of work and skills that humans perform. Workers are bracing for this trend by moving toward different employers where they might have more leverage or more assistance with reskilling.

Indeed, researchers tell us that two-thirds of all employees are 'looking to leave' their current employers!


Utilizing outside talent, consultants and freelancers can save money because employers don't provide benefits. Going forward, as the business case supporting the use of freelance, 'agile' talent evolves, here are the considerations that matter when bringing them on-board:

1. Strategic alignment: goals, priorities

2. Performance alignment: well defined metrics, regular feedback

3. Relationship alignment: on-boarding; ensure they understand organizational values

4. Managerial alignment: philosophy about the business

5. Administrative alignment: policies and procedures, getting paid on time, etc.

Regarding traditional employees, there is a huge gap between what employers and employees think about the company's approach to compensation and culture. 86 percent of the 262 employers in a study by Watson Wyatt Consulting said they believed that their organization was treating employees well, and more than half expected to do a better job of treating employees well in the future.

However, only 55 percent of the 1,100 employees in the study believed they were well treated, and just 24 percent thought they would be treated better in the future!


Prior to the pandemic, many employers were scaling back on the health care benefits they provide or asking employees to pay for more themselves. As the pandemic winds down, the tables have turned. many employees are pressing for mental health coaching, career development, promotion opportunities, child care assistance, generous leave policies and, of course, pay increases.

This dramatic shift in priorities is concerning, especially when it comes to health care benefits. “Think of it like tectonic plates. We’re on a crash course and something’s going to have to give,” said one HR expert.

HR executives remind us that employees want to connect their personal and professional growth with the overarching mission of the employer. As soon as this varies, great employees who were outstanding in the past leave for another company.

Here are 7 ways to retain the best people - to 'heal' the culture problem.

1. Challenge employees weekly. Every top-performing employee really does want to be challenged. As expectations are raised, their level of performance (and job satisfaction) will also increase.

2. Reward for attitude, not just skills. With a great attitude, new skills can always be learned. With a lousy attitude, not much will ever be accomplished.

3. Give them an opportunity to build a career, not just make money. Show every employee where they can go from here.

4. Employee participation is becoming critical as long as it's actionable. Involvement in committees and task forces gives employees a sense of worth, power and responsibility for the larger whole, not just their department.

5. Innovate. Embrace new ideas and allocate resources to new product development, market segmentation, new forms of collaboration. Reward dreamers, not just doers.

6. Put more effort into the ramp-up cycle. Many employees leave after only six months because the ramp up cycle was short changed. As a result, new employees just didn't 'plug in' to the system or feel thoroughly prepared to excel.

7. Think of your culture as a marketable product that must be unique and professionally sold in all the digital channels. Many HR staffers are ill equipped to carve out a point of differentiation and express it persuasively on video or within a podcast.

Lastly, there is tremendous attention being paid to culture, diversity, social responsibility and what is now being called 'higher purpose.' Younger employees, acutely aware of economic inequality, environmental crisis and racial inequity in our society, want their employers to 'do more' than make a profit. They are pushing management to help sectors of society that need resources, housing, mentoring, food, educational support and much more.

Other employees want to 'become a better human being' as a result of working in a specific environment around people who will help them evolve internally, not just 'get the job done faster and better.' This strategy for organizational development has been heavily researched by Harvard professor Robert Kegan; it links personal development (enterprise-wide) to financial performance and industry success. If taken seriously, this psychological and motivational emphasis will attract high quality recruits.

Foresighted employers must find a way to fit these new considerations into the P&L and communicate the impact throughout the enterprise and across the customer base. Success will bolster loyalty, boost productivity and drive profitable growth, long term.

Keynotes and seminars are available for your trade group, industry events, conferences or Chamber get togethers. Lynn Hinderaker is a polished and dynamic presenter who will engage your audience. Contact him at 402-208-5519

11 views0 comments