Danger in a Strong Culture: Shocking Results from a Novareté Alignment Study

I recently had the privilege of attending the CAI Human Resource (HR) Management Conference in Raleigh, NC on March 9-10 2016. Here I saw about 400 HR professionals gather for two days of intense learning, featuring sessions like “How the Best Get Better,” “Authentic Leadership: Defining Your Values/Living Your Mission,” “The Power of One,” and many more. The conference was run really well and infused with challenges for each person to define a strong culture by connecting and aligning their employees to their company values, unifying them under the company’s mission.

Not surprisingly, I was ecstatic to represent Novareté as one of the sponsors of the conference. As our mission at Novareté is to help our partners reach their potential by creating a company culture based on values and ethics – you can see why I was so thrilled. What I didn’t realize was just how unaligned these HR professionals were… even when it comes to the rules they are supposed to be managing.

This is what the Novareté team did: We made one of our scenario-based Dilemmas available for the attendees of the conference to answer – one specifically selected from our cloud-based software program that we felt would touch home with HR Professionals. People could come to our booth and answer it, or answer online through a link I sent out to those who gave me their information.

The Dilemma- Wasted Time

You’ve been less productive at work because of lack of sleep. You’re an hourly employee and submit a timesheet for payment. For this period, you’ve easily wasted two hours due to lack of productivity. Although you’ve exceeded past expectations, you’re considering subtracting two hours from your timesheet before submitting it.

What do you do?

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The Results

As the pie chart shows below, there isn’t a clear unanimous answer. In a room of HR professionals trained on regulating and managing time sheets, I was shocked to find such disagreement. I can’t help but think, “If professionals trained on this exact rule have this much trouble knowing what to do, imaging what hourly employees are thinking!”

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The problem is that there hasn’t been a way to track what employees are thinking when confronted with dilemmas. Further, there is no way to know how aligned they are on an ongoing, real-time basis (until now of course, with Novareté). Instead, managers and employees are left bewildered on how to create and manage a strong culture, “How can I solve for something I can’t measure?

What’s Alarming

There was a tie at 31% between answer C: seek advice from your supervisor and follow her guidance, and answer B: subtract two hours from your timesheet and submit it. Here are the top 3 concerns:

First, If HR professionals – generally like-minded and trained similarly – can have such distributed answers, the employees in your company are certainly unaligned. The Code of Conduct is a great place to start with teaching employees what they can and can’t do within a company. But there is no physical way to predict and include ever scenario that may come up in a document or handbook. There needs to be an easy, fun way to learn the “letter of the law” through the “spirit of the law.” Company values (the spirit of the law) can often be too ambiguous by nature. Finding a way to define that ambiguity on an ongoing basis through Dilemmas and other techniques will be how you transform your employees and company.

Second, most of the HR professionals are suggesting that if an employee has a question they need to take up somebody else’s time (their supervisors) to learn the answer. Now, I am not against asking questions when appropriate, but I am also for easily and effectively empowering employees with knowledge. Taking another employees time (supervisor) causing them to be less productive for the company doesn’t seem like the most efficient and successful way to go. Wouldn’t it be easier to teach everybody, all at once, in an ongoing fashion so they know what to do?

Third, Answer B is technically not in compliance with FLSA. A company is required to pay hourly employees the hours they show up, regardless if they were productive or not. Yet, this answer was tied for the highest chosen among HR professionals – professionals whose job it is to ensure rules are followed correctly within the company.

The right answer (within compliance with FLSA) is A: submit your full timesheet without subtracting anything. Unfortunately, this answer almost came up last, with only 22% of the HR professionals choosing it.

What You Can Do – The Solution

There is no question that a strong culture drives performance. Just as much as we want you to reach your potential, I am sure you want you and your company to experience the greatest successes. That cannot happen without engaged and aligned employees. This is just one example among trained, similar minded professionals. Imagine what alignment can look like among different industry professionals (marketing, sales, HR, programming, IT, salary, hourly….). It looks like a lot of people believing a lot of different things, pulling the company in a lot of different directions.

Episodic trainings, staff meetings, yearly surveys, and recognition programs are great. But they can be magnified to reach better results if efforts are based in values and are ongoing, measured, and analyzed. That is what we do at Novareté.

Not only do we provide weekly dilemmas to your employees (like the one above) to measure alignment, but we take it one step further. Each answer is connected to our Ethics Engine – think of this like a Rosetta Stone – that translates your actions into what you value.

For illistration purposes, these are the answers from the above Dilemma as they relate to the Cardinal Virtues.

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Over time, you are able to better understand what you value, your employee’s value, your team values, and your company values. With our Ve.Q analysis, you can take that yet another step further and compare – understand where you align and what the gaps are.

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