Don’t Dictate a Culture: Build a Community

Everyone wants to know what the “secret sauce” is for creating a great place to work, for engaging employees, and for improving retention, productivity, and employment brand.

The answer is…one size does not fit all. But there are a few things your company can do today to move the needle. In a nutshell, stop trying to create a “perfect” culture driven by marketing mumbo jumbo. Instead, foster a dynamic community that communicates with each other, accepts diverse styles, people and points of view, and supports the common threads which bind the separate pieces together to form the whole.

Below are a few of the ways we’re taking our philosophy at Genesys to the next level as we continue to support our thriving, diverse internal community.

1. Support regional differences

France has a different culture than India. Brazil has a different culture than Canada. California has a different culture than New York. Recognizing this, and doing your best to listen and accommodate local team needs to the extent that you can, is really important.

In North America, we began addressing a regional request for flexibility many years ago by offering an open time off policy, which means employees work with their manager to take the time off they need when they need it. This is a trend in many tech companies now, but it’s something we did a long time ago because it simply made sense. It isn’t micromanaged or policed. Employees use their common sense and good judgment about time off, and it works.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Kronos CEO Aron Ain says that such a change in policy requires “fundamental trust in the people who work for you.” It also means treating your employees like adults, which most people truly appreciate.

And at Genesys, that’s a given. We hire the best and trust them to do what it takes to get their jobs done. We give them the time and flexibility they need to fulfill all the aspects of their life both professionally and personally.

2. Celebrate micro-cultures

Departments, offices, and teams also have cultural differences. It’s important to find ways to celebrate and support these micro-cultures as well as the larger regional, country or even company culture.

In a globally dispersed company like Genesys, micro-cultures naturally emerge and pull together colleagues in personalized and meaningful ways. One of the primary reasons Genesys is a special place to work is because we acknowledge and respect the differences among individuals, nationalities, and backgrounds. And, we value the varying perspectives and better business outcomes these diverse teams deliver.

Employee engagement activities that support both regional and departmental micro-cultures can take many forms, ranging from hackathons to events like our sales kickoff, to fun videos to showcase local offices like this one from Genesys Chennai, India, to team sporting events such as soccer games,  and more.

Empowering employees to organize events in which they want to take part is critical. The fact is, corporate-led engagement activities are rarely as, well, engaging, as the grass-roots activities developed by employees, for employees. For example, ahead of our global sales kick off meeting earlier this year, two Genesys employees organized a bicycling event to jump-start the week together. The ride brought almost 100 employees together from numerous Genesys offices around the world, tying in the fun activity with a charitable contribution to Trips for Kids, Marin. The event was so successful, a similar ride was organized by employees at our recent DevOps conference too.

3. Let go of the wheel

Empowerment is an important theme when it comes to employee satisfaction. To empower employees, leaders must have a vision, confidence, and trust in their team. Otherwise, they’ll never be able to delegate and they’ll never know what their people are capable of.

In addition to on-the-job empowerment in terms of day-to-day decision making, one universal way leaders can empower their teams is by encouraging and supporting them to drive activities they are passionate about. For example, at Genesys, one of our senior female sales leaders, Alice Katwan, regularly organizes Women in Technology summits for our Sales Kickoff and Customer Experience events. These summits bring together female thought leaders from the external community to engage with our own teams to share ideas around diversity and inclusion.

With these and other similar activities across the company, we are encouraging empowerment within our employee base on a number of levels. Corporate support of passion projects as well as general, on-the-job decision making encourages employees to connect professionally, personally, and as a team. This, in turn, drives loyalty, engagement, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. And, it’s really not that hard.

4. Make a difference

People want to feel good about the company for which they work. So, many companies have some sort of corporate social responsibility program. Most of these programs consist of the CEO deciding where to donate and then there’s a lot of PR promoting how philanthropic they are. While these programs may have an impact, we believe it’s more powerful to empower our employees to make a difference and encourage them to get involved. The best way to do this is to let them drive the priorities – it helps to build internal community while simultaneously supporting the external communities in which employees live and work.

At Genesys, we are firm believers in giving all of our team members opportunities to give back – but we don’t dictate how, when or even if they do. Instead, we give employees the freedom to tailor their giving to what’s most meaningful to them. Our “Make a Difference” program is one way we do this.

We know making a difference can take many forms, so we offer employees paid volunteer hours to give back how and when they choose. For example, our Chennai, India office recently sponsored three meals a day for an entire orphanage for 30 days. In addition, our Make a Difference program offers company-sponsored donations for team volunteer activities. The program also spans numerous team acts of charity across many countries.

When employees are empowered, and when they can find common interests and choose to give back together, they gain personal fulfillment and also form deeper connections within their teams. By enabling these connections through the support of employee-driven volunteer programs, companies can deliver more positive work experiences and, ultimately, better business outcomes.

5. Walk the talk

One size does not fit all, and it’s evident in the many ways iconic companies succeed today. There is one thing these companies share, and that’s the personal values of the leadership team. When the values of the leaders are clear, and these values are repeated through management’s interactions with employees and employees’ interactions with each other, it becomes part of the company’s core principles. Know what it is you stand for — and what you don’t stand for. Hire to your values and recognize and reward accordingly.

Happier, more engaged employees are essential to satisfied customers. Engagement no longer means mandating incentive programs that put the business in the position of the driver. Just as customers want flexibility in the way they engage with businesses, so do your employees.

Build that flexibility into the way you manage your business. Encourage employee initiative. Support the diversity inherent in every company culture. It’s a rewarding journey. And, it’s instrumental in enabling Genesys to be a successful business characterized by more than a great culture, but a culture of connected, dynamic communities that are highly driven by our employees.