Leaders need to start bridging the gaps between them and their employees. In today’s market, people just don’t feel the need to work for someone anymore. There are more ways of getting money so they quit. This is why business leaders thing there is a great resignation happening because they don’t engage with their employees. They are not creating a workplace culture that aligns with everyone. So if you want to attract and retain talent, you need to start bridging those gaps. Join Sam Reeve, Char Miller, & Sumit Singla as they talk to the CEO and Managing Partner of CultureWorx, Dr. Donte Vaughn. He is an expert in Organizational Leadership, Workforce Management, and Company Culture. Learn what Culture Performance Management is and how he implements it in his business. Find out how you can create a great culture that is also diverse, equitable, and inclusive. As a leader, start bridging the gaps in your company today.
I am happy to have everyone here in the new year. It’s a fresh 2023 so we’re excited. A little bit about our show, we’re here to engage, energize, and elevate your employees and your company. We come together as a group of experts to elevate the field. We often have wonderful guests such as Dr. Donte Vaughn here.
We’re going to be talking about the Great Resignation myth, bridging those gaps in leadership and thinking about the important attraction and retention of talent in 2023. To start off, we have a variety of hosts here as we do every week on our forum. We have Wendy Graham. She is an expert in Talent Development and Training and so forth. She’s a great people strategist. We also have Char Miller, who is our Small Business Expert. She is a serial entrepreneur and has several businesses that she runs with her people. We’re excited to have her here.
Also, we have Sumit Singla from India, who is a People Strategist and has years of experience with some significant background in some of those large consulting firms that you’ve heard of. We’re very pleased to have Sumit Singla here. I’m Sam Reeve with CompTeam. I focus on Compensation and Talent Management. We help companies of all sizes grow and scale, whether they’re in the United States or internationally.
I’m very pleased to introduce to you, Dr. Donte Vaughn. Dr. Vaughn is the CEO in Managing Partner of Culture Worx. It’s a company dedicated to culture performance management solutions that help organizations measure, manage, and foster those cultural changes through real-time learning and practice. One thing I love to dive into a little bit more is to hear what excited you about becoming a leader of cultural change and learn a little bit more about your book, From CULTURE to CULTURE, and your background. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Thank you, Sam and the rest of the hosts at CompTeam. I’m excited to be here. Thank you for the introduction. My work in the field of organizational leadership and culture began early in my career. I started out as a traditional operations guy in retail operations, merchandising, and logistics. I worked my way up through light industrial and heavy industrial, both in the leadership capacity and then in a consultative capacity before I ever became a corporate executive, and then eventually launched my own practice.
The human experience has always been something that I’ve been connected to understanding how people come together and function effectively. Through that interest that stemmed all the way from childhood, playing in sports teams and growing up in the inner city of Philadelphia, I’ve always been this middle ground. I almost called myself Switzerland. I always looked at different group dynamics. It’s been something that’s always been grooming in me. My academic pursuits were always in the world of leadership and management practices.
When I started getting into more of the consulting space and understanding how systems, processes and behaviors come together, that’s when I met my co-author of the book and one of my business partners, Randall Powers. We started to have this conversation around leadership culture and the importance of impacting leadership behavior as part of any organizational improvement initiative.
Being the people science guy, I said, “We’re talking about behavioral change now and organizational psychology. How do systems, processes, and people come together? How do we impact that in a positive way to impact operational performance as much as we impact the employee experience and even the customer experience?”
We talked about this concept of what has become cultural performance management. Cultural performance management is taking a more systematized and operationalized approach to behavioral change among leaders and impacting workplace culture. It was born out of experiences that we all shared in recognizing that no matter how enhanced your systems and your processes are until you address leadership behavior and the implications of those behaviors, you won’t ever realize the optimal operational culture that you’re looking for.Until you address leadership behavior and its implications, you won't ever realize the operational culture you're looking for. Click To Tweet
That’s exactly right. It starts from above. You designed the book to speak to leaders and help them understand that they are the apex of that change. Is that right?
You’re absolutely right. The book is almost transitional. We first say, “We need to have the revelation or the epiphany that you can’t fake culture.” We’re in a time and place in the market now where organizations are being held accountable to this culture they claim. All the core values and what you present to the marketplace are what they can expect. You’re prescribing this culture. You’re saying, “My company believes in these values. We have these belief statements.” Now, you have a workforce and even your clients and suppliers all saying, “I’m going to challenge you in that. I want to understand and realize that experience.
We have organizational leaders saying, “I’ve tried for years,” but when you look at Gallup surveys and other statistics, employee engagement rates have been stagnant. We get excited when we see a 1% improvement in employee engagement scores year over year, 33%, 32%, or 34%. We’re stagnant because organizations need that system that says, “How do I impact at its root because of employee experience?” Now, we’re getting into the leadership behavior change.
Every company needs to have a certain capacity. We all have cultures in our organizations, whether we do or not. What do you mean by that cultural capacity and building that capacity?
My partners and I define culture as the values we share, the language we use, the behaviors we display, and the connections we make. Who owns that? The ownership rests with leaders. When we say the cultural capacity of an organization, what is the capacity of your leaders to learn, practice, and refine the behaviors that connect to this culture that you either claim or are trying to strive for?Culture is the values we share, the languages we use, the behaviors we display, and the connections we make. Click To Tweet
As I have the desire to perpetuate a culture, it doesn’t mean that my leaders are equipped with the skills and competencies to practice that culture, especially if it’s a significant shift from where they were historically to where they want to go and the shift in the marketplace like multi-generational workforces and things of that nature. You have a capacity. That’s part of the work that Culture Worx does. Upfront is to help you understand what your cultural capacity is. We can then help you implement the right developmental tools for your leaders to be able to practice, learn, and refine the behaviors that make up that culture.
We know that we had a cultural plan. A lot of companies had cultural plans that they were executing. There is this huge shock to the marketplace, the pandemic, the multi-generational workforce, and the Great Resignation myth that we’re talking about. How has that impacted organizational cultural overall?
Going back to that definition, the values we share, the language we use, the behaviors we display, and the connections we make. These shifts in the marketplace, both from a global pandemic point of view but also in market interest. All the social movements and all these things challenge organizational leaders to look at, “Where do we stand in all of this?” We had these culture initiatives. We recognize that the window dressing side of it, the marketing, and the articulation of this vision we have for our culture are no longer enough.
What do we do with this? All of a sudden, the rug was pulled under many organizations feeds a bit because not only do I have to address this, but how do I do so under a new organizational construct? What does that impact? Technically, it should not impact the values we share, the language we use, the behaviors we display, and the connections we make.
That’s where you may see a disruption in your organizational construct of the past versus now. Most organizations, even pre-pandemic, struggle with taking this value system that they presented in their organization and truly making it real, tangible, and intentional. Pandemic or not, we have to go back to what are the values that we believe underpin this culture that we want. How do we ensure that they’re actionable? How do we connect them to how your leaders engage, interact, and make decisions in your business every day?
As you’ve shifted your organizational infrastructure or construct, that may change your mechanisms for communication and engagement, but the foundational nuances should remain consistent. The beauty of having a cultural system is amid changes in your marketplace, that’s where you gain consistency in employee and customer experience because pandemic or not, market shift or not, I have a foundation that grounds me.
That’s a great point. Knowing what you want to have as a leader is quite important. Also, the next thing is making sure that everybody knows about it. Not just within your company but externally as well. The economy is quite a thing to consider right now around the world, especially in the US. There are a lot of stories that haven’t changed over the past few years, like the labor shortage. That continues even when the US economy is going into recession. What should companies do in this environment?
This gets at the conversation I presented around the Great Resignation myth a little. This perception of a labor shortage is oftentimes attributed to a low unemployment rate which means there’s less of an available labor market. Conceptually, that’s true. We couple that with, “There’s a Great Resignation because of all the rhetoric,” whether it’s stimulus payments or whatever is driving that.
The reality is it’s not that individuals don’t want to work. They don’t want to work for you. What I mean by that is 60% of households can earn income outside of wages and salary. We are in a market now where individuals have choices in how they earn income to provide for themselves and their families. it puts a greater onus on, “Why would I want to work for you?” Organizations have struggled to either articulate or back up their claims as it relates to employee experience.
Our clients and suppliers conduct culture audits and try to validate who you stand for in the marketplace or in the window dressing are indicative of how you operate. If I have a predominant market of prospective employees who have an interest, not around wage, but around experience in operating with purpose and meaning, then how do I articulate and validate that in a way that individuals will say, “I should look at this organization.” I’m not talking about pool tables, ping-pong tables, and donut drops. We get excited when we hear about these perks. It’s not to say that those things don’t have their place, but prospective employees are looking for something more.
It’s like, “What’s the more? How do I articulate that?” To your point, it starts with communication. What are my core values? What are my belief systems? What are the things that mobilize us as an organization? Now what? How do I validate that this is something that I don’t communicate but integrate into my day-to-day practices? Not through the lagging indicator of employee engagement surveys, but what am I doing upfront to ensure that I’m positioning everyone to foster this culture? That’s a missing link that Culture Worx we’re trying to bridge for organizations.
I’d like to hear from you, Sumit, from a global perspective. What do employees want if we’re trying to attract talent from this global workplace that we’re in? What are you seeing as being the dominant factors?
I’m seeing different things from both the demand and the supply elements. As Dr. Vaughn said, people are deciding that they do want to work. They just don’t want to work for you. There are people who refuse to participate in eight-step interview and selection processes and say, “I’m not up for this.” Even once you are working there, people are a lot more demanding in terms of clarity around, “What’s next? I get it that I have a job and get paid to do it, but what is the total rewards package looking like? Not only in the money I’m earning but in terms of career opportunities and intangibles of work culture. Is it okay for me to be at home because I want to catch the football World Cup Final or do I have to pretend to be sick or claim that my dog is not well?”
Do I have the psychological safety to be responsible for outcomes? People realize that I don’t want to be a clock watcher. I don’t want to look at, “It’s 5:00, let’s head home now,” but more of, “Let’s hold each other accountable for various things. You invest in my career, where I’m going from here or what’s next for me. I will invest in making sure that the goals we agreed to are met, whether I do those in 5 hours or 40 hours. Let’s leave that aside for now.”
That’s a big cultural shift. In my part of the world, it’s bigger. Traditionally, in India and Asia, we’ve been a lot more respectful of hierarchy. A boss is somewhere here on a pedestal and I’m somewhere here. Therefore, whatever is flowing downwards has to be done. It’s like a general commanding an Army. There’s no option to refuse to do what you’ve been asked to, but that’s shifting rapidly now.
I couldn’t agree more. From a global perspective, you’re seeing countries where the hierarchy has been ingrained in the cultural construct. You can imagine the United States coming out of a generation and even into this new Generation Z, where familial and hierarchical constructs look very different. Maybe some of us here were raised a bit industrialized, especially if we were in the public school system. We’ve been trained to respect positions of authority. It’s a standard to go to work and work a certain number of hours.
We’re in a marketplace now where the work constructs not only in terms of earning income, but the latitude and flexibility, whether we like it or not, has shifted. The expectation of the predominant workforce now is different. They didn’t grow up in the same construct and learn in the same environment. They’re learning through autonomous or asynchronous learning, whether we like it or not. We laughed at virtual learning several years ago. Now it’s a standard. It’s not pandemically oriented. It expedited where the market was already headed, asynchronous, autonomous learning, speed of execution, and data-centric organization.
To your point, Sumit, am I being held to the hour-for-hour standard or the output? I realize that through a hybrid scenario or remote scenario, I proved to you through the pandemic that I could do with it. We’re in an interesting time with talent retention. At the end of the day, as long as you have people coming together, virtual or not, those experiences are fostered. Those connections that are made, the language that we use, and the behaviors that we display still become essential in someone’s evaluation of, “Is this experience worth it to me?” Have you ever caught an Uber and found a senior-level executive driving Uber or someone who has three degrees? They’re making that decision because they’re experiences and what they can realize was worth it for them. We’re in a different place now.
I agree. The thing that the pandemic has shown us is that people are demanding a lot more consistency. When the pandemic began, companies rambled over each other to make remote work happen and say, “We are giving you all the tech tools. It’s perfectly fine. You’d be at home.” Many of the tech companies posted profits despite the economic pressures and all challenges.
Suddenly, you’ve got folks like Tim Cook saying, “I don’t believe collaboration can happen remotely. People need to be back in the office.” People are no longer buying it. They’re saying, “A few years ago, you said we are doing phenomenally well despite everything. Now you’re saying culture doesn’t exist outside the four walls of the office. That’s absurd.”
This conversation comes up even in my own internal team and I’m a culture organization. The reality is this presenteeism is a real thing. It’s less about how often you’re present. It’s more about how intentional you are when you’re together and how you engage and interact when you’re virtual. That’s part of the education process of our Gen X and Baby Boomer leaders because we came up in a space that, “No, you need to be here. The culture exists in our human experience.”Presenteeism is a real thing. It's less about how often you're present and more about how intentional you are when you're present. Click To Tweet
I’m a people science guy. I believe in the connections that we make, both in the physical context and spiritual contexts. However, I would argue that I can also help an organization foster that in a hybrid format or a remote format. Going back to the core definition of company culture, the values we share, the language we use, the behaviors we display, and the connections we make, we have technology that allows us to foster all of those things without physically being present.
I get this question asked all the time, “Do I think that there is a difference in experience?” Physically, yes. It’s the biological construct of human beings. You create a different sensory experience being physical versus being remote. Here’s the challenge. How do I create psychological safety regardless of the format?
How do we do that? When we’re looking at a diverse workforce, all are looking for multi-generational. They have different ideas of what they are looking for from work and how they would like to be treated by their peers, managers, and leaders. How do we get our arms around all of that?
My partners would attest that we’ve always placed the responsibility on founding leaders, core leaders, or senior leaders in their organizations to set the standard for the culture they’re trying to drive. With the notion that this culture you believe will help you realize your purpose, vision, and mission for your organization. It needs to drive or support the performance or the output you expect for your existence as a business.
You’re not trying to create an experience that you think everyone will love. That’s not what we’re talking about. Foundationally, let’s be clear about our value system and our beliefs. If we foster this culture or how we foster this culture has led or will lead to our success, let’s start there. This is why in every organization, I review value alignment and behavioral alignment to goal and strategy alignment. If this culture will not help you realize your outcome, why are you trying to drive toward this culture? Let’s be clear about that foundation.
Once I’m clear about that foundation, how do I communicate it? How do I educate? How do I help individuals understand what it means to show up in this way? For some, it will not be a good cultural fit for where you’re headed. You may have some legacy folks who you believed contributed positively to the organization, but where you’re headed and what you need to drive success in the future, they no longer align with that legacy culture anymore. You promote what you permit. They’re going to be some hard conversations to be had. They’re going to be some individuals who you want to give them some capacity to learn. That’s what it means to show up and exhibit trustworthiness, respect, diversity, or inclusion.
You got to give people the opportunity to bridge their understanding and practice of it, but at the end of the day, you’re not trying to say, “What do you want from me?” You’re prescribing the culture and then you’re validating fit. When we talk about cultural integration, from my job descriptions to my interview protocols, to how I measure performance in my business, I have to be clear about connecting. “These were the behavioral standards that we established. These are the behavioral expectations we have for how we engage, interact and make decisions every day. I’m evaluating you against that as a measure of success in our business, not around the technical or quantitative output that you yield from our organization.” That’s a harder conversation for folks to have in business, but it’s a necessary one.
Do you believe that the format or alignment you’re talking about is the key to driving the engagement that companies are looking for right now? We’ve heard of this quiet quitting, which to me is another language for lack of engagement. Is the cause of the change in the workforce that a lot of companies are heading in a different direction and the values have changed or alignment has changed a bit? Is that your perception?
That may be part of it. Some organizations are better at trying to validate that an individual is going to be a strong fit. With intentionality established, evaluation mechanisms help validate if they’re going to be a good fit. Over time, people bring what they think is representative of the culture or the behaviors that they want. They assimilate and get comfortable with what’s been accepted as the okay standard.
As an organization starts to put greater accountability around how individuals are showing up, you have some individuals who frankly do not realize they’re no longer a good fit. The other side of that is toxic cultures or subcultures being formed. They are quietly nipping away at an individual on what they thought their experience would be or what they were told versus what their actual experience is. There are so many factors that contribute to an individual’s decision to quietly quit, but at the end of the day, oftentimes what we’re finding statistically is there’s this perception of what I came in and what I was going to experience through this opportunity was not what I realized.
Some of that is often simply a gap in engagement. It’s communication, understanding, and alignment. That’s why this notion, to your point around, “What are leaders doing to engage that individual before they decide that they don’t even have enough psychological safety to come to you before they made the decision to leave your organization and say there’s a disconnect?” How do we bridge that disconnect? It’s okay for an organization to say, “How we articulated may have missed the mark in that expectation, but let’s try to get aligned,” but not necessarily responding to everyone’s desires.
Sumit mentioned this notion of giving people visibility to growth and trajectory. We misconstrue growth as simply promotion. We shy away from this conversation because we can’t promote everyone. The idea around growth isn’t in position. It’s in growth emotionally, psychologically, academically, and even in the midst of the roles that we fill in an organization. How do I position individuals so that they feel like they’re growing in purpose and fulfillment in intent, even if the experience you have in that organization propelled them to the next thing outside your organization? More legacy leaders lose sight of this conversation around succession planning or become narrow in what that looks like.
Wendy, there are a lot of questions coming up. What are you seeing?
We had a comment that said, “Dr. Donte, this is good meat. Walk it as I talk it. Be it. Not engagement results and action plan.” That was from Nikki that I wanted to pass along. Anna said, “How would you influence senior leaders to shift their mindset so there can be more transparency and open communication with employees? Thank you.”
That’s something we spend a lot of time with upfront. We have to start from the top. We take a top-down and bottom-up approach. The top-down approach around leadership mindset. I have a very candid series of conversations before we’re ever even brought into an organization surrounding what exactly you are trying to realize and why.
If I can’t connect to why you think this is important and if I can’t help you connect to how this leadership culture, this experience is impacting your bottom line or the fulfillment of your purpose, your vision, your mission, then I’m already behind the eight ball. I will not go in and try to help you foster a culture if you don’t buy in at the highest of high. To Nikki’s question, establishing this alignment that we’re talking about begins at the top and we often connect. There are factors that have led to your success.
Most clients we work with know how to make money. That’s not the issue. The issue is how they went about making that money and how people felt in the midst of making that money. The experiences, high turnover, attrition, and customer experience as a result of making that money. We go back to, “Something led to your success in making money. Let’s capture and scale that.”
As business leaders, we want scalability and predictability. Let’s take that and say, “There are some things that are missing.” I put my operations hat on a bit and start to have that conversation first. Oftentimes, it’s human capital and HR practitioners. We’re already a bit behind because we have to go into this meeting and they’re like, “Here comes the HR.” This soft fluffy thing that a CEO wants to understand is that culture matters to some extent but it’slike, “How does it impact my bottom line? I have a number I need to hit. I have a board of directors and stakeholders who care about the bottom line. Why does this investment matter?”
I have to have that conversation with them. Typically, once we make that bridge, the next conversation then says, “How do we mobilize your organization around this culture performance management system?” That’s an operationalized approach, which is something a lot of ops leaders can grip their hands around. Our HR practitioners or people in culture practitioners tend to get it. They understand it. It’s the ops side that we want to make that bridge on.
Dr. Vaughn brought up a lot of thoughts for me. I have a couple of thoughts and then I’d like to wrap up with the question for you setting at that executive table as you talk about. I have sat at that table having the diversity, inclusion, and cultural discussions from a very traditional mindset of that diversity and inclusion, and culture is all around gender, race, and ethnicity. I’ve heard a lot of those discussions.
Looking at analytics such as the number of diverse employees we employ or the balance of diversity in departments, what’s new and progressive for now would be more thought-provoking for our executive teams to discuss. Some of these new aspects, like LGBT aspects of that complex new diversity that many executive leaders are fearful of discussing and afraid to touch some of those delicate items.
In addition to other things like disability, mental health is huge now. Neurodiversity is also an aspect of inclusion that we don’t discuss very much. Also, different thought styles and aspects. I feel that many executives or heads of HR and diversity talent management departments have not scratched the surface of how we analyze those aspects of diversity. How do we align it with returning on investment? How do we find what the numbers are and how can we influence that, which then would equate to increased productivity and employees feeling more engaged and satisfied with their work?
Many employees are very turned off, quite honestly. When they hear diversity and inclusion in our culture, they think of the traditional things and employees tune that out, “That is not inclusive to me.” Neurodiversity matters and maybe different mental health or different thoughts. To wrap that up, what is your thought about some of those other aspects? Do you feel that executives and senior teams in charge of talent management strategy in their organizations are ready to start having those deep crucial conversations in some of those different areas? What do you think about that?
I’m glad you brought this topic up. It’s one that is often raised as a point of discussion and concern. Part of that concern is rooted in reacting to what I’ve been told is an area of focus but not knowing how to act on it in a way that’s truly impactful and tangible. I agree with you 100%. Organizations are stuck so they go back to what they think they know about diversity and inclusion.
We’ve evolved this concept around diversity to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and now, we’re diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. This DEIB context is, to your point, rooted in human experience and how organizations, more specifically leaders engage in and interact. The greatest point of equity in any organization is rooted in consistency, engagement, interaction, and decision-making in the business from hiring decisions, to performance management, to how they compensate. It’s across the board.The greatest point of equity in any organization is rooted in consistency, engagement, interaction, and decision-making in the business. Click To Tweet
Part of it is we have to get out of the narrow lens of solely race and ethnicity, which has often been the predominant focus area while important. We have to look at it in the broader context of, “What are the needs of my organization? How do I become more intentional in the systems, processes, and behaviors that foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to speak to the experience of people?”
No matter how diverse my organization or how inclusive I try to be, even in the level of equity that I realize across my organization, if I don’t still feel connected to the team and contribution of the mission, vision, and purpose that we have as an organization, none of it matters anyway. We have to first take a 30,000-foot view back again and reeducate ourselves around, “What are we trying to accomplish here?”
If you try to tackle DEIB, inauthentically or disingenuously, you’re going to land where every other organization finds themselves, which is, “Let’s slap a quota on it. Now we’ve done something.” That may not be what’s right for your business. When organizations ask Culture Worx, “How do you help us realize DEIB?” Let’s talk about first through the lens of behavior and built consistency in how leaders engage, interact, and make decisions, but let’s also talk about it in the context of standardization of systems and processes that align with those behaviors. If you fix that, you won’t need a quota. You’re going to do what’s right for your business, the community and your workforce.
To move with intentionality, if you’re trying to move from a state where you did not have diversity, you were biased and intentional about ostracizing groups. Now we start to deal with the behavior. Something led to the decision subconsciously or unconsciously that said, “These biases are going to shape my decision-making in my business. Now I got to go all the way back to the value system in my organization.” I got to call out some senior leaders and say, “You were a part of that. At the end of the day, I’m going to start to be intentional about changing interview protocols.”
I don’t have to set quotas when I’m getting to the root because that’s a harder lift. It’s a lot easier to say, “I have a DEI initiative and I’m going to set some quotas. I’m going to find the BIPOC community. I’m going to find some up-and-rising executives or persons of color. I’m going to call them the next DEI officer.” That doesn’t get you to the end result.
To your point, around this exhaustion that employees are experiencing, especially employees among the BIPOC community, “Here we go again. They took the one person of color we had in our leadership organization and called them the DEI officer.” It’s because they’re exhausted. It’s not manifesting in an experience.
To your point, in putting in the right processes, you have LGBTQ+ communities. All of those groups become a part of it authentically and naturally if you establish the right systems, processes, and behaviors, that’s not an easy hill to climb, but it’s one that some organizations are making a real investment in from unconscious bias training to an evaluation of their processes.
We even have one client looking at their supplier diversity and what led to their decision-making around supplier selection. They’re fixing their vendor management process and vendor ranking process, and then among that, they’re also implementing training and development to make people more conscious of the behaviors that impacted their decision-making in the first place. That’s a real DEIB strategy.
You worded that perfectly. I’m curious about the temperature of receiving this feedback from the executive team. You’ve said some excellent things from an HR practitioner, and I can certainly appreciate and grasp them in my mind. It is those CEO, CFO, heads of departments, and executive teams that you’ve worked with. How are they receiving what you’re saying? Are they truly grasping and comprehending the points that you’re making? I’m curious how those discussions are going.
It’s a spectrum of reception to what I’m saying. We’re typically the disruptors. They’ve invited me to the table for a reason. I always connect back to that root reason why I’m at the table in the first place. In my positioning, I’m saying, “We’re going to have some more conversations. There are going to be some things that we got to talk about. It also going to mean you may have to get out your own way a little bit on this one.”
Oftentimes, while it’s not easy, we’re able to bridge that level of creating psychological safety for even the senior leaders to recognize because of their desire or interest, rather it’s authentic or sincere in their personal belief systems. Typically, they believe in the vision and mission of the organization at large and are willing to do what’s necessary, even if that means getting out of their own way. As long as we can make the connection back to the bottom line, then even the strongest contributors to that disparity in their organization will make the shift.
In your Culture Worx company, do you work with HR professionals, talent management, diversity inclusion, or executives? Who’s the client that you support? I’m curious how we can share your work.
All of the above. We typically enter the door through the C-suite or V-suite point of view. Both in operations and HR. It’s very rare that we are just interacting with HR without operations. We are going to have some overlay because we got to get to the top. We have to ensure that there’s alignment across the board.
With that, when we start getting into learning, practice, and development of leaders around these behavioral standards, now we’re doing learning and development, chief culture officers, chief HR officer, then we’re starting to get into those realms of function and thinking. Upfront, we want to interact with all the key influencers and what has led to the positive and opportunistic aspects of that workplace culture.
Thank You. We have a question from Lisa, “Some HR postings are now using the term JEDI, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. How do you feel about this term? Is it marginalizing, by using a Star Wars term, the importance of the work? Thank you.”
I’ve seen that spark some controversy. This premise around justice is relatively new emphasis organizations are taking as a result of the social movements that have occurred and the social injustices that have been presented across the marketplace. Organizations are filling this obligation to take a stance on it. Do you remember when every organization on every job posting had, “I am an EEOC-compliant employer?” It’s because equity was such a big thing.
Now you’re seeing this J piece of it. Everyone likes this catchy spin on it. I’m less inclined to have an ideological view on rather that acronym is appropriate or not. I would argue if it aligns with the nature of your culture, then it’s fine to use it. I hope it’s not copywritten. That, for me, is less important. It’s more about, “Do you have integrity behind what that stands for? What do you mean by the J? What practices are you doing that speak to that?” It’s the same thing with the other aspects of that acronym.
If I’m an employee, I want to understand, “What does that mean?” The catchphrases and things are cute, but my experience matters. We’re getting to a point now where actions will speak louder than words. What investments are you making and perpetuating that claim that’s behind that acronym? That’s more important. What you’ll find is you’re going to be less inclined to use catchy phrases and acronyms. You’re going to be able to speak to real examples. Who am I having coming and doing orientations? It’s the people who are experiencing the culture. It’s a different experience in that context.
Dr. Vaughn, I would like to hear a little bit more about how you help your clients and the programs you have available. How can people with questions in our audience here get ahold of you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or even associate it with links with CompTeam. You can visit our website at www.GetCultureWorx.com. We have all our contact information there. Much of the work that we do begins with very candid conversations about what organizations believe they need relative to cultivating their desired company culture.
We then start out with a culture assessment. That’s our opportunity to get in and discover what the needs of the business are. We start to develop a roadmap for how to help realize that both in a consultative and advisory capacity. Also, the technological or software-based leadership development tools we create that foster sustainability of that learning and development process.
Much of that work begins with reaching out to us. Let’s have that initial conversation. It’s free of charge. Let’s understand what you see as opportunities. Much of the continuous improvement work we do outside of our software tools is everything from executive coaching to more hands-on support that we provide to organizations. It will start with that initial call. If you reach out to us on our website or LinkedIn, you can message me directly. It’s the same thing with any questions that were left unanswered. I’d love an opportunity to respond over email or what have you and try to call to give some more perspective.
Wendy, do we have some further questions?
Yes. Nikki said, “It sounds like we still need to deepen our grasp of humanizing employees holistically. We put so much energy into checking off milestones in our strategy plans. We include all the right buckets. It’s another org measure and the cat out of the bag. I enjoyed this. Thank you so much.”
I agree. In our book, we talk about how culture is not an initiative. If you treat your workplace culture like it’s this one thing, “As long as I do this one event, this one exercise, or whatever, then I’ve checked the box and I’ve fulfilled the needs of our organization or the market interest.” To her point, it’s far greater than that. This is about humanizing the employee experience and organizations. We may deliver a widget, product, or service, but we can’t treat people and people’s experiences like widgets.
We have to recognize that human experience matters, even if we disagree with the mindset of the incoming workforce. We have to seek to understand and what we’ll find is commonality. If we can connect the commonality accordingly and articulate and hold one another accountable to the experience we’re trying to drive, then we’re going to have positive outcomes. You’re always going to get back to the outcome that you want for your organization. I agree we can’t treat culture like an initiative.
About your book, where is the best place for people to go and find your book? How’s it available?
Aside from our website, you can go to any major platform. We hit the bestsellers list on Amazon upon our release. You can find us on Amazon, Borders, and any major book supplier. You’ll be able to find us there, From CULTURE to CULTURE.
Is there an audio version available?
There is on Kindle, Amazon Audiobook, and a few other platforms. It’s not my voice. It sounds a little bit of Liam Neeson mixed with mother swab sounds.
In the spirit of the new year, what are you looking forward to in the new year?
In the new year, this is an opportunity that it’s emerging across the marketplace for organizations to be intentional about mobilizing their leaders and sustaining a positive workplace culture. More and more years of recognizing we have to do something authentic and real about this culture we’re fostering. For Culture Worx, we expect opportunities to impact the lives of leaders. We truly believe that, foundationally, improving how people lead. We believe that leadership is not a switch you can turn off. How you show up as a leader in your business is the same way you show up in your lives. If we can impact that and how you engage, interact, and make decisions in a positive way, then we’re having an impact in general. This is an emerging opportunity for us. We’re looking forward to it.
With great respect, Dr. Vaughn, I’m so happy that you’ve shared your wisdom here with us and our readers. I wish you a joyous 2023 with great success and many impacts on all your clients and the people that come to you for help. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here with us.
I appreciate it, Sam and the rest of the team. Thank you for having me.
Thank you. Happy New Year, all. We’ll see you next time.
Dr. Donte Vaughn, is the CEO and Managing Partner of CultureWorx, a company dedicated to providing Culture Performance Management™ solutions to help organizations measure, manage, and foster cultural change through “real-time” learning and practice.
Dr. Vaughn is an expert in Organizational Leadership, Workforce Management, and Company Culture. He has over 17 years of senior-level executive experience driving results in the public and private business sector; fostering the design and implementation of business growth and leadership strategies and serving companies throughout the U.S. and globally.
Before launching CultureWorx, Dr. Vaughn founded and managed a boutique Operational Management Consulting practice serving the growing business community. He has also consulted with firms in providing labor strategy and workforce management solutions for the industrial market space.
Dr. Vaughn studied at Drexel University and the University of Phoenix and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration & Management, a Master’s in Management and Organizational Leadership, and a Doctor of Management (DM).
His professional memberships include the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), National Speakers Association (NSA), National Small Business Association – Leadership Council, and the National Business Educators Association (NBEA). Dr. Vaughn is an Official Member of the Forbes Business Council.
He is the co-author of the Amazon Best Seller: From Culture to Culture: The System to Define, Implement, Measure, and Improve Your Company Culture.