Working from home used to only be a dream for some people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many significant ways, but none so illuminating as how the workforce views capitalism and corporate culture. At the onset of the pandemic, most businesses were forced to cease onsite operations in order to comply with the stay-at-home order. While some employees were furloughed due to the changed economic landscape, other employees had their positions transitioned to some form of telecommunication—zoom calls, chat boxes, and email inboxes that have become impossible to clean out. Everything has changed, which has left some working people wondering why working from home is an impossibility in an age where it can help change a corporation’s culture.
Working from home can give an employee a better sense of work-life balance. Everyone who has worked a full-time job has at one time or another craved a greater work-life balance in order to maintain their health and happiness. Many Americans across all industries and tax brackets have expressed some desire to work less for a myriad of reasons. Employees who have never had flexibility in their jobs before are enjoying the flexibility of working from the comfort of their homes. While this is not comforting to all employees, especially ones with children who are also in the home and likely involved in virtual learning, the sudden cushion of their own couch underneath them while working from home makes them wonder why this was never possible before.
Corporate culture is the manifestation of the relationship between leadership and their employees. It is sometimes referred to as organizational culture. It concerns how policies and communication from the top of a corporation can directly influence the level of employee engagement and satisfaction at multiple levels of an organization. When a company’s management does not show initiative to improve operations surrounding these types of complaints, it can create a culture of silence & resentment within the workforce. Healthy corporate culture creates a cycle of satisfaction and productivity that both benefits the bottom line and improves employee engagement for a balanced, stream of operations.
The mandate of working from home has placed some companies on notice, as the situation has exacerbated the stress of many in an already turbulent time. As work and life and work continue to pass over each other, braiding themselves into context with one another, employees are starting to expect more care from their employers were regards to their corporate culture.
There will always be businesses and business models that cannot support telecommuting as a way of day-to-day operations. Studies have shown that separating work space from living space, the routine of commute and workday operations, the continued face-to-face contact with other employees and how it impacts daily output. Not to mention that every corporation and team is unique. Every work environment is a complex eco-system in its own right—internal structure, policies, how those policies are enforced, leadership, the personalities of all interacting employees—all of these factors creating unique professional experiences. Working from home continues to recontextualize life for working people, and leadership must use this open window to start investing in their corporate culture audit.
Think of a corporate culture audit like a checkup for your business. An investigator comes into the workplace, interviews employees, reviews daily operations and polices, and how those items are enforced. The investigator looks at all of these factors and how they effect the cycle of corporate culture. The investigator then provides leadership with methods to improve their corporate culture by investing in the happiness of their employees.
If you find your business is in need of a corporate culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate culture audit services. Our corporate culture audit can be customized to fit businesses of all sizes and needs. Our private investigators are made up of former military and law enforcement personnel and we carry an outstanding A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Call 317-951-1100, or visit us online at lauthinvestigations.com.
If you follow the mission and directives of nonprofit organizations, you’ve likely heard of United Way Worldwide. According to their website, the nonprofit “advances the common good in communities across the world. Our focus is on education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality of life.” However noble their mission statement, United Way has been in the news recently as former employees have come forward with reports of a hostile work environment, prompting an internal investigation.
The United Way investigation began when former employers decided to take a stand against a toxic corporate culture. The allegations of a toxic, hostile work environment came in the form of a letter that was signed by an anonymous group of former United Way of Summit and Media, citing pervasive problems such as racism, sexual harassment, and nepotism. While the word “anonymous” raises eyebrows in conjunction with whistle-blowing, it bears pointing out that these former employees claim they will be subject to retaliation. The letter was sent to United Way board members on July 31, prompting board chairman Mark Krohn to announce the onset of an internal investigation.
Harassment and bullying are just one of the allegations made by the former employees who signed this letter, and this has led to one United Way board member already resigning. One of the first dominoes to fall in the United Way investigation was former board member Elizabeth Bartz, who was in charge of running government affairs in Akron, Ohio. Leadership from the United Way of Summit and Media began investigating Bartz after there were allegations that she had verbally abused employees on social media. Bartz used Facebook Messenger to send a private message to another former employee, calling them a “toothless piranha” and accusing them of attempting “to ruin UW” with their allegations of bullying in harassment—ironically by engaging in bullying and harassment. This led to Bartz’s resignation.
Bartz’s reaction to the anonymous letter might actually validate these anonymous claims by former United Way employees. However, according to an article by the Beacon Journal, these anonymous former employees are feeling ignored after an investigator reported that the allegations in the letter “were mostly unsubstantiated.” A former employee who claimed to speak for the group told the Beacon Journal, “It’s clear it’s not an objective report…We can’t keep talking if we’re not going to be valued and our experiences are going to be diminished. It’s pretty disheartening when someone says they were sexually harassed and they are told it was ‘he said/she said.”
The frustration and feeling of defeat expressed by these anonymous employees are the effects of poor corporate culture in motion. Like a piece of antique furniture with termites, poor corporate culture can rot a company from within. Looking at the list of grievances these former employees are citing—racism, sexual harassment, nepotism—these are all enormous and complex problems that are not created in a vacuum. The corporate culture of the workplace must be an environment where these issues are able to thrive in order to develop a pattern of behavior. When employees make claims about these types of internal issues, it is in the best interest of the corporation to submit to an independent corporate culture audit.
If your corporation or organization is experiencing repeated instances of internal difficulty, it might be time for a corporate culture audit. A corporate culture audit is a program that examines the internal policies of a corporation or organization, how those policies are enforced, how they effect the employees, and how those employees relate to each other as a result. If the corporate culture in a company is good, that positivity is baked into the internal operations, employees feel valued by their organization, and therefore will remain engaged and invested in maintaining productivity. Pervasive, repeated internal problems may not stem from a single factor, but the entire corporate culture of the workplace. Think of a corporate culture audit like a medical check-up for a business or organization. Lauth’s investigators evaluate the culture from leadership down, identifying the major factors in disruption, and advise leadership on how to improve their business from within. For more information on our corporate culture audit program, click here.
The ubiquity of smart technology and information technology has made work-life balance more attainable than ever in the United States workforce. Telecommuting has made it possible for single parents to work while also caring for their children, and for single individuals to pursue personal passions while maintaining a sustainable living. However, this blurring of the lines between work and life have also brought work stress closer to home for millions of Americans, severely impacting their mental health.
The conversation surrounding work-life balance and its effects on mental health has developed significantly over the last ten years. Leadership in major corporations have become more aware of how their corporate culture not only effects their workforce, but also their brand, productivity, and their stock holders. The Health and Safety Executive published national statistics declaring that 28.8 million work days were lost in 2018 due to both physical and mental health reasons. While physical helath of employees has always been one of the priorities for major corporations, mental health has only recently come to the forefront of corporate priorities. In an article by Sarah Chilton published by Forbes at the beginning of January, Chilton said, “In some sectors there are cultural issues which are likely to exacerbate the problems, or make it harder to openly discuss mental well-being. In particular, high pressure environments, or night shift work for example, can contribute to mental health issues. My own sector, the legal sector, with its highly pressurized and competitive environment where there is a long hours and heavy workload culture, can significantly affect mental wellbeing, but also the willingness of employees and business owners to discuss it openly.”
This connectivity that Chilton mentions comes in the form of platforms like Slack, Monday.com, and other telecommuting tools that can be huge assets to corporate communication and productivity. These platforms can connect employees located around the countries, for a seemingly more holistic approach to corporate success. When your work is well-connected to the devices we use in our personal lives, such as our phones, our laptop computers, and home-based artificial intelligence like Alexa and Google Home devices, a bleeding source of stress is introduced that can further disrupt our desire for a work-life balance.
Regardless of an employee’s physical location within the organization, many corporations are beginning to adopt work ratios that have been proven to reduce this bleed, such as the 25:5 rule. That means a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of work completed. This can come in many forms, such as walking meetings, meal breaks—anything that would stimulate an employee physically in order to refocus their minds on their work once they return from that break. This also reduces the physical impact of jobs that force employees to sit for long periods of time, which has devastating effects on posture, eye-strain, and lack of circulation in lower extremities that contribute to health problems such as blood clots and diabetes.
When corporations invest in the mental health of their employees, the positive ripple effects may surprise even the most seasoned executive. Corporate culture moves in a cycle. When employees feel that their mental health is valued at their place of work, their level of engagement is higher in their capacity. This leads to a better quality of communication between employees and stronger engagement on behalf of individuals, which promotes productivity. This increased productivity not only pleases leadership, but also improves the quality of customer service within the organization, which also has the potential to impress and reassure shareholders.
How do you know when your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit? The fact of the matter is that you don’t have to be an educated risk assessment investigator to identify the signs. Many employees can trace their workplace woes back to an internal process or another employee they do not like. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern whether your organization needs a corporate culture audit. Here are 8 of the most prevalent signs that leadership should watch out for when it comes to declining corporate culture.
8. High-Pressure Environment
There is a plethora of high-pressure jobs that can create tension in the workplace, like media conglomerates, financial firms, and law offices. When stress is part of the job, many employers go the extra mile to ensure that their employees can have good work-life balance, such as paid-time-off, vacations, and comprehensive benefits. In high-pressure jobs where these things are not available to employees, the workforce regularly experiences burnout and lack of engagement. When leadership is ignorant or inattentive to these issues within their corporation, it drives corporate culture down and contributes to the overall detriment of the workplace.
Every employee has substandard days for a myriad of reasons, but when the workplace is constantly plagued by low energy and low morale, it spreads like a cancer throughout the organization. Employees who are engaged in the workplace increase productivity and customer experience. When apathy spreads throughout the workplace, it usually indicates that the root cause is pervasive, effects everyone, and needs to be neutralized as soon as possible.
If your organization is running into the same problems quarter to quarter, this is a major red flag. The nature of the problems are insignificant—whether it’s a problem with internal processes or multiple complaints of harassment, the fact that the problem continues to thrive within the workplace indicates that there is a fundamental issue with internal processes or personnel. While each issue may have resolved initially, the root of the problem was never identified or addressed. A healthy cycle of corporate culture cannot grow in such an environment.
5. Poor Investments in People
When it comes to hiring and promoting employees, sometimes leadership does not always make a sound investment in a single employee. It happens in every business, where a new hire or promoted employee does not meet expectations as predicted. This can bring internal operations to a screeching halt, whether executives elect to correct this poor investment via termination and turn-over, or to ignore the issue and allow that employee to continue stalling the corporation’s mission.
4. Questionable Ethics
“Questionable ethics” does not mean that it’s apparent that there is illegal or ethically unclear practices taking place within the workplace—otherwise it would be much higher on this list. “Questionable ethics” actually refers to individual employees’ understanding and ability to explain their company’s values. Regardless of intent, corporations are sometimes vague about their mission or values, using rosy words that denote a company with integrity and passion for bringing their products and consumers together. This can make it difficult for employees to intellectualize company goals and vision. When the workforce does not have a clear, common goal to achieve as a whole, employees can easily become detached and apathetic.
3. Lack of Accountability
When corporate culture is healthy, there is a mindful unity throughout the workforce, in which individual employees are content, engaged, and working towards the same goal. When the corporate culture is poor, individual employees at all levels refuse to take responsibility when something goes wrong. Lack of accountability for a mistake or oversight leads to a great deal of finger-pointing and shrugging in meetings and over email, and slows down the wheels of progress within a corporation or organization.
2. Bad Behavior in Leadership
Corporate culture audits can catch some of the most elusive culprits of tainting corporate culture: Executives and leadership. The old adage goes, “The fish stinks from the head,” meaning that most distasteful things within a company or organization can be traced back to leadership. Whether it is a supervising manager or an executive, bad behavior on behalf of leadership always trickles down into the rest of the workforce, because the supposition is, “If the boss is doing this, it must be okay.” This applies to all levels of bad behavior, from theft to malingering and everything in between.
1. Lack of Diversity
The number one indicator that your company or organization might need a corporate culture audit is a lack of diversity in the workforce. Any corporate culture that is homogenized with regards to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or even age lacks the inherent ability to grow and change. Leadership in the workplace—management and executive positions—are dominated by cisgender, straight, white men, who are statistically projected to hire other individuals who are also in this category. Individuals in this category are hired, mentored, and promoted more than others, which feeds into a cycle of stagnation that will ultimately disbenefit the company or organization. The value of diversity comes with the support of trusted employees from many walks of life—employees who have had different life experiences and have a perspective that can reinvigorate an organization’s vision or mission—ensuring that the pursuits of the workplace are growing and changing along with the rest of the economy.
When corporations make the investment to evaluate their corporate culture, it’s important that they choose a vendor who offers a comprehensive audit program. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saw an overall increase of 13.6% of sexual harassment filings in 2018. That’s not counting other filings for discrimination based on age, race, and sexual orientation. This has placed corporations on high alert as the nation’s capitalist climate gears up for change in their workplaces. This means that when leadership opts for a corporate culture audit, it’s important that their money is well-spent, and one of the best moves to make is hiring private investigators to handle the audit.
Many corporate culture audits are performed by independent risk assessment firms, which is to be expected. Risk assessment firms specialize in identifying the weak points in a business from their workforce background to their brick and mortar security. However, if leadership is going to invest in improving their corporate culture, it’s important that they pick a program that offers comprehensive services. While risk assessment firms might employ highly capable auditors capable of identifying security oversight or performing background checks, every business is different, and it’s important that the program selected fit every business true-to-form. That’s where a private investigator can be an invaluable asset.
Private investigators as a profession have a lurid reputation for following philandering spouses and people suspected of worker’s compensation fraud. The same tool chest that allows them to perform those services is the same one that makes them ideal candidates to perform corporate culture audits. Private investigators have an eye for detail, diligent drive, and a meticulous ability to evaluate and make recommendations based on what they’ve observed. These are the types of professionals you want when it comes to assessing the culture of your business or organization.
Independent risk assessment firms are just as excellent in identifying the risk factors that put a business or organization at risk, such as vulnerabilities in their securities, faulty hiring processes, and at-risk employees based on their history—but what about the human element within a corporate culture audit? Corporate culture audits are so much more than comparing documents and surveying brick-and-mortar locations. It’s also about understanding how current employees function in a workplace ecosystem. Private investigators, with a wealth of experience in evaluating human behavior and emotions, can be the boots-on-the-ground investigators who can speak with current employees and collect data on their impressions of the current work environment and how the culture can be improved. Some of the questions private investigators may address include, but are not limited to:
Is everyone in the company invested in the same things?
What are the valued differences between your corporation and the competition?
What are the key measures of success within your company?
What is the functionality of the leadership in place versus the leadership required for success?
What are the environmental factors that are contributing to the decline in culture?
What is the history of your company’s culture from its foundation?
What are the subcultures that have formed in your organization and what is their role within the company?
By answering these questions and calculating the human responses, private investigators can provide executive leadership with recommendations based on more than what exists on paper; for example, the last item on that list regarding the identification of subcultures. Private investigators do not only look at the behavior of individual employees, but also how those employees relate to each other. In workspaces where there are employees of 10 or more, it is hyper-common for subcultures (or groups) to form. This happens when individual employees gravitate towards one another as a result of their shared interests, goals, or gripes. Their comradery can either contribute to the cycle of corporate culture, or undermine it. When a subculture forms because the employees all have similar degrees of dissatisfaction with their job (regardless of the reason), their validation of one another in solidarity can be a cancer within the organization. This is why it’s imperative to hire corporate culture auditors who have a high level of understanding of human behavior—they can provide a comprehensive picture of how their current employees are contributing to the cycle of corporate culture.
While private investigators may not be able to dismantle subcultures, they can change the conversation within those subcultures. Groups of employees who bond over poor treatment from a supervisor or frustration with current internal processes will have to find other things to talk about once these issues are addressed and remedied appropriately. This is one of the ways that we improve the cycle of corporate culture. When employees see pervasive issues being addressed by leadership, they are inherently more engaged in the process, which can increase the quality of communication, the level of productivity, and the overall health of the workplace. Private investigators are some of the best professionals to perform these audits ultimately because they have a grasp of human behavior that allows them to accurately pinpoint the issues and make recommendations to leadership.