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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

How To Fortify Your Culture

If the Pandemic taught us anything, it's that change can come from anywhere, at any time and wreak havoc, if you are not prepared for it. It's also had a big effect on employee engagement and workplace culture. Many employees are now far more cognisant of the experience they are having at their place of work, compared to others. As a result, today's workforce is far less tolerant of putting up with outdated, unsupportive, uncaring, or stale workplaces and behaviours, as perhaps previous generations were.

But those businesses and leaders that are tuned into understanding the connection between the things that drive the business and the people within it, fair much better at holding onto and developing their talent. So what are they doing that's so different?

In episode 57 of the popular employee engagement and workplace culture podcast, Sticky From The Inside, your host, Andy Goram talks to Shaara Roman, the author of the book "The Conscious Workplace" and what it takes to fortify your culture and build a strong, enabling working environment that sets both the business and the people that power it, to success.

Below is a full transcript of that conversation, but you can also listen to it, here.

A Woman and a man discuss employee engagement and culture
Shaara Roman (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss how to fortify your culture in any crisis

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:11 Andy Goram

I've said this before, but we live in unprecedented times. Change is more rapid than ever before, and it's always on.

One thing that doesn't really seem to change in a couple of decades though is the percentage of employees who would count themselves as engaged at, or in work. And I make that distinction carefully there. And why is that?

Well, after all the evidence that is now presented to us, of how important employee engagement is with regards to sustainable performance and success. Many organisations still haven't moved the needle on it at all. Some of that I think has to do with the ineffective way some leaders still behave, or how poorly some companies set those leaders up for success. Whatever the reason, it means we're all losing out on better.

Your talent today, and actually, that of the future, perhaps even more so, are not inclined or as tolerant of outdated, unsupportive, uncaring, or stale workplaces and behaviours, as perhaps previous generations, like mine, were. Despite the uncertain economic future and maybe even because of the uncertainty, this talent is even more resolute on finding a workplace that has a strong, authentic, and visible culture, that shows that it values its employees through its daily actions.

But if you're not consistent, or your promise doesn't match up to reality, they won't be there for long. So, what does it take to build a workplace culture driven on by compassionate, commercially savvy leaders who recognise the value their employees bring, and they work hard to provide an environment where they can develop and grow and operate at their very best every day and where they can see and be proud of the impact they’re making.

Well, the answers may not be as complicated or as daunting as some may have you believe.

With me today is Shaara Roman, who's the founder and CEO of the Silverene Group. A culture consulting firm that aligns people, strategy and culture to optimise organisational performance. She's also the author of The Conscious Workplace, how to fortify your culture to thrive in any crisis. Which means she's the perfect guest to help us pick our way through the best way to ensure we set ourselves and our people up for success in these challenging times. Welcome to the show, Shaara.

00:03:39 Shaara Roman

Hi Andy, thank you so much I'm just really thrilled to be here with you today.

00:03:44 Andy Goram

I'm delighted you're here and I'm really looking forward to chatting through your book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way, just a fantastic read.

00:03:50 Shaara Roman

Thank you.

00:03:52 Andy Goram

Before we get going into all the cool stuff, we're going to get through today, how about just giving the listeners a little bit more of an intro to you and what you do and what you're focused on right now.

00:04:04 Shaara Roman

Yeah, thanks so thanks. Again, really happy to be here. So yeah, a little bit about me. You know, I'm a global citizen. I was born in Bombay, India. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. I went to school in England in Kent, actually, near Tunbridge Wells and lived in Greece. Did my higher education in the US, so sort of really grew up, you know, sort of grew up all over. And after spending 20-25 years in corporate America, I decided to start my business, which as you mentioned, is the Silverene Group culture consultancy back in 2016. And really, I wanted us to build better workplaces, right? To help leaders reimagine and create more inclusive workplaces. Because as someone who has sort of experienced the need to feel like they belong, right 'cause I've lived in all these different places, I thought that was something really important to me to allow me to thrive. And something I noticed was sort of missing in our workplaces.

As you said, Andy, right, we're just... we have these large swaths of our workforce that are not engaged and not able to engage in a great way. So yeah, so that's a little bit about me. You know, I'm a wife. I'm a daughter, I'm a sister. I'm an author now, office owner, you know, just a whole sort of bundle of different identities that I bring into the work that I do.

00:05:41 Andy Goram

And I think that's really interesting, and that comes through in the book, in that you use the term global citizen. I mean, if there was ever a phrase to describe someone's heritage, I mean, you claim that badge 100% right? Your background is incredibly diverse. And then you have this... you've mentioned the sense of belonging, and again, that's another theme that runs right through this book. And I think the two things combined have really influenced your view on what it really takes to build an authentic, thriving culture within businesses. And I think as somebody who has talked to lots of people on this sort of stuff and I wouldn't consider myself a geek in it necessarily, but I do love reading about and talking about this stuff. It was wonderful when reading your book in particular, that a lot of the things that I've held very close to my heart, and maybe not always spoken about when I've been in business, but since I've come out in the consultancy world, that's all I talk about, it's just wonderful to hear somebody else feel and say the same things as you, coming from such a different perspective and have so many different experiences, it's wonderful. And hopefully, we can dig into some of that today.

00:06:49 Shaara Roman

Yeah, looking forward to it.

00:06:51 Andy Goram

I think what would help is if we set a bit of context for some of this conversation today. And I mentioned the changing landscape, and you featured this in the book quite a bit, and certainly looking at the generational stuff that's going on in the workplace at the moment. But from your work and from the research that you've done for the book, what is the generational view of it all, and what are the implications that we're now seeing for the leadership as a result.

00:07:20 Shaara Roman

Yeah, it's a great question and just to sort of take a step back right, the reason I wrote the book was that I knew we could do better.

00:07:30 Andy Goram


00:07:31 Shaara Roman

And just like you know, you and I are talking, people like us are thinking these things and I just want us to be able to amplify those thoughts, right? And make them just sort of part of what we do. And the book has a very simple premise, as you, as you probably came away with right? It's sort of, put your people and put purpose before profits, and the profits will come, right? Don't make that the goal.

And that is driven a lot by what is happening, sort of generationally in the world. You know we've got our Gen Z's who are the folks that are 25 and under and actually coming after them, are the Generation Alpha, who are, you know, 10 and younger that we do need to start thinking about in the workplace right? Which sounds a little crazy.

00:08:15 Andy Goram

It’s true.

00:08:16 Shaara Roman

But it'll be here. It'll be here before we know it, right. But we've got our Gen Z’s. We've got our Millennials who've been in the workforce now for for quite some time. And you know, at their oldest are in their 40s. But they want to see workplaces where their voices and their opinions are valued. And this is partly because we as parents, as society, or schools have kind of created that forum for them to think critically, to share their opinions, to give voice to their ideas, to collaborate. We've always sort of said, “Go straight to the source”, right? And they don't see the the rationale with having to manoeuvre through hierarchy and seven layers of permission to get a good idea to the CEO. Right, if they've got something that they want to talk about, they want to talk about it. And they do. They do it through their social platforms, right? If they see something they're passionate about or have a cause, they jump right in and they start a foundation. Or they start a non-profit, or they start marching and they have a cause behind it.

So they're incredibly empowered, and they know how to navigate these sort of tools that we have. Our technology tools. They're incredibly tech savvy, right? Incredibly resourceful. And what they often see in the workplace, what I hear, and I'm sure you hear, Andy, is

Oh they need to be supervised. They don't know how to do things. They need to be taught.”

And there's probably a little bit of truth to that, in the sense that they haven't worked or navigated a workplace in the way that someone with 10-15-20 years’ experience, but it's not that they don't know anything. They just know different things than we do. And we have to be able to allow that to sort of come to life.

And they're also looking for companies, you know, that are paying attention and are addressing social injustices. That are addressing the socialness of our world. Addressing climate. You know, they want the earth to be around as they grow up, and potentially have children, right? They want companies to be sustainable. They want authentic and real leaders. So that, I think, is a little bit about what we see out there in terms of the generations and how they view the workplace, instead of what they want.

00:10:45 Andy Goram

Yeah, and I guess the implications for leadership there, and we've talked about this many times on this podcast is a shift from command and control

00:10:58 Shaara Roman

For sure.

00:10:59 Andy Goram

To more inclusion. To more compassion. To the more human side of understanding, right?

And that isn't all about being a pushover. That is just about understanding, right? And understanding the part that we all play. I mean, there's a lot of talk about the generational shift, in that there's an entitlement and they don't really know what they want, but they want to make impact before they've been there five seconds. And I think all these things get blown out of proportion. I think they just have less of a like for authority in hierarchy stakes. They are sceptical about people saying that age means that they're better or more experienced. I think they come from a world where anybody can have an idea.

00:11:45 Shaara Roman


00:11:46 Andy Goram

They look at their phones and kids of seven years old have got multimillion-pound businesses they've built on the back of YouTube or something. The world’s changed. It don't work like that anymore. And I guess that has set its own challenges for leadership, right? You must have seen that change. You cite plenty of examples within the book. But if you were to sum up the kind of major change in leadership, what would you say that was?

00:12:14 Shaara Roman

Yeah, so you alluded to this a little bit, right, when you and I grew up in the workplace, our bosses might have said jump and we would, we were trained to say, “How high?” Although, you and I were probably thinking, “Why are you making me jump? Because this sounds like a pretty dumb idea.” But now, these generations are empowered to do that, right? So they do say “Why?” Like, they're not going to just jump, right?

And the other thing is we were taught to compartmentalise. You know all our personal stuff stays at home. So you have a bad day, you know, we just had a shooting at a Walmart here, you know. So you wake up sort of to this news again, you can't leave that behind. I mean, one of my one of my colleagues in a women’s group lives in that community, right? And so she's sort of texting frantically that her sister, and brother-in-law were at the Walmart when the shooting was happening.

00:13:12 Andy Goram

Good grief.

00:13:14 Shaara Roman

Right. So how do you leave this stuff to the side? You can't. This is who we are. These are the experiences that we have. And so, you know, as leaders you can't just set it and forget it, in terms of your leadership mantra, or your style, right? You've got to really think about leadership as an active act. Something that you are thinking about and doing every day. That you're really thinking about your people, that you're really listening to them. That you're really hearing what's going on for them. And recognising, really leading with that empathy and recognising that every person, every day is coming from a different space, perhaps right? Because we're human, so our worlds are always changing. We're experiencing things in different ways. So leadership can't be the side of the desk, part-time activity, right? If you're in that role, it's a really serious obligation and commitment, and you really need to want to lean into that and want to do that work.

And I know you've talked about this with others before, we've put people often in roles of leadership who are best at what they do functionally, but really have no desire to care about and lead people. And you really have to sort of nurture your team and take care of them. So what we also want leaders to be thinking about, as we manage these new generations, is to be much more transparent, right. To be really in touch with what's going on. So again, it's not about giving everybody all the gory details. No, your job is also to filter information. But not to filter it in a way that you're thinking that your people are, you know, that are kind of nincompoops, right? You really need to recognise and appreciate that your staff is smart, that they're knowledgeable, that they are keeping up with what's happening. So your transparency has to be, “Hey, I'm going to tell you like it is. Yes, I will sort of protect you from some of the gory details. But I will tell you if business is not going well. I'm going to talk to you about that. Let's have a discussion around why you think it's not going well”, right? “What are ideas you have? Because as a staff person, you're closest to the to the customer most often.” So that notion of transparency is super important.

And then we talked about the command and control, right? And so, leaders really need to move more into being facilitators, being coaches, really allowing for that discussion versus debate right? And we tend to think that, the best debater is the is the smartest and the most savvy. But that's just really a skill that you're learning and sometimes it's more about just talking over people as opposed to really appreciating everyone’s perspective and ideas.

00:16:09 Andy Goram

I think that's so true. I also think there's parallels. You talk about that leadership style needs constant work. I think in the book you talk about culture being iterative. You don't just set it up and then it's done. If things change, things happen, you need to adapt and change. I was only having this discussion with a client this week about something to do with planning and all the lovely time had been spent planning and then they got this wonderful plan. And what a surprise, shit changes. And now, “Oh my God! I've gotta do something else with my plan?” Yeah, because it's now ineffective and the same thing has to happen with your culture, right?

00:16:46 Shaara Roman

Exactly, exactly.

00:16:46 Andy Goram

And this generational thing I think about transparency is so important when we're talking about trust. And I loved the way in the book you... the metaphor of the iceberg. So you have the cultural iceberg with all the kind of fluffy bits that people sort of see on top. But actually, what we're looking for is where authenticity comes, is from the stuff below the waterline. Do you want to just give that an overview, probably better than I've just done of how you use that in the book?

00:17:18 Shaara Roman

Yeah, no. You did a great job so, OK. You know, often what I see and I'm sure what you see and what others see is that you know, people will talk about,

Oh, we have an inclusive culture”, or “Oh, we have a really fun culture”, right? And you know, “We have ping pong tables.”

And they kind of copy whatever best company or best workplace is doing in the, you know, The Fortune List, or whatever. And really, at the end of the day, it's how you show up. It's how you behave, how you act, how you hold people accountable. What those little actions are every day that sort of really speak to it.

So, if you say you're inclusive, right? And you plaster that on your website, but you shut people down in in meetings and conversations, or you don't let the junior person speak because, you know, you think they're junior. Or you have these ping pong tables, but if someone goes to play, they're frowned upon because they're not at their desk, right? Those are all the things that you're not walking the talk. So you really do need to be intentional about the culture that you want in your organisation. You really want to think about how are you going to curate it. And what works for you?

You know, to that point, I'm not a fan of Elon Musk, but he's kind of been in the news a little bit lately, right, with all of his shenanigans over at Twitter. And you know, so let me just be clear. He is not the kind of leader, in my opinion anyway, the Gen Z and Millennials are looking to work for. As we can see, mass exodus. But he's, you know, right or wrong, he's really clear about what he expects, right?

00:19:03 Andy Goram

I'm so pleased you said that. I mean, I literally recorded another episode with someone else the other dayI. I don't know which order these are going to come out, but we were talking on this very thing. And I think the point was being made, “Well, that's not really great for involvement”, and I said exactly what you just said,

Yeah, but there's a dark part of me that actually, I'm OK with it, because he's being really clear about what his culture is. And therefore, people that are going to come to that are given fair warning. This is what it's going to be like here.”

00:19:30 Shaara Roman

Exactly. My boss, one of my favourite bosses that I talk about all the time, and I actually just had lunch with him the other week, and I told him this. But you know, he always, he would say to me, when we'd have these conversations around, sort of engagement and turnover and all of that was, he'd say,

Sharp people have to opt in.”

And there is a component of that. So I'm not saying that I agree with what Elon is doing. I... you know, that's a whole other podcast that we can we can talk about. But at the end of the day, he's being really clear about what he wants and he's leading with his level of authenticity. Now again, I don't think it's a recipe for success, but you know what? He's the billionaire and I'm not.

00:20:17 Andy Goram

Yeah, there we go.

00:20:22 Shaara Roman

So, we'll see. But honestly, well you can see right there. There's so much research that's been done about companies that do things differently and are successful. So anyway, sorry! That was a side track on the culture iceberg. But, essentially, at the end of the day, what you see, or what you talk about, has to be what people get. And I use this sort of the analogy right of a store window. 'Cause I like to shop. And as you walk by a window, right, if the mannequins and the window has sort of beautiful setup and it's very aesthetically pleasing, you expect that when you go inside the store. And if you don't get that then you're sort of left a little bit like you've been tricked, right? And you've been sort of, you know, you've been tricked into walking into the into the place. So that's the same thing with the workplace culture.

00:21:15 Andy Goram

And just sort of building on that intentionality for a bit. I mean, there's clearly a tonne of research in the book. Lots of different examples that you go through, but on top of that intentionality. What has all of that research told you about the importance behind cultivating the right culture? And what would be some sort of standout things that you would call to memory?

00:21:40 Shaara Roman

Yes, so culture is, I think, the big differentiator, right? You know, we've got all the quotes out there of culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, etc. But essentially, it's you know, it's fundamentally the differentiator and the accelerator of sustainable business. Because it goes back to sort of that iceberg, right? It's around how we work.

So, when you think about your values and your behaviours, and how you walk the talk. Consciously, continuously, and consciously examining how people are behaving and how you're holding people accountable, right? And I think that accountability piece is super important, because we often see you know, the rain makers as an example, getting excused their bad behaviour. Well, you know, so and so is allowed to do whatever. Or it's not even explicitly said, but you know they're bringing in millions of dollars in revenue and so everyone sort of just dances around them. And that's where the courage comes in for a leader to really sort of make that decision around, if our values, you know, include inclusion, or they include collaboration, or they include no jerk rules, whatever they are right, we all have some variation of that kind of thing. And then we allow that, you know, you've just eroded all of the hard work you might have done with just that simple act of letting someone hang along, hang around. Because then it looks like you don't have courage. That you're talking out of both sides of your mouth. You erode the trust, right? All of those things start to happen. And you know, it takes sort of 10 little deposits in the bank to build trust. But it just takes one activity to sort of wipe it all away. So, that's sort of one piece.

Another example we see and then people sort of talk about, "Oh! We want to be one company”, right? Whatever that company name is, and that's a very kind of common thing right now. And then you see that there isn't support for collaboration. There isn't support for sort of distributed decision making. There isn't support for all voices, all different departments, to come to the table, sort of in an equitable way, right? It still is sales or marketing or finance has a bigger voice than this other group. So you really have to be very, very thoughtful about what it is that you're trying to curate.

So setting that sort of mission and purpose and values and being really clear and then thinking about what are those leadership behaviours? How am I going to ensure that my leaders are role modelling what I expect this organisation to see? How am I building that capability with my team, right? Do people understand what those values are? Do they understand what those behaviours are? Do they understand what it's not like? Like sometimes we have to also be clear about this is what we want to see and this is not what we want to see. And that helps to differentiate.

And then finally, you've gotta reward and recognise that. Or you've gotta have the carrot in the sticks right? I'm not saying throw people out on their backside, or you know fire people at the drop of a hat. But at the end of the day, if someone isn't living up to the values, you've got to figure out a way to hold them accountable, no matter what they're doing for your company.

00:25:16 Andy Goram

I think that comes entirely back to that whole intentional attitude towards this stuff. I mean showing that something is important, is important (to use rubbish words). And I know I'm passionate about this stuff, because I was definitely the guy that let technically very good people get away with murder. And I deeply regret it. And that's why I try to kind of talk about it a lot. Because I feel like I've let them down. And what could they have possibly been if I'd picked it up? But also, the knock-on effect it had on other people.

00:25:45 Shaara Roman

Right, exactly

00:25:45 Andy Goram

That's huge. And I also think... I love the point you make about the cornerstones of Purpose. Mission and Values are important. And when people go,

Well, is it important? They don’t really do much.

No, because you're not intentional in their use. There's no point having these things if you're not going to use them. If they're not helping you make day-to-day decisions. If they're not with you at tough times. And your book is about dealing with tough times, right? These are the times when you should be leaning on the values. It's easy to kind of like circumnavigate them in tough times. It's harder, but truer to use them as a force for good and keep you on the right track, right?

So important, so what a surprise, I'm 100% with you on that on those things, Shaara.

So, I think what was really interesting for me in the book, and something that I see as problematic in lots of places that I read about, or work with, is sometimes the nervousness or inability to be able to transfer ownership for these items and behaviour that goes towards delivering the success, and transferring that ownership to employees. You've mentioned before that you know; you’ve got to opt in sometimes. You’ve got to stand up and do your bit. It’s not all about the employer. But, have you got a secret recipe, or have you found a formula where actually there is an opportunity to get successful transfer of ownership for this stuff? Because that's where the magic happens, right?

00:27:12 Shaara Roman

I agree that is where the magic happens. And ownership looks... I think comes in many different shapes and forms, right? I think people automatically think about ownership as a piece of the pie. And that can be one form of ownership. And actually, in the book we talk about King Arthur Flour, right? And funnily enough, so I typically work with sort of more services types of organisations, but as we were doing our research, there were such a plethora of really interesting companies that are doing really great work right? Companies that we may not necessarily think about. You know, I buy King Arthur Flour. I’m a big fan of theirs, but I never really thought about them as a company.

00:27:55 Andy Goram

There's a story behind it all.

00:27:56 Shaara Roman

All the good stuff, right? And so, here's this organisation that, and you know, I'll give you a couple of examples of sort of the ownership piece. But, it was owned by this family. Owned for 30 plus years and as the couple who was running it decided, or was thinking about retirement, they said,

You know what do we do with this company? We don't want to just sell it to a bunch of strangers? Our employees have really been a part of our family.”

And they had been using their values to hire employees that fit those values, right? And so I want to be clear, this is not about culture fit, right? But it was really about finding people who believed in what they believed in, right? That were really passionate about baking. That were really competitive. That, you know, had some of those values that were important to them.

And they said, “Well, let's actually start to give away parts of our company”, right? And they started to transfer ownership through an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Now I'm not an ESOP expert. We're not going to get into that. Obviously, you have a global listening base and so ownership and structuring of companies is going to look different. But essentially, they gave away part of the company. Now it's 100% owned, right? And so that is like the truest form of of ownership from a financial perspective.

But another company that we talk about that distributed ownership. Right so ownership is around... you and I own our own businesses. And so what does that look like, right? It's making decisions. It's really sort of thinking about what are deals we're going to pursue. What are the kinds of clients we want to work with? What's the kind of work we want to do? Who do we want to do it with? You know, all those sort of different things. And the more that you can take those concepts and distribute them down further into your organisation and gather input, the more people are going to feel connected to your company, and more they're going to feel like they own it, and that they're responsible for its success. And that's what you that's what you want.

So this company, Leesa, a mattress manufacturer, was doing really well. They're a B Corp. And in the midst of COVID... they’re a very purpose driven, very community focused organisation, in the midst of COVID they were actually having a few bumps in the organisation. And they also decided that they really wanted to help their community and create more beds for hospitals, right? Because if you remember three years ago, we had massive shortage of beds.

00:30:33 Andy Goram

Same here. Same in this country, yeah.

00:30:34 Shaara Roman

Yeah, so it was just a worldwide sort of issue. And so, they actually brought everyone together. They were able to breakdown barriers. They included all the staff in sort of thinking through how do we really tackle this challenge? And they were able to push more collaboration. They were much more inclusive with their thinking and the decision making, and they were able to shorten the time to make a mattress from nine months to three weeks.

00:31:04 Andy Goram

Isn't that great?

00:31:04 Shaara Roman

I mean that is pretty insane, right?

00:31:06 Andy Goram

That's brilliant.

00:31:09 Shaara Roman

And so, it wasn't a bunch of really smart leaders who knew everything, sitting in a room and coming up with the answer. It was crowdsourcing, essentially. And going back to our very first sort of question, right, around the generations. This is how they function, right? They want an answer. They crowd source it. They check Google. Google’s their best, friend. So you have to sort of really tap into what's happening in the world? What's changing? And so, here's sort of just a great example of how do you really create ownership, where you empower people to come up with ideas. You empower them to make decisions. You give them that light and that life to go do that.

You know other ways to foster ownership are to literally include your staff in strategic planning. You mentioned earlier on Andy, you're working with this client who's been working on this plan. I'm going to venture a guess that it was a select group of leaders that were off on an off-site for three days, in some fun little retreat somewhere. And yet the staff often have really good ideas right? And 'cause again, they're the ones closest to the clients. They're the ones interacting on a day-to-day basis with the people who are coming and buying from you as a company.

And so, some of the firms that we work with we've kind of shifted to helping them when they're doing a strategic planning exercise, to really not just do a culture survey, or a diversity survey. Right, those are really important to understand the lay of the land. But to really generate input from their folks to say, “Here are some ideas we have for the future. Here's some of the roadblocks we see as it relates to our strategy, or as it relates...” So those are all different ways to generate that ownership. You know that ownership mentality and get people sort of thinking in a way that helps them really buy into what you're doing and why you're doing it.

00:33:13 Andy Goram

Yeah, I think that is really a very sensible framework for that sort of stuff. I think it the big difference, I think in the examples that you give in the book, and the fact that stuff like Leesa continues to this day. I think they're working practices have now changed, right?

00:33:29 Shaara Roman

Yeah, exactly.

00:33:30 Andy Goram

Is that there's a massive difference between the top down tell, where businesses have maybe good intentions, but it's all kind of like, “You must do this” and then they wonder why adults don't like being told how to behave and nothing changes. To an environment where you have got genuine involvement, empowerment, collaboration, and responsibility. Because I think those are the key pieces to actually getting stuff done in a way where people really do more than just, “I’m a jobsworth, and that’s not my pay grade. That's not this. That's not the other.” They really get on with stuff.

I think , it really again keeps coming back to the word “intention”. If you're intentionally in those four things. Marvellous things happen.

00:34:10 Shaara Roman

Yeah, and I just want to add to that, you know, just in case people are listening and sort of saying, “Oh this works in a small company” or you know, “it's a couple of hundred” ,but just to underscore the point, when I worked at CGI we had about 70,000 global employees. And I remember the first year I was there we actually only had like 40,000 and this strategic planning survey, which is sort of where I sort of became first accustomed to it, or introduced to it, came out. And I was like,

You're gonna ask everybody in the company, like what? Are you crazy?”

And then I was able to see the results and the feedback and I was like, “Oh my gosh! This was insane and look at the feedback and insights we've gotten. That's even more insane”, right? Like in a good way. So, they were able to manage that. And now CGI is even bigger, right? And so, you can't just sort of say, “It works for a 100 or 200 person company. It's not going to work with a global company.” It absolutely does. So, size should not get in the way of them of them sort of pursuing this.

00:35:17 Andy Goram

Absolutely not. The benefit is the benefit. It might be a bit more complex to handle, but the benefit is there to be had.

Before I run out of time, you just mentioned survey. I just want to dig into something else that I think comes through, in that in engagement surveys, this whole thing around... particularly on the question about having a best friend at work and how important that is? It's obviously... it's a question that sometimes breeds a very sharp eyebrow raise from some execs, “Why on earth do I want to know if they've got friends?” Explain it from your point of view. I know where I come from on this, but I want to hear what you've got to say.

00:35:55 Shaara Roman

Well, I will say the first time I heard about the best friend at work piece was, you know, probably back in 2006 or 2007, when we were working with Gallup and I read the book, Vital Friends and all of that and I was a little sceptical myself. So, I'll just sort of put that out there, but...

00:36:10 Andy Goram

It's OK.

00:36:13 Shaara Roman

… at the end of the day, what the research shows and sort of what the reality is, is that we spend a significant part of our day at work. Now we may not be physically in an office anymore, but we're at work, and we're collaborating and talking to people. And so, if we don't have a friend at work, it does have a negative impact. And what the data shows, what all of the results show is when you have a friend at work, it is the key to you being happy. It is the key to you feeling safe. And why is that right? It's because you when you have a friend, and think about a friend that you might have. It's someone who has your back. It's someone who is going to support you no matter what. But they're also going to give you straight talk, right? There's someone that you can vent to. There's someone that helps recognise your accomplishments, helps to maybe spread the word in the organisation. And so, when all of those environments, or those criteria are there, the environment becomes a lot more psychologically safe for us, right? So, we feel more included. We feel like we can take more risks. We can sort of challenge what's going on because we know that we have someone there who understands our perspective, understands our point of view. That has our back. And when we can be more psychologically safe, and when we know that we have a buddy, or two, or three, right, we can be more creative, we can challenge the status quo. We can really bring our full selves in. And when we can do all of that it is better for the organisation.

So it's again a very simple thing. It's a little corny in a way. It's like a “best friend” you know. And I know people would sort of dissect what does “best friend” mean? And I think that executives do that because they just want to deflect a little bit sometimes, right? But at the end of the day, what it's saying is you gotta have people that you feel care about you and they trust you. And of course, the more that you have, just the better it's going to be. And it's going to be a place that you want to stay because you are there for other reasons than just a paycheck, or just the work that you're doing. And the more that we can connect all of those elements, right, you don’t want one tether to an organisation, you want multiple tethers, and that best friend tether is a very strong tether.

00:38:43 Andy Goram

Absolutely, and for me brings us full circle back to the strong theme coming from the book about a sense of belonging and having that kind of relationship. It's really, really important in all of that, but all the other things that we've talked about today also foster this spirit of belonging.

Unbelievably, we're getting to the end of the show already.

00:39:02 Shaara Roman


00:39:04 Andy Goram

I know it's just madness. So what I like to do, Shaara, I have this part of the show I called Sticky Notes. And it is just my way of asking you to summarise what you think the key takeaways for my audience are. And in this context we’re trying to build a stronger workplace culture, with this spirit of belonging in there.

What would you leave behind on your three little Sticky Notes, today?

00:39:27 Shaara Roman

Can they be pink Sticky Notes, Andy?

00:39:29 Andy Goram

I I will make them pink on the Instagram channel. No problem at all there.

00:39:30 Shaara Roman

Excellent, excellent, excellent, OK. So I'm going to channel now. So well, no surprise here, the first Sticky Note would be, be intentional with your culture, right? Be conscious with your culture because you're going to have a culture either way. So it's best to choose the one that you want, right? And let your culture be your North star in terms of guiding everything that you do. So that's the first sticky note.

The second one is to really nurture your talent. And by that it's you know, more listening, less talking. When you're listening, keep an open mind about what you're hearing from your workforce. And recognise that one size does not fit all. So you really have to understand and lean into and believe that every employee has unique needs to help them thrive and belong.

And then the third is sort of what we talked about in terms of fostering an ownership mentality, right? And so, provide autonomy, distribute decision making. As scary as it might be. Give people opportunity to share their voice to kind of incubate and deliberate their ideas, to share their ideas, encourage experimentation. And then root in the why and connect both the personal purpose and the company purpose, 'cause that's an important part of ownership as well, right? You've got to really be connected from an internal perspective to what the organisation is doing.

So be intentional with your culture. Nurture talent with more listening, less talking and foster an ownership mentality.

00:41:20 Andy Goram

Brilliant, brilliant. I love those. I will promise that they will be Pink on the Instagram channel. I'll make them as sparkly as I possibly can.

00:41:30 Shaara Roman

Put glitter on there too!

00:41:33 Andy Goram

But all joking aside, they are three very good tenants on which to build and foster a wonderfully intentional, enabling culture of belonging. I think that would be brilliant.

Shaara, I cannot thank you enough for coming on the show today and sending me the book and going through it today. It's been marvellous. Thank you so much.

00:41:56 Shaara Roman

It has been my pleasure Andy, what a great way to start my Thanksgiving weekend.

00:42:00 Andy Goram

Yes, well look you must away! Go and have a glass of something sparkly. And please enjoy yourself, and I I look forward to seeing you again soon.

00:42:08 Shaara Roman

Yeah, me too Andy. Thank you so much have a great week, bye.

00:42:11 Andy Goram

OK, take care.

OK everyone, that was Shaara Roman. And if you'd like to find out a bit more about her or any of the things that we've talked about in today's show, including the book, please check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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