two people standing in front of a portrait
PHOTO: Ryan Stefan

The tech industry understands that change is the only constant.

Companies fail if they do not adapt, evolve and innovate. Unfortunately, sometimes even well-meaning companies, companies that do have vision, fail to evolve rapidly enough to maintain a competitive edge.

Companies that want to survive and thrive must, then, ask this question: “How can we maintain momentum during times of change?” And one answer that can drive success and sustainability is to cultivate a corporate culture that ensures alignment with your company’s bigger picture at every level of your organization.

The ‘Big Picture’ Defines You — and Matters to Your Employees

Branding is just as important to success in the tech industry as it is in any other highly competitive field. And branding is much more than a logo or a tagline. It’s what you stand for — what makes your company unique. In the tech industry, the technology you offer — your product, process or service — may not be your distinguishing quality. Rather, what defines your company are your values and vision: what you want to achieve as a company and how you intend to do it.

Values and vision are not just concerns for upper management. Yes, CEOs and top-level managers define the brand and drive the direction of the company. But limiting your employees’ access to that information will fast-track your company to the list of tech industry has-beens because failure to align your entire workforce with your company’s vision leads to disengagement — and disengagement kills innovation.

So-called xennials and millennials make up the bulk of the tech industry workforce, and members of those generations need more than attractive compensation packages to fully invest their talent and potential into a job. They will only give their all to your company’s success if they feel your company values them. They thrive where they feel fulfilled, when they feel they are meaningfully contributing to something greater.

Your employees aren’t inspired by rehearsed and shallow praise. To genuinely feel valued, they need to be listened to and allowed to contribute to the company’s overall mission, even (perhaps especially) when such contributions extend beyond their job titles and project assignments. Really, that’s what you want so that you can avoid organizational silos that also inhibit innovation.

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture

The Keys to Creating a Winning Company Culture and Workforce

A corporate culture that aligns your workforce with your values and vision, invites employees to inform the company’s vision and genuinely values your human resources doesn’t just develop by accident. And you can’t cultivate that kind of culture by implementing dated views about who your employees are (or should be) or what they can (or should) do for your company.

Two things are essential to sustaining innovation: a management team that practices open communication (which includes listening to workers) and workforce diversity. Let’s take a closer look at each of those.

Open Communication

Internal alignment of your workforce to your company’s “big picture” requires that your teams know what the big picture is. For real buy-in, though, your employees also need an opportunity to inform the “big picture,” especially during times of change.

Management has to be willing to listen to ideas and propositions from all levels of your workforce. When those ideas are implemented, credit needs to be given where credit is due.

How to Execute: Here are a few examples of ways in which management can foster open communication.

  • New hire indoctrination: To ensure that a company’s vision — and the vision’s importance to organizational success — is intentionally communicated throughout the workforce, management needs to take the time to convey that message through presentations to, and/or discussions with, new employees as part of the onboarding process. When new employees complete their orientations, they should have a clear understanding of the company’s values and its history and future direction so that they know what they are expected to contribute as individuals and team members. They should also be aware of the channels and opportunities available to make a more expansive impact on the organization.
  • Ongoing communication: Create and use a communication platform that keeps employees informed of company events and important developments. The content shared in such forums can (and should) include “shout outs” to celebrate the personal and/or professional achievements of individual team members, announcements of team-building activities and industry news that could potentially disrupt organizational operations. One word of caution: If you want ongoing communication to support your company culture, you need to find a platform that fits your company’s needs and personality. An all-staff email newsletter might work for some organizations, but not all. Get creative. (This would be a perfect opportunity to ask your employees what types of media platforms they would engage with.)
  • Special summits: No one likes meetings, but in-person gatherings can be productive when they are only held in connection with important developments that warrant large-group discussions or brainstorming sessions about major shifts in company vision or operations. Stage such “summits” in any way, place or time that invites genuine attention and participation.

Related Article: Digital Workplaces Start With the Big Picture

Workforce Diversity

It is easy to achieve alignment across your organization when every level of your workforce thinks like you do. But a homogenous team limits your company’s ability to solve problems because everyone sees problems and ways to solve them the same way. However, when you hire talented people who have arisen from micro- and macro-cultures that are different from yours, you get fresh perspectives and diverse approaches to problem-solving that spur innovation.

How to execute: Here are a few steps you can take to diversify your workforce.

  • Regularly assess workforce demographics: You will never know when and where your teams are starting to “homogenize” unless you evaluate them periodically. Take a snapshot of your teams at least once a quarter and ask the following questions:
    1. Does each team’s composition invite varying perspectives by virtue of diversity of gender, age, educational background, family role, etc.?
    2. Does each team’s composition encompass a varied skill set?
    3. Is there a way to introduce more diversity among our teams by re-assigning existing employees? Will such moves be beneficial to the individual workers being re-assigned?
  • Market job openings to candidates with your desired perspective and/or skill set: If your evaluation highlights a lack of diversity, you need to make a concerted effort to infuse different perspectives, skills and strengths through your hiring practices. To attract candidates that can broaden your company’s problem-seeing and problem-solving capacity, you may need to tailor job postings to speak more directly to people with specific skills or members of specific demographic groups. Doing so may mean paying more careful attention to keywords used in job postings and/or selecting new job notification channels.
  • Tailor interviews to identify candidates with the right perspectives: Résumés and work experience will help you identify candidates who can adequately perform the tasks and duties of the specific role(s) your company has available. Candidates’ problem-seeing and problem-solving approaches are not so apparent on paper, so you need to structure interviews to tease those out. Take time to generate questions or scenarios that will help leadership see how individual candidates conceptualize particular issues and their roles in solving problems. Before conducting an interview, have the hiring parties talk about what types of responses they think are indicators of a good fit or not.

To be a tech industry leader, technology is only a small part of the equation. To successfully bring new products and services to market and sustain your business, you have to keep innovating — and that requires talented people who are invested in your company’s “big picture.” Finding and keeping those assets demands a culture that values and respects their humanity and their human potential.