#SWAAYthenarrative

What Great Companies Understand: Company Culture Matters

Culture

I was having dinner with a few friends just the other night when suddenly the question came up: “What's it like working there?" One of my friends had recently taken on a new management role at a mid-sized technology company, and was excited to share her new found good fortune. She seemed genuinely happy and said that: “For the first time in years I feel reinvigorated and actually look forward to going to work!" Her answer surprised me, partly because she's always been known as a workhorse.


I'd never known her to be anything short of pumped for all things work-related, and at times I even wondered if she was a workaholic. After all this is a woman who would answer her mobile phone while at family and sporting events for work-related issues, never disconnected from her job. Maybe it's because work ethic is deeply ingrained in the American way of life. It's a core part of our culture. But she seemed energized while talking about the company culture at her new company.

Food for thought

Culture starts with leadership. Culture and values provide the foundation upon which everything else is built. Either way company culture determines whether or not people want to work for one company versus another, and is also what drives good employees away. The 2016 Deloitte Millennials Survey revealed that those staying at their companies for a minimum of five years are more likely to report a favorable culture than others.

Also included in the study is--if given a choice--one in four millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to start something different. That figure climbs to 44 percent when the time frame is expanded to two years.

By the end of 2020, two of every three respondents hope to have moved on, leaving only 16 percent of millennials who still see themselves with their current employers after 10 years.

Company culture matters to millennials

Millennials, numbering over 66 million, make up 32 percent of the labor force (compared to 31.2 percent for Generation X workers, and 30.6 percent for Boomers). They now own the largest share of the U.S. labor market.

The leaders of tomorrow have become the leaders of today.

They are highly educated, display greater diversity than older generations: 44.2 percent are classified as being in a minority group (belonging to a group other than non-Hispanic white).

Digest this

Many millennials entered the workforce with high student loan debt, poor employment prospects (due to the Great Recession), and it becomes increasingly clear that a sizable portion of the Millennial generation started out with considerable disadvantages. It should come as no surprise that millennials have little choice but to wait longer before purchasing cars and getting approved for mortgages.

Because of this many millennials endure deferred dreams and perhaps expect to be treated well, not necessarily in a strictly monetary sense, but rather show appreciation in other ways:

-Start Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs), for student loans.

-Offer parking subsidy cash-out benefits for employees who carpool or take public transportation to work.

-Offer housing assistance programs (commonly offered to top executives), which might work towards attracting and retaining good employees at all levels.

Implementing workplace policies that benefit workers and help to boost employee retention is good business sense because it can lead to significant cost savings to employers. Across jobs, the cost of replacing an employee is clustered between 10 percent and 30 percent of an employee's salary. One notable exception would be losing executives and physicians-jobs that require very specific skills and training-tend to have disproportionately high turnover costs as a percentage of salary (up to 213 percent).

The realization that much of the conventional wisdom about millennials is based on misconceptions can allow companies to tailor their human capital strategies to the new realities of the workforce.

A focus on experience

Nina McQueen, Vice President, Global Benefits: Redefining the Employee Experience, at LinkedIn, is convinced that LinkedIn has the recipe for company culture. She details her experience of how incredible the culture was, when she joined LinkedIn back in September 2013, and how relevant company culture is personally and for the company's bottom line in her article, titled: “Culture Champions, creating transformative experiences." McQueen writes that: “There is no secret recipe. Culture is about your leadership, the products you develop and your company values. It is unique to each company."

She goes on to say that if you're at a dinner party and the person seated next to you asks-what is it like to work at your company?-what you say in that moment defines the culture of your company. It's unscripted, not something written on a powerpoint, not a slogan on the wall. But it is what you are experiencing as an employee.

Much like McQueen, my friend has impressed upon me her newfound happiness with her new employer...Do you feel the same about your employer?

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.