As digital technologies become more prominent in how organizations work, employers are balancing the need for employees with digital and other hard skills with the need for employees with “soft” social, interpersonal, and communication skills. In fact, employers are increasingly prioritizing social and emotional skills; McKinsey, for example, predicts that skills such as communication, pattern recognition, logical reasoning, and creativity will be in high demand in the coming decades.
With these soft skills in high demand, Jake Bullinger proposed in a recent article at Fast Company that for-profit organizations consider hiring trained social workers to fill that need. Bullinger talks to Michàlle Mor Barak, a University of Southern California social work professor, who notes that companies today require expertise in societal good as they are increasingly under pressure to prioritize things like corporate social responsibility, work-life balance, and diversity and inclusion which weren’t on their radar a few decades ago. Social workers and other experts in social and emotional issues could be particularly helpful in people management and community engagement, Bullinger writes:
A human resources department staffed with therapists could better handle harassment claims, and recruiters working with social scientists could better target minority candidates. Corporate philanthropy arms would benefit, one can surmise, from case workers who understand a community’s greatest needs. The people best suited to run diversity and inclusion efforts might be those who study diversity and inclusion for a living.
I graduated with a master’s degree in social work in 2005 and have spent most of my career working in for-profit organizations. From my vantage point, social workers can provide an array of benefits, but organizations need to be realistic about what they can and can’t do.
As CEOs and investors become increasingly aware of the bottom-line value of organizational culture, HR leaders and professionals are being called upon now more than ever to shape their companies’ cultures in ways that maximize business performance. Under pressure to show results, many organizations have either tried to copy an already successful company culture like that of Google, IBM, or Netflix; or treated culture as a people problem, attempting to generate buy-in among current employees and hire more candidates who embody the kind of culture they want.
Our latest research at CEB, now Gartner, shows that these conventional approaches aren’t working. There is no one type of culture that always performs best, we find, and changing the culture by changing the people is far less effective than embedding the desired culture in the organization’s processes. A key challenge in making that happen, however, is that many organizations aren’t sure what their current culture is from an employee perspective and don’t know how to measure the effectiveness of their culture change interventions on the ground.
At our ongoing series of briefings with HRBPs, HR generalists, and other strategic HR professionals, our members are getting a chance to share experiences and learn from how their peers have been implementing this process-based approach. At our staff briefing in Atlanta earlier in November, the conversation focused on this challenge of investigating culture and surfacing the barriers that prevent employees from incorporating desired cultural behaviors into their work.
Learn: Airing Daily Experiences of Culture
One HR leader shared that their organization has appointed a dedicated “Chief Storyteller.” This person doesn’t just talk about values and behaviors at town halls and company events, but gathers candid information from front-line employees to better understand the day-to-day culture, and then brings these stories to senior leaders. This approach of uncovering and sharing evidence of company culture in the form of stories makes the examples more tangible and memorable and gives leaders an unfiltered view into how employees are actually living the culture—as well as the barriers that get in the way of them doing so.