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Cracking the workplace culture code


It’s not about pay. It’s not about compliments or recognitions. It’s not about offering a rose-colored outlook on the company’s performance and position.

None of that drives a strong workplace culture. That’s what CEO Andrew Neary said he discovered when his company — Marsh McLennan Agency-East Region — asked its workers what does.

“A work-life balance that’s fair, managing stress with tools and strategies, respect, empowerment and quality, meaningful feedback,” Neary said, ticking off the list of what executives heard.

Particularly in a hybrid environment, executives being approachable, accessible and transparent in their communications matters. So do frequent, honest performance evaluations, and discussions about where each employee fits into the overall scheme of the organization.

Businesses leaders from around the region put their heads together to crack the workplace culture code at this month’s annual business conference of the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to Neary, the panel included Jonathan Ziegert, head of the Department of Management at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business; Linda Eagle, founder and president of Global Bankers Institute; and Ronald W. Davis, Parx Casino and Racing’s chief diversity officer and community development director.

Ziegert used the term “servant leadership” when he shared his thoughts on what sort of executives succeed in creating high-performing workplaces.

Eagle agreed.

“People ask ‘Are my employees engaged?’ but how do you show up? Are you engaged?” she asked rhetorically. “By being a model, you’ll also be an inspiration and an influencer.”

Davis said that people make the culture and hiring the right ones can be tricky.

Executives, he said, tend to hire people with common traits. That can create a certain culture. But if the group is too homogeneous, that company may be limited by insufficient diversity of thought and perspectives.

“You have to be mindful about that,” Davis said.

Much has been said about the anxiety that’s accompanied the pandemic’s blurring of the lines that separate work life and home life. High-performing workplaces address that anxiety, said Eagle.

“My people can’t feel joy once the anxiety takes over,” she said. “They can’t be effective. They can’t have balance.”

During one “Hollywood Squares”-style virtual meeting, she tried to quell that anxiety by, without warning, having all meeting participants turn their cameras around, showing off cluttered basements, kids playing, overflowing laundry baskets and other COVID-era workspace realities. Eagle said she hoped it left them feeling a sense of shared struggle and deepened their compassion for each other.

“I took it as an opportunity for all of us to show up authentically and be more accepting of each other,” she said. “We’re brave. We’re courageous. Let’s acknowledge this in each other.”

The Nov. 9 panel was among the workshops and presentations the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce offered at its annual business conference.

The daylong event at Spring Mill Manor in Northampton brought chamber members together to network, trade ideas and pick up strategies to enhance employee satisfaction, which can lead to improved business outcomes.

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