Why Learning is the Key to Creating Great Places to Work

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Can you measure trust within a company? Absolutely. Michael Bush, CEO of a Great Place to Work®, has spent the past 28 years analyzing not only trust but also leadership effectiveness, human potential, and organizational culture—and how all of this affects the financial performance of a company.

His company surveys 10 million employees in 10,000 companies across 98 countries annually and publishes the results to help companies become a great place to work for all. And he has the numbers to prove that being a great place to work is better for business: these companies often outperform the S&P 500 by a factor of four to one.

But things are different in 2020. It’s been a year filled with a global pandemic, a historic lock-down, protests around the world about inequities and racism, and a rocky presidential election in the U.S. Even so, Michael sees a kernel of hope, and the opportunity for leaders to create a massive transformation to break out of old ways of thinking and operating by focusing on learning.

Why Learning is the Key to Creating Great Places to Work in 2020

What’s keeping CEOs up at night right now?

Michael’s company reached out to 150 CEOs around the globe this past summer to find out what was at the top of their minds, and what was keeping them up at night. He discovered three things they all were concerned about, along with all the complex activities they manage in running their companies: COVID-19, the economy, and racial tensions.

He also found that they were all focusing on employee well being because they know that caring for people drives business performance.

“There is a causative relationship between how safe employees feel and earnings. Leaders at companies that are great places to work don’t just want people to feel safe because it’s nice to do, they know it affects their bottom line,” said Michael.

In a global pandemic, of course, physical health is critical but it has also become apparent that mental health is just as important. Michael’s company did a survey in April 2020 and 45 percent of employees felt like their mental health had deteriorated—and this only got worse with the racial tensions and protests over the summer.

How Leaders Can Leverage Learning to Deal with Big Issues

Michael says that leaders and companies need to find a way to listen and learn when it comes to issues about race and inclusion because it does affect employees—whether leaders acknowledge it or not. Employees need to be human beings at work while taking care of what needs to be done, of course. The only way things are going to change is if both individuals and organizations play a role.

Learning is the key because it gives groups of people the opportunity to move from what is “known” to “knowing more,” and when people know more it enables them to adjust behavior accordingly. Michael’s company has developed a framework, centered around learning, to help organizations through dealing with big issues like racism:

Wave One: Speaking
Leaders need to communicate in a way that shows that they don’t know everything but they are committed to creating an environment of inclusion and safety.

Wave Two: Listening
Leaders need to model ways of listening to discover what’s going on and set up opportunities for learning.

Wave Three: Learning
Leaders need to take advantage of the information available on racism, vocabulary, and ways to be more compassionate.

Wave Four: Changing
Leaders need to approach learning with the goal of finding out what the organization can do to set up a culture that’s a great place to work for all.

Creating a High-Trust Culture
It all comes back to trust, that thing Michael set out to measure. Why? Because he says people are all the same. They want respect, credibility from their leaders, and fairness.

Why Learning is the Key to Creating Great Places to Work in 2020

As leaders have been dealing with the uncertainty from the pandemic, Michael has a renewed hope that his goal of creating great places to work for all is within reach because he sees leaders looking for a new sense of purpose. He says this matters.

Instead of putting their heads down and being the leaders, they think they should be, leaders are now focused on being the leaders their employees need them to be. That sense of humility combined with the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking on how to be more inclusive will result in new innovation. And that is exactly how a major transformation will happen.

To watch Michael Bush’s keynote from the Inkling Illuminate 2020 Virtual Conference, go here.