Seventy percent of college graduates leave their first job within two years of starting it because they don’t feel the job is a good fit for them. Eighty-five percent of people fired last year were fired because of relationship problems at work. Approximately 65–85 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the desired results for which the companies come together, largely because of company culture clashes that cause top talent to exit the organization or lose focus and energy.
Being able to attract and retain top talent brings bottom line benefits to any workplace. By some estimates, the cost of rehiring an employee knowledge worker is $70,000, including hiring, training, and lost productivity.
Given these staggering challenges related to workplace culture, the question is, how do we foster a company culture that will allow us to retain our top talent, to ensure the fit of diverse individuals, and to realize real value from strategic mergers and acquisitions? The answer lies in our ability to understand and value differences in a way that allows each person to contribute his or her best within the organization.
For example, the Blue approach to work is steady, ordered, and enduring. To a workplace culture, Blues bring stability and emotional security. They tend to create and appreciate beauty, including beauty in their workplace surroundings. Their best value is in their loyalty—both to people and to the organization. They are sincere and trustworthy in relationships, and can keep employees focused and productive during times of stress and transition. Blues value their connections to others and consistently appreciate others’ contributions. If you don’t value a Blue’s loyalty, honesty and creativity in the workplace, then the Blue’s capacity to provide stability and assurance will wane; he or she will shy away from public exposure and may become confused and vulnerable.
In contrast, the Yellow approach to work is based on quick results and a willingness to take some risks. Yellows feel valued when they are given the space and freedom to creatively achieve their goals. A Yellow’s best value is often with short-term, people-oriented projects with visible results. If you don’t use a Yellow’s passion to your advantage, then you may end up with a noncommittal employee who doesn’t get around to following through on his or her commitments. Energy will flag, and the morale of the team will be negatively impacted.
Reds thrive in leadership positions, and they relish opportunities to be fully responsible. A Red’s best value is often in a task-oriented environment, where he or she can make decisions and delegate some of the work to others. Reds tend to expect loyalty and obedience, especially when they are in positions of power, and this expectation can exacerbate office politics. On the other hand, if you don’t let Reds own or be responsible for the results they commit to, then you may lose the energy of some of your most tenacious, resilient, and high-potential employees.
In comparison, the White approach to work is to effectively handle bureaucratic environments. Whites tend to stay calm under pressure and prefer a somewhat slower pace in order to take time to reflect and think through the task at hand. Their best value comes in their clarity and diplomacy. Whites are very self-regulated and bring a sense of balance and peace to the workplace. If you don’t value Whites, then they may increasingly avoid conflict, and may demonstrate passive aggression to resist the dominance of other personalities. More than any of the others, Whites may disengage from the team and/or withhold their points of view if they do not believe their insights and approach to work are valued.
One tendency I’ve noticed in the workplace is for hiring managers to hire people they perceive to be just like them. So, a Red manager will have a preference for hiring Red employees and promoting Reds into management; a Yellow manager will have a preference for hiring other Yellow employees and for promoting Yellows into management. The unconscious thought is that if someone has the same approach to work that I do, he or she will be a good “fit” for the job. However, there are risks inherent in homogeneous environments—the dominant group will inevitably overlook opportunities or important data that another of the groups will notice and act on. The dominant group may also alienate the other groups and thereby lose their talent and capabilities. As a consequence, the homogeneous organization will lose its ability to adapt to change, to innovate, and to lead.
In my experience managing the training and delivery of worldwide sales kickoff events, where we bring 1,500 employees together to celebrate their accomplishments and to prepare for another successful year, I’ve seen the benefits of a workplace culture that allowed each of the colors to effectively contribute to the event.
In preparation for the event, the Blues on my team thought through every detail of the training from a participant’s perspective, including who would be in the room and what each participant would need in order to learn. The Blues paid attention to the various learning styles, including the visual, audio, and kinesthetic aspects of each training session. They also made sure every presenter and support person was personally acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions.
The Yellows on the team ensured that the event was entertaining in a way that would keep the sales people’s attention. The Yellows understood that the kickoff was not just a learning event, but also had the potential to be an experience that could thoroughly engage and excite the participants long after the event was over. They provided high value in brainstorming ideas, finding creative ways to interact, and generating excitement for the new approaches we wanted to try.
The Reds on the team could instantly see everything that needed to be in place to make the event actually happen. The Reds kept the planning team on track by organizing and assigning tasks and by identifying key decisions that needed to be made. They ensured that executives were involved as champions of the learning program and that communication was efficiently cascaded. They were enthusiastic and insistent and made sure nothing fell through the cracks.
The Whites could see with clarity even during the most chaotic of times. They could anticipate potential challenges, especially when it came to conflicting priorities. They took time to think through decisions that others wanted to make on the spur of the moment. Even during periods of high stress, the Whites kept us calm and level headed, ensuring we stayed focused on the goal we were trying to achieve.
Imagine what would happen if the culture of our workplaces was similar to the event team I’ve described—with the talent and capability of each of the colors appreciated and allowed to provide their fullest value. New college hires would find themselves in a workplace where they are able to help create an environment that works for both them and the company. Mergers and acquisitions would have a higher rate of success because employees would welcome diverse opinions and learn from those with different work styles. Firings due to relationship difficulties would become less frequent because managers and employees would value diversity and expect less conformity.
As a result of appreciating and leveraging what each individual has to offer, we will be able to attract and retain top talent, and bring measurable value to the bottom line of the organization. <
Karen VanUitert, (Yellow) has been passionate for the Color Code over the last ten plus years. She currently runs her own business after working for Novell Inc. for 18 years. Karen certified in the Color Code Training in March 2007, she continues to use the Color Code to help people in their professional and personal lives. which in turn helps them to be more successful in work and life.
Workplace diversity is a people issue, focused on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization. It is usually defined broadly to include dimensions beyond those specified legally in equal opportunity and affirmative action non-discrimination statutes. Diversity is often interpreted to include dimensions that influence the identities and perspectives that people bring, such as profession, education, parental status and geographic location.
As a concept, diversity is considered to be inclusive of everyone. In many ways, diversity initiatives complement non-discrimination compliance programs by creating the workplace environment and organizational culture for making differences work. Diversity is about learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all, and about creating workplace environments and practices that encourage learning from others and capture the advantage of diverse perspectives.
Reprinted with permission
Susan Woods, Managing Partner, Henderson Woods, LLC
Cornell University ILR (retired)
Deb Schmidle, Director
Collections, Reference, Instruction, and Outreach
Olin and Uris Libraries