In the ever-changing dynamics of modern workplaces, maintaining employee engagement, fostering a positive culture, and enhancing talent retention are critical concerns for businesses.
In the most recent episode of the GGG Unleashed podcast, Better Leaders, Better Workplaces, I spoke to Michele Koch, SVP and Chief Culture and People Development Officer at Republic Bank. We talked about these issues within a greater conversation about the future of work.
The conversation was a deep dive into Koch’s views on workplace trends, her journey to her current role, and the strategies Republic Bank employs to shape positive leaders and improve the overall employee lifecycle experience.
Two Non-Negotiables in Today’s Workplace
The insights Koch shared reflect on two key non-negotiables for today’s employees: corporate citizenship and workplace flexibility.
Koch’s perspectives present a compelling picture of how companies are currently adapting to shifting employee expectations.
Leveraging her vast experience in HR and culture development across different industries and countries, Koch is presently overseeing various areas at Republic Bank, including engagement, leadership, inclusion, and company culture.
She concisely encapsulates the universal nature of these challenges, stating, “regardless of the geography industry or the organizational size, we all share many of the same cultural challenges and opportunities.”
Talent Attraction Through Corporate Citizenship
A key aspect of Koch’s approach centers on corporate citizenship; emphasizing its critical role in attracting top talent from the pool of available workers.
During our conversation Koch explained why it’s important for organizations to be better at taking a holistic approach that goes beyond just dollars and cents. “We really want to be part of organizations that are making a positive impact in the community” she says, “we’re drawn to companies that give back to the community in both financial and non-financial ways, cultures that really support volunteerism.”
Furthermore, Koch explained the shifting priorities of current and prospective employees as being more in line with organizations that champion DEI efforts, both within the organization as well as well beyond the walls of the company.
Koch further underlined the mounting relevance of the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement in shaping employee expectations, as they look for organizations that actively participate in positive change on these fronts.
Workplace Flexibility – Disrupting Long-Standing Norms
The other crucial area Koch spotlights is workplace flexibility, especially in the light of the changes instigated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Republic Bank, like so many companies, that one weekend in mid-March of 2020, we all went home for what we thought was going to be about two weeks.”
Of course, that two-week period soon became an historic shutdown that required organizations and employees to pivot away from long held patterns of work. While this adjustment was disruptive, what came out of it was a new way of thinking.
“We had to really pivot quickly, and employees really like having that flexibility and the remote work arrangements.”
In response to these evolving preferences, Republic Bank is currently implementing a mix of remote, in-office, and hybrid work arrangements that satisfy both departmental necessities and individual choices.
Koch observes that this has empowered employees, remarking, “we are seeing that some individuals have changed roles so they could be in a department that is in the office or fully remote depending on their preferences.”
This new normal also poses challenges for leaders. Managers now need to connect with their teams intentionally, as the days of casual office interactions are limited in many settings. Trust becomes a crucial factor, with lack of regular connection often leading to its erosion.
“It can’t be out of sight, out of mind. Trust is really paramount,” she says, “and relationships start to break apart when people aren’t feeling as connected.”
Koch also pointed out that leaders must rethink how to make coming back to the office a positive experience, especially when remote meetings can sometimes dominate the workday even when employees are in the office.
Adapting to the Evolving Landscape
Koch’s insights underline the imperative for businesses to continuously adapt to the evolving landscape of employee expectations. With a focus on corporate citizenship, workplace flexibility, and intentional leadership, organizations are driving employee engagement and retention in this new era of work. Be sure to catch part 1 of my conversation with Michele at the GGG Unleashed Better Leaders, Better Workplaces podcast. And while you’re there don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode!