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Getting Workplace Culture Right by Setting the Tone from the Top

By Melissa J. Anderson

Last week, PwC held its Diversity Leadership Forum, entitled “Business works when life works: Flexibility in a hyper-connected world.” One highlight of the forum was a conversation between Bob Moritz, PwC’s US Chairman and Senior Partner, and John Strangfeld, Prudential Financial‘s Chairman and CEO. Jennifer Allyn, Managing Director, US Office of Diversity at PwC, explained, “Setting the tone from the top is more than just words.”

Moritz explained that this year, PwC and Davos partnered on a survey of 1200 CEOs, to find out how they felt about the recovery and growth in the future. According to Moritz, three specific conversations kept coming up again and again: finding the right talent, confidence about the next generation of talent, and how to win the war for talent.

He continued, “Two thirds are going to focus on non-financial rewards to do a better job in the talent management game.” That means, he added, “resizing and reshaping that carrot.”

Strangfeld agreed, “We at Pru are intensely dedicated… to workplace issues.” He continued, “We’re far from perfect and we’re not remotely content.”

“But if done well, talent acquisition, development, and retention strategy… gives you the competitive edge.”

Leaders Have to Get It

But good talent management doesn’t just happen, Moritz said. How can companies instill the importance of quality talent management at the very highest levels?

“I didn’t get it either,” Strangfeld said. “I thought it was all about me and my technical skills.” After about ten or fifteen years, he said, he realized that teamwork can produce more powerful outcomes than working alone.

“Talent management is not a bolt-on. It can’t be HR led, it must be leader led with HR helping. The most successful leaders have a talent mindset,” he added.

It’s also important to actively take a role in helping high potential individuals develop. Strangfield said, “What I get my kicks out of is seeing people in roles they never thought were possible. It’s also satisfying to see people do jobs in ways they didn’t think possible.”

Modeling Work/Life Leadership

Strangfeld and Moritz agreed that it is important for leaders to be role models when it comes to work/life effectiveness. Strangfeld explained that for years, he felt he was working full throttle. Then, he said, “If you toggle the throttle rather than leaving it wide open, you get a whole lot more joy and satisfaction and you’re a more pleasant person to work with as well.”

Moritz said being a leader also means creating workplaces where individuals feel they can thrive and make effective work/life choices. “We have to create the environments where people feel enough of a relationship and trust factor to make the choices they need to, without repercussions – real or perceived.”

He continued, “You have to legitimize the programs to [encourage people to] take advantage of them.”

Moritz explained that a milestone of PwC’s work/life policy was its sabbatical initiative. He explained that rather than just offering a sabbatical option, it’s provided as a reward. When employees reach a milestone – for example, becoming managing director – they are encouraged to take time off to reflect.

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