As organizations around the world increasingly recognize the importance of engendering healthy culture in the workplace, cultural safety has become a vital part of the conversation. For employees to be motivated and productive, they must feel recognized and valued for their unique and diverse identities.
Cultural safety enables employees to flourish, regardless of race, religion, gender, physical or intellectual differences, or sexuality, and creates opportunities for each member of an organization to put their best foot forward, every day.
Managers are the gatekeepers of cultural safety, and, by extension, of an organization’s ability to achieve its goals. A confident and effective manager will lead by example, motivate employees, and foster collaboration between team members.
So how can managers help you build a safe culture? These ten tips will help your managers lead culturally-safe teams and support their employees.
10 ways to manage with care
1. Be clear and fair about expectations
When employees know what is expected and aren’t overwhelmed by unrealistic workloads or deadlines, they will be able to accomplish their tasks efficiently and without anxiety. Defining specific tasks and timelines will ensure that employees stay on track and feel accomplished rather than confused and overwhelmed.
2. Foster teamwork, not competition
Collaboration propels productivity and gets things done faster, so create structured times for your team to brainstorm and openly discuss strategy and business planning. Part of encouraging teamwork is shutting down in-fighting, gossip, cliquiness, and other behaviors that get in the way of cooperation. Build your team up, and they will build up the business.
3. Give positive feedback and credit when it is due
Intrinsic motivation is proven to improve performance and productivity, and contribute employee satisfaction and retention. It’s hard to keep working without receiving any recognition, so make sure you let your people know you appreciate their contributions—and call them out to higher management and other team members when appropriate.
4. Respect your team members’ boundaries
Calling an employee after hours, expecting them to work outside of regular hours, and making employees feel they can’t take off is toxic and will lead to increased turnover. Particularly now, with more organizations adopting the hybrid model and offering more flexible structures, failing to give your people personal time may scare off top talent and demotivate valued employees.
5. Be a leader in promoting diversity and inclusion
If you show your team that you take D&I seriously, this will signal a culture where every person is valued for who they are and not how they define themselves. Letting employees bring their truest selves to work everyday will engender loyalty, improve productivity, and position your brand.
6. Correct your people with care
If an employee needs to improve, there should be a process to inform them of what they must do better, a fair timeframe for them to accomplish these goals, and clearly defined processes if they don’t improve. Managing and reviewing performance is integral to operational continuity, but if it’s done without sensitivity or clarity, employees will either be debilitated by fear for their jobs or won’t even know that they aren’t meeting expectations.
7. Help your people get ahead
The more your people learn and grow, the better it is for productivity, innovation, and growth. People can get stuck in a rut if they aren’t given opportunities to develop and evolve, and this stagnation will be mirrored in an organization’s stalled growth. Keep your business and your employees on a forward trajectory.
8. Keep it professional
As a manager, it’s important that every employee receives equal treatment. Even if you know members of your team from outside of work, it should never direct how you manage them in the office. Nepotism and favoritism will drive resentment and harm productivity, so leave your personal life at the door.
9. Leave your door open
Communicate regularly with your employees, both in team and in individual meetings. There is plenty of research showing that organizational silos and lack of cross-team communication can negatively impact goal attainment so preventing this from popping up is vital. Make sure your team is looped in, even if it’s not directly related to their role, and create plenty of opportunities for your people to voice concerns, pitch new ideas, or to ask for help.
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10. Improve your management skills with ongoing training
The best way to motivate your team members to do better is to do better yourself, so seek out ways to develop skills that you lack, learn new approaches to business, and improve on your strengths. Not only will this help you do your job better, it will inspire your team to do their best as well.
Managers hold the key to cultural safety
The cultural safety of an organization starts with its leaders. The manager-employee relationship is vital to organizational success, so engaging your people, retaining and attracting top talent, and propelling productivity will depend greatly on how managers manage.
By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, and by managing with empathy and intrinsic motivation rather than fear and competition, managers foster the cultural safety of an organization. In turn, this environment propels organizational growth, success, and employee retention.