Men may still make up the largest percentage of lifelong employees, but women are close behind due to the influence of emerging core values inherent in some of the world’s most resilient companies*. The question is this: why is it that some companies are able to function like tribes, having the capacity to migrate, grow, and adapt to changes, while others become extinct, enduring constant employee turnover? The great psychiatrist, C.G. Jung, believed that instinct pulled man to strive towards reaching a higher level of consciousness that could only be experienced when there was a “container” separating the sacred from the profane. Companies with “lifers” create something similar when they offer employees the rare currencies of safety and stability, protecting them from the chaos of the outside world. These companies have an intuitive understanding that by providing a certain type of order and expansion, positions become too valuable to leave.
Here are the qualities of a company who has or will have “lifers”:
1. Unity: A shared value system providing the foundation for a company’s roots. By sharing the same values and mission that speak to an individual and the collective, a company’s various departments and locations flourish because they are operating under the same framework. While the framework never changes, the contents are adaptable for the culture of that particular department or location (for example, Marketing or Sales vs. Accounting or Legal). A company’s mission statement, for example, will never change, but its different departments may create niche goals that fit within this statement, designing their department layout and working style specific to their function needs and attitude. Differences are not only accepted, they are expected and allowed to flow within the boundaries of the framework. Shared values are a dynamic and inescapable force.
2. Reverence for Experience: There is a shared respect towards those who have provided the most benefit for the collective, protecting the company from competition, attack, or extinction. There are not twenty of these individuals at this level nor is it one an individual can gain through promotion. It is understood that it is best for decisions affecting the group to always reach this level. In essence, “big” decisions naturally flow through them.
3. Sharing the Collective Myth: The shared stories of the how a company was formed and continues to survive creates a myth that employees identify with, allowing them to activate and explore personal traits they identify with in the characters**. The variety of shifting tasks, intimidating projects, situations, and conversations along with a melting pot of personalities pushes a person to confront aspects of themselves with deep reflection that they would otherwise avoid or never discover. For example, company archetypes are seen through the hero myth present in stories of all-nighters, last minute mergers, epic negotiations, and people showing up to work during extreme weather emergencies. Affect and sentiment towards the myth emerges and employees see themselves uniquely existing and contributing to it. A momentum is created and unity is further affirmed. This momentum creates a “sticky” or memorable quality to the story that allows the company’s mission and origin to be organically passed on***.
4. Transparency of the Container: Distinct boundaries separating the acceptable from the unacceptable exist in a company with long-term employees. There are clear consequences when deviation from the rules occurs. There is also unquestionable transparency about how these decisions are made, who makes them, and exactly who will be affected. There is no uncertainty in the application of policy and no one is exempt. This creates parameters, forming the “container” for the boundaries of operating within a company. The individual has a sense of security in this center and can experience trust, faith, and loyalty when operating within these definite boundaries.
5. Depth: The intimacy of experience shared by those in the company “tribe” creates depth in relationships. Where there is positive affect, there is loyalty, and where there is loyalty, bonds that have the potential to last a lifetime emerge. This also fosters a need to continue nurturing a company beyond the time an individual is employed as a way to keep the relationship alive.
6. Personal Transformation: From the onset of an employee’s first day, there is anticipation and encouragement for how they grow and merge into different levels of the group. At lower levels of consciousness, we see this interest arise during the interview stage where one of the first concerns is if the individual will “fit-in” with the group. A company with long-term employees is more concerned with whether the function will fit the person. This automatically answers whether or not there is a “fit” because the company’s culture is inextricable from the position.
7. Equanimity: A balance of intuition and logical reasoning creates a bridge for meaningful and progressive conversations to occur. Obsession with metric based or goal-directed activity stifles this kind of organic creativity needed for problem solving. In a culture arguably obsessed with the concept of happiness and emotional well-being, instinct anchors employees even in the most difficult situations.
* Cappelli, P., Hamori, M., & Bonet, R. (2014). Who’s Got Those Top Jobs? Harvard Business Review.
**Levine, P. (2010). In an Unspoken Voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. pg.16.
***Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. New York: Random House.
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