Building a Cohesive Culture: Insights from Dr. Troy Hall

People People

June 5, 2023

Margaux Morgante

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5 min

Meet Dr. Troy Hall, award-winning culture strategist, radio show host, speaker, author, and talent retention expert.

Read our in-depth interview with culture strategist Dr. Troy Hall to learn about his unique Cohesion Culture™ framework. Explore how Kudos can help your organization retain talent through meaningful recognition and value affirmation.

Table of Contents


“Are you willing to be wrong to further what is right?”
 

This thought-provoking question captures the essence of Dr. Troy Hall’s lifelong pursuit of teachability. 

As a renowned culture strategist, radio show host, speaker, author, and talent retention expert, Dr. Troy has dedicated his career to embracing the power of learning.  

Inspired by his mother’s wisdom (the question posed above was hers), he emphasizes that teachability goes beyond the idea of right or wrong. He believes that by approaching conversations with a willingness to challenge our beliefs, we can collectively move towards what truly matters and create positive change in individuals, projects, and organizations. 

Currently residing in Charleston, South Carolina, Dr. Troy cherishes his family, a fact that he shares openly and often. He understands the importance of balancing his personal and professional identities; this is something he believes contributes to positive workplace culture.

 In our recent interview, we delved into his inspiring journey and discovered his insightful perspectives on the ever-evolving world of work.

 

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity

 

Tell me about your career path and your work in workplace culture.

I’ve spent four decades in leadership, specifically working in people development. I have a Ph.D. in global leadership and entrepreneurship. My dissertation was on group dynamics with an emphasis on cohesion, which led to my trademarked CohesionCulture™ program.  

My Cohesion Culture™ framework has three strategic elements: belonging, value and shared mutual commitment.

Belonging is about inclusion and feeling part of something special. Value is about feeling like your work is meaningful and knowing it matters. A shared mutual commitment means that teams will operate collaboratively. To me, collaboration is defined by two requirements. The first is that everybody involved in the project or team agrees they need each other. And the second is trust. People must trust that others will do the right thing and their job.

What can executive leaders do to support people-leaders in being more vulnerable and teachable?

They must lead by example. You can’t just tell people, hey, this is what I want you to do and then turn around and do the opposite.

One opportunity I see for leaders is to be more skilled in the art of self-discovery. Too often, leaders find it much easier to tell you what you did wrong than to uncover information about what happened and why. I created a cohesive communication process to help support this.

Instead of pointing out that somebody did something wrong, ask them about the circumstances and the situation. Questions like, Walk me through your thought process. What were your assumptions and expectations? Those are great alternatives to “Why did you do that?” and help everyone learn.

How can leaders change culture?

I like to recommend a processI refer to as C.A.P.E.S. 

The first aspect is cultural discovery, understanding what’s happening within the organization’s culture through observation and conversations. Next, assessments to understand levels of cohesion, including individual leadership assessments. After that, you build a plan that aligns with your strategy. With a plan in place, it’s time for the education component to ensure the organization understands the desired culture. Finally, sustainability. What will you do to sustain the culture once you’ve implemented it?  

In my work, I often don’t want to change an organization’s culture; I just want them to notch it up by adding a layer of cohesion. My research proved that performance occurs whenever cohesion is present within a team. And how you get to that performance, is employee engagement. 

We tend to think that we can get engaged employees by making them happy or satisfied, and that’s when we get trapped into giving them treats. Instead, we should be focusing on how we treat them. Leaders must understand and embody the concept that culture is built in how we treat people, not the treats we give them

What else can organizations do to foster engagement?

Affirmations play a crucial role in emphasizing the value of employees’ roles and identities. Programs like Kudos allow organizations to recognize and uplift individuals openly. 

However, a robust program requires leadership involvement. Leaders must lead by example, actively engaging with individuals and expressing genuine affirmations that go beyond surface-level praise. By highlighting an individual’s role, attributes, and alignment with core values, leaders not only affirm but also teach desired behaviors.  

This depth of affirmation fosters engagement and helps create a strong organizational culture. It’s important to align core values with behaviors to craft meaningful recognition. This holistic approach to affirmation is key for fostering engagement and building a thriving organization.

What is the most effective way to retain employees?

I’ve broken it down very simply through my work – it’s called F.A.I.R. play for cohesion. It’s important to understand that, at minimum, employees have to believe they’re getting fair compensation for their work –but that is not the only factor.  

Employees want flexibility—flexible work hours and locations. When I think about the Great Resignation, for example, I don’t think it was a resignation. People didn’t resign. It was the “Age of Recalibration.” People were recalibrating where they wanted to work, how they wanted to work, and who they wanted to work with.  

The next thing is autonomy. Employees want to know what authority they have and what level of initiative is required to do the job. And within that, they want the resources to help them succeed. 

After that is inclusion. Employees want to make sure they have a voice in the organization, that leaders will ask them what they think, and their supervisor shows interest in their success. The number one reason that people quit a company is still the lack of a healthy supervisor-employee relationship.They don’t quit the company; they quit the manager.   

The last is readiness, that is, growth and development opportunities. We know today that 71% of employees want growth, development, and advancement. If an organization does not offer these opportunities, employees will look elsewhere to find them.    

People stay for fair pay and F.A.I.R. play.

 

What is the biggest challenge facing HR Leaders today?

The biggest challenge is that supervisors are not trained to deal with employees who work remotely. For the most part, if the employee is not visible to the supervisor, the remote employee may not interact with others for days at a time. I am not suggesting that every employee gets a remote work option; however, leaders must be willing to consider building remote work policies. In fact, many organizations have mislabelled remote work as “work from home.” I think ‘Work from home’ demeans the work and the person doing it. My suggestion is to call it what it is:“Remote Work.”

Leaders can make that small language change very quickly to change the perspective and perception of remote work within their organization’s culture vocabulary.

They can also make sure that supervisors are trained to manage hybrid teams. For example, if you have some remote workers and some on-site and there is a need to meet, then my recommendation is that everyone is on camera – not just the remote workers and not a group huddled together on one camera in the conference room.

There’s no turning back. Work-life is not going back to the way it was pre-pandemic. To be successful, organizations must accept that reality, train leaders for it, and develop work structures to accommodate flexibility, autonomy, inclusion, and readiness.z

What do you think is the biggest opportunity when it comes to culture and the employee experience today?

It’s always the opportunity for human connection. The three strategic elements of cohesion: belonging, value, and commitment speak to creating great workspaces where people feel included, empowered to do a job, and work alongside others who may not look, think, or act like another. It’s the responsibility of every employee to build cultures of cohesion, not just the leaders’.

That’s why the attributes of an effective leader (teachable, compassion, grace, truthfulness, humility, purity of heart, and peace-making must be practiced by all. In the future of work, we will never abandon, nor should we abandon, the human element of people before the task. Leaders are charged with the responsibility to think of others first before themselves. They motivate, influence, and enable others to be successful.

We often think of our work environment – the way we’ve experienced it over and over again – as sacred.That’s the concept around the “status quo.” So, do you challenge the status quo, which says that an organization can only have innovation, collaboration, and a great culture when people are under the same roof? Can we break the paradigm? Can we create a paradigm shift?

We need to figure out how we can make that human element a little more interactive if we don’t happen to all be sitting under the same roof, because no matter what, culture is for everyone, regardless of whether you’re in the same place or not.  

 

Thank you, Dr. Troy, for sitting down with us and sharing your experience and knowledge!

 

Know an amazing HR Leader you think we should feature? Send us a note at marketing@kudos.com

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Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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