It takes many years of hard work and dedication to climb the corporate ladder, but once you reach the top, it’s important to not become a stranger to those just stepping on the first rung. Often, entry-level employees peer down the hallway, feeling disconnected from the C-suite, especially in larger organizations. Making an effort to close this “gap” is an important part of building a strong company culture.
Bridging the gap takes a committed effort, but the end result may bring a positive company culture that everyone can be proud of. Not all of these options will be appropriate for every type of organization, but there’s probably one or two that can be implemented in your company today.
One-on-one mentoring is one of the most effective strategies for building a strong relationship with employees. For most companies, it’s probably not realistic for the CEO to mentor every staff member, but developing an executive strategy that creates a culture of mentoring by trickling down from CEO to VPs, managers to directors, and team leaders to employees can help everyone in the organization build more meaningful working relationships. And, your workforce will begin to feel more connected, which helps increase engagement.
More and more, companies are investing in professional development opportunities for all levels of employees. Aligning this concept with goals to bridge the gap between entry-level employees and your C-suite will not only help build relationships, but may reveal those who could someday fill leadership roles. And it doesn’t necessarily mean taking a class or getting a special certification. Job shadowing, for example, is an effective way to help develop employees while fostering stronger working relationships with senior leadership. Matching an entry-level accountant with the CFO, a development specialist with the CEO, or a communications coordinator with the CMO will bring new perspective and greater understanding of the contributions each party makes to the company’s success.
Cultural norms within an organization evolve over time. The gap widens when employees feel alienated and uninformed about company decisions and goals. C-suite leaders should strive to be as open and transparent as possible and try to deliver company news and information in person. This not only helps employees stay informed and engaged in business goals, but it’s also a great chance to open the floor to questions and concerns, which can make them feel more a part of the process. It’s important to encourage appropriate “hallway” conversations. Casual and candid moments spent talking to frontline employees will help break down barriers and create a more approachable atmosphere.
Physical Office Location
There’s no more evident divide between entry-level employees and the C-suite than office configuration and size. There’s no rule that a successful business must separate upper management from the rest of the workforce. So why is this practiced in nearly every office setting? It may not be logistically possible to rearrange offices but redefining who sits where could close the gap as well as boost morale and foster productivity. Open office arrangements, for example, have gained popularity as they literally—and figuratively—break down the walls between employees of all levels.
Bridging the gap does not mean you have to become best friends. As much as we would all like to socialize after hours, there are boundaries that should be observed. Too much comradery, especially outside the workplace, blurs the lines between employer and employee, causing friction when deadlines are missed or personal leave is abused. It’s a fine line to draw, but business is still business and there should be clear limits to how much is expected be shared.
So why stir the pot and upset the status quo? It never hurts to keep your finger on the pulse of the company. Entry-level employees often provide unexpected insight and solutions to internal problems and issues. Anytime a C-suite executive invests in their employees, morale is boosted and everyone benefits from a positive company culture.
How have you bridged the gap between entry-level and the C-suite in your workplace? What worked and what missed the mark? Let us know in the comments section below.