Sorry, but you can't automate culture

As tech infiltrates nearly everything we do, and as more of our jobs are done from a computer or apps on our phone, it's critical to remember that we are still human beings. We are still motivated by the pursuit of pleasure, and the avoidance of pain. We are still driven by emotion. We still have a yearning for true community, we still feel more connected when we hear the inflection in a voice, or see the sparkle in another's eye when we communicate. 

There is still, and always will be, tremendous value and power in true human connection. Ain't no Slackbot that can compete.

There are certain things that can't be automated, and one of them is culture. Yes, we can use technology to enhance our culture—there is some fantastic culture tech out there—but these tools need to be implemented with an empathetic, curious, and caring human touch. Fail to add that humanity—the followup questions, the dialogue to solve issues raised, the genuine ear—and your team will sniff right through it. Oh. How nice. They want to show they care how happy/fulfilled/motivated/engagement I am. Cool tool. Cold touch. This is so phoney. 

A healthy culture requires healthy communication

You can get an office foosball table, hand out beers on Fridays, host offsite "fun days", and serve cake on birthdays, but if no one feels like you genuinely care about them, or that you listen to them, they're not going to give two hoots about any of the razzle-dazzle. 

A healthy, happy, productive culture doesn't even require a big budget, fancy office, or extravagant outings. What it needs is functional, caring communication. It needs a core set of values, and a team that's committed to abiding by them. It needs leaders who ask supportive questions, and listen with their full attention.

While I hate the terminology, what a healthy culture needs are soft skills. It needs people skills. It needs a high overall EQ, or at least the commitment to getting there. 

It's the same reason Gary Vaynerchuck hired a Chief Heart Officer and called it the "second-most important position" at VaynerMedia: because investing in your people through your time, consideration, and genuine interest, is investing in the success of your business. 

You can buy all the office toys, supply all the food and drinks, and host all sorts of fun activities, and your best people will still leave if they don't feel appreciated and acknowledged. But if you show a true investment in your people—if you really care to get to know them, talk to them, listen to them, and help them reach their own goals—you better believe they'll stick around, pingpong or no pingpong at the office. 

Over to you: how do you invest in your people?

Beyond the external environment and physical rewards, how do you share your team that you're invested in them? What soft skills are celebrated and rewarded? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below.