From Teams to Tribes: unlocking the power of experiences

We are the sum total of our experiences

From Teams to Tribes: unlocking the power of experiences

by Andrew Au

We are the sum of our total experiences.
We live in the experience economy, where great experiences trump material things. This is particularly true of the millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000), which represent the single largest generation in the workplace—40% of the total workforce. They prize live experiences such as concerts, sporting events, travel, and gram-worthy moments, over “stuff”.

Dr. Gilovich, a Psychology professor at Cornell University, has spent over 20 years researching the reason why experiences elicit more happiness than buying material things. He explains, “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless, they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

The economics of bad culture.
According to Gallup, actively disengaged employees cost organizations, on average, 34% of their salary. Consider this—an actively disengaged employee earning $60,000 annually is costing you an extra $20,000 a year. And that’s just the hard cost. What about the opportunity cost of a highly productive and engaged employee? The potential revenue gains as a result of boosted morale and enhanced productivity?

The culture conundrum.
Just how prevalent is bad culture? It’s estimated that nearly 7 out of 10 employees in the workforce are disengaged. Compound this with the fact that disengagement rates are steadily rising. Why is this happening? The modern workplace is far different from that of past generations which featured homogenous employee bases that prized stability and a “job for life” with well-defined benefits upon retirement.

Workplaces are more diverse than ever before. Different generations with unique ways of communicating are now side by side. Companies today have to cope with four separate generations (Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z) who come in to work each day with different goals, modes of communication, and expectations.

These generations all have a difficult style of communicating with one another that doesn’t always mesh: Boomers prefer face to face, Gen X opt for email communication, and Millennials like to work within teams. Gen Z, just entering the workforce now, are still something of a mystery to workplace researchers. Companies can no longer promise stability, change is accelerating, and different generations seek different rewards.

Digital tools don’t fix culture problems.
There’s an app for that, right? You can procure all the digital tools in the world and still experience bad culture and a stalled digital transformation. If your culture is stuck in legacy mode, no tool can fix that. Interestingly, a recent McKinsey survey of global executives found culture to be the most self-identified barrier to digital effectiveness.

What does good culture look like?
Companies with strong corporate cultures exhibit “tribe” or work family characteristics in which people intuitively understand their roles and their company’s mission. Creating that tribal culture entails bringing the fluid, agile, and experiential start-up culture to big business. Great company cultures can be created by careful planning and nurturing or, in the case of start-ups and smaller organizations, they can develop organically - helped along by the vision and energy of the leadership team.

Becoming employee-centric.
As business leaders, we need to become employee-centric, just as we’ve become customer-centric.

One fast-emerging method to create lasting and positive cultural change is to build a strong internal “tribe” through experiences. It is about consistently managing morale throughout the year, something that’s described as Morale Lifecycle Management™ (MLM). In a nutshell, MLM is about pairing the right experiences for the right moments.

The challenge to keep morale high is more difficult than ever. As the pace of business accelerates, employee highs are higher and lows are lower, and they’re happening much faster than before.

Many companies are adopting the “failing fast” philosophy and not worrying about morale at all. Instead, a Morale Lifecycle Management™ approach is one under which morale is evaluated and supported regularly.

Let’s say you’re coming off a big loss, a team retreat to do a retrospective can be transformative. It allows your team to air things out—discussing strategic issues and operational improvements. If your team requires upskilling, providing a dynamic leadership training workshop can spark personalized professional development paths. If your team has lost touch with their “why”, consider working with a non-profit that aligns to the company’s core values, allowing your team to give back to the community and rediscover the core purpose of the company.

With the right experiences at the right moments, natural employee lows can be transformed by extraordinary experiences into morale highs, motivation, and fond memories.


What is Tribe?
Tribe is an employee engagement firm that helps companies build culture through team experiences. Through shared team experiences, employees undergo unforgettable adventures and treasured moments that elevate and inspire them to achieve more.

From small delights to big moments, Tribe plans, organizes, and manages organizations’ team experiences throughout the year. Tribe offers an annual subscription model to culture building—a variable ‘cost per employee’—empowering companies to sequence team experiences throughout the year that build team trust, boost productivity and decrease employee churn.

Andrew Au is Chief Culture Evangelist at Tribe

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