BY JAMES BLAIN
In the previous two articles in this series, we discussed what company culture was (and wasn’t) and how you can start to shape or modify the culture that has developed at your organization. Now that you have a handle on how your culture defines your company internally, it’s time to address its impact on your goals and growth—and we’re all in business to make some money, right?
You might be surprised by the culture-profitability connection, so how does it ultimately impact your bottom line? If you’ve paid even a little attention to the news, you understand that employees play a major role in sustaining business with your valuable clients, and growing and attracting new customers. Your company’s culture is what sets the tone for the environment that your employees are working in day-to-day, and it has an enormous impact on productivity and morale. The big shock of the past two+ years has changed the employer-employee relationship, so having or creating a positive and healthy culture can lead to increased growth and success, while a negative culture can do the opposite.
The key to using company culture for growth is to focus on the things that matter: putting employees first, upholding your company’s values, and focusing on what aligns with your mission.
❱ The Dangers of Do As I Say Not As I Do
As a leader at your company, whether you realize it or not, your team is paying attention to what you say, what you do, and how you act. When those words and actions don’t match what you want your culture to be, your team will take notice and adjust accordingly. No matter how good your culture looks on paper, if you personally don’t live up to it in practice then chances are your employees won’t either.
If you want to truly shape and impact your culture, you have to start with yourself. This means holding yourself accountable and allowing others to hold you accountable when you don’t live up to the culture you are setting.
Regardless of the role, staff look to owners, members of management, and other leaders for examples of how they should act. Many times the way that the people in these roles interact with those around them is mirrored by other employees. There also has to be consistency. When you say one thing and do another, employees will quickly lose trust in you.
❱ Investing in Your People
Company culture centers around people, how they are expected to behave, and how they are treated. To truly invest in your team, you have to genuinely care about and communicate with them. You must be willing to listen to them, hear their concerns, and treat them with respect. Even if you don’t always act on what they say, take their suggestions or even agree with them. They have to know that they can talk to you and that you will listen.
Your entire team—from senior managers to detailers and everything in between—also need to know that the work they do matters. Things like making sure they have the right training, going out of your way to thank them for what they do, and taking a genuine interest in their well-being and what is important to them are all ways to build that foundation. They need to know and feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
The way you provide for your employees and the physical condition of your drivers’ area or breakroom can also speak volumes about how you feel about your staff. If the breakroom is cramped, dirty, and in disrepair, it tells your employees that you don’t respect them or value their comfort.
“No matter how good your culture looks on paper, if you personally don’t live up to it in practice then chances are your employees won’t either.”Taking care of your employees shows that you appreciate their hard work and value their contribution to the company. It’s a simple way to build morale and create a positive work environment. When your employees feel valued, they are more productive, more engaged, and more likely to stick around for the long haul—and more importantly, extend that appreciation to your customers.
❱ Increasing Retention and Reducing Turnover
When it comes to retention and turnover, your company culture can either help push you in the right direction or drag you in the wrong one. When the culture is positive and healthy, employees tend to be more engaged and to stay longer. When the culture is negative or unhealthy, they are more likely to be burned out, overworked, and leave, which is a hit that few companies can afford right now. Employees also talk, so a bad reputation doesn’t stay in-house very long.
This also applies to the value placed on the employee and the actual work they do. If they feel that managers appreciate and understand their effect on the overall organization, they are more likely to stay with the company. If they feel like they are not respected or their work is not valued, they will likely look for other opportunities (or at least see what else is out there).
❱ Safety & Service Culture
In addition to company culture as a whole, you can also create culture around specific parts of your business. Two that you should focus on are safety and service, which are both equally critical to an industry that prides itself on safe and professional transportation and excellent customer service.
❱ Safety Culture
This type of culture guides your company’s views and approach to safety. It includes the way employees are trained to identify and mitigate risks, the way safety is monitored and enforced, and the way employees are held accountable. Safety culture is often thought of as being synonymous with a “safety first” mentality, but it’s much more than that; it is about creating an environment where safety is a priority for everyone involved.
One of the single most important things you can do to create a safety culture is to make everyone accountable for it. That means holding employees responsible for their performance not just with clients, but with their co-workers as well. Employees should be expected to speak up and say something if they see something that doesn’t look right, whether it’s cutting corners or policies being relaxed. Finally, it means holding the company itself accountable for its overall safety record, from vehicle inspections to using technology prudently to in-office hazards. When everyone is held accountable for safety, it creates a culture that is much more likely to prevent accidents and injuries—which could absolutely impact your insurance premiums.
❱ Service Culture
Service culture is how your team thinks about and provides customer service to your clients. If your company has a strong service culture, you should be focused on creating an environment where employees are empowered to give clients the best possible experience.
Having customer service as a value isn’t enough. You need to ensure that your team takes pride in the service they provide and that they are striving to constantly improve on it. One of the ways that you do this is by rewarding employees who provide great customer service and encouraging them to go above and beyond for your clients or even their co-workers. You also need to be constantly raising the bar and helping your team find new ways of furthering the service you provide. There will always be those employees who “phone it in,” but the goal is to provide an environment where they are so satisfied with their position and company that they want to do a great job. Respect is contagious.
❱ What’s the Key?
When someone goes to college for a specialized degree the biggest takeaway from that experience often isn’t the information they learned. Instead, it is the thought processes and ways of thinking that they will need to be successful in their new career.
The same is true of creating strong safety and service cultures. Although you will need to focus on teaching steps and procedures, it is equally as important to focus on teaching them how to think about both service and safety. They have to understand why they matter and why it is so important for them to be laser-focused on them.
Now that you have taken control of your company culture and are going to be using it to grow you need to make sure that every new employee is putting it into practice. In our next article, Bringing Employees into your Company Culture, you’ll learn how to make sure you are instilling values and imparting your culture onto new employees. [CD1022]
James Blain is President of PAX Training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.