“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” - Tom Peters
A company can have a brilliant product or service combined with the best possible strategy, but if the culture won't permit the strategy to transpire, it's doomed from the start.
In reality, the culture in your company is as important to your success as a solidly built foundation is for the strength of your building.
Early on in business you might temporarily get away with the equivalent of a few ropes to tie down your tent, like you would for a weekend camping trip, but it won’t weather a big storm, stand the test of time or support the need for growth.
If you have bigger or longer-term goals for your company it is much easier to build and grow on a foundation that is deep and strong like the type you would expect for a multi-story building or skyscraper. You would only attempt to build this type of structure on solid ground and with a deep base. The higher your building, the deeper your foundation must be.
Your company culture can be compared to your building's foundation. The more demands you place on a weak culture, the more likely you are to experience instability and potential collapse of your initiatives, if not your entire business.
How important is culture?
Gallup found that lost productivity of disengaged employees alone costs the U.S. economy over $370 Billion annually yet ACCOR reported that 75% of leaders have no engagement plan or strategy in place even though 90% agree that it directly impacts business success.
Your positive company culture is built on trust, appreciation, commitment, competence, confidence, honesty, integrity and effective communications.
In a company culture where these ingredients exist, you will experience more innovation, participation, creativity, execution, engagement, growth and positive results. Without them, you will likely be handcuffed and end up paying a hefty tax that shows up as dissatisfied workers, resistance, lower productivity, higher absenteeism and greater turnover.
My friend Stephen M. R. Covey wrote a brilliant book titled “The Speed of Trust.” In his book he shares a simple, yet powerful formula that says Trust always affects two outcomes – speed and cost.
When trust goes down, your speed will go down and your costs will go up.
When trust goes up, your speed goes up and your costs will go down.
Unfortunately, many companies usually put the cart before the horse and make the mistake of investing heavily to create market trust for their brand before they have a solid organizational trust.
Without a company culture that is made up of trust, it becomes much more expensive and difficult to grow your business. Without organizational trust first, you can also expect that performance and productivity will suffer, triggering delays in achieving your desired market results.
Inc. 5000 reported that a recent Deloitte survey showed that 84% of employees, and a comparable 83% of executives, agreed that having engaged, motivated employees was a top ingredient for their company’s success, but they had different beliefs as to how to best achieve this result. While executives often focused on compensation and financial performance as key influencers their employees chose candid communication, recognition and access to management higher on the list.
Benefits, perks and compensation all contribute to the employee’s satisfaction with their position, (especially when structured correctly) but they aren’t nearly as important as how employees are perceived, treated and communicated with. So the expensive way is to throw money at the challenge but the better solution is both less costly and produces quicker, improved and longer lasting results.
Solution: Take inventory of your company’s culture to see how it measures up. Do an audit of your business to identify where there might be disengagement or resistance that is slowing down productivity or performance. Very few companies survey their clients to find opportunities for improvement – even fewer survey their own employees, which have an even bigger impact on your growth and success.
This audit is often better facilitated by a trusted and experienced outside resource that is capable of doing this objectively and knows what to look for. Because surveys without visible follow-up actions often decrease engagement, make sure you have the ability and the commitment to create and implement a plan with solutions to any areas uncovered requiring improvement.
Company One: The first company already had a fairly strong company culture where the employee’s felt appreciated, respected and fairly compensated. They held a weekly meeting to communicate with their team and track progress and important metrics so they could quickly make needed changes, watch for trends, be proactive and stay ahead of possible challenges or competitive threats.
The father and son owners of this company were innovators who also understood the value of their employees. There was a clear organizational chart and the environment was friendly but professional and there was very little absenteeism and no turnover.
The weekly training and consulting we facilitated with this organization was embraced and appreciated, which allowed for it to be quickly integrated into the fabric of the company. Within just a few weeks we quickly began to grow sales. After 12 months in working with them they had achieved a record breaking 40% increase is sales for the year, which equated to an increase of approximately $8MM to their revenues.
Their productivity and job satisfaction both improved, and a year later they still have the exact same team of happy employees on board who are continuing to apply and benefit from the tools and skillsets learned.
Company Two: This company was experiencing some culture challenges mostly attributed to family members in leadership roles with little understanding about the value of an empowered and engaged work force. Their employees felt little or no appreciation or respect from management and as a result the company experienced a great deal of absenteeism and extremely high turnover.
Unfortunately productivity training and marketing efforts for this company had to be delayed in order to invest valuable time to work on improving the culture first. It didn’t make sense to spend time and money training people who either weren’t motivated or interested in growing, or who were likely to leave making the investment in developing them a waste of resources.
When we began introducing proven sales and marketing initiatives we were met with some reluctance from the staff. The feedback seemed to be that, “this won’t work” or “we don’t need this” and the team seemed to do just enough to get by.
Because of resistance when attempting to get the sales team up to speed using new sales communications and scripts, we decided to outsource the outbound lead generation efforts to an independent call center. Using the very same scripts created for the sales team (and after just one training session with the call center staff) we immediately experienced a ten-fold increase in lead generation results. In essence we brought the same strategies and tactics to a willing culture.
In Summary . . . less time and energy was needed with the first company in order to produce a significant upside. With a focused effort that was embraced and integrated the sales team enjoyed better commissions and the company broke all previous earning records.
Much more time and energy was invested with the second company because efforts were undermined or sabotaged by unhappy or disengaged staff. Spending time and money training people only to have them leave because of the poor treatment, cost significant delays and lost opportunity.
The above real life example goes to show that Trust and a positive company culture does speed up your ability to produce better results and reduce both your cost and risk in doing so.
- Catch and praise your employees publicly for doing things well
- Reinforce and reward any behavior you want to see repeated
- Take responsibility and avoid the blame game
- Have and communicate a compelling company vision
- Improve communications
- Provide growth and training opportunities, seminars and workshops
- Have a fair and supportive compensation plan and benefits
- Show a compelling future and career path – think long term
- Hire for attitude and values and not just skill set
- Have and follow an organization chart
- Survey and assess your team to spot trends, opportunities or challenges
- Involve your team in setting targets, policies and problem solving
- Arrange for off-site retreats, gatherings or social activities
- Give time off for community philanthropic or charitable activities
- Demonstrate flexibility and embrace change
- Be present and listen to feedback with the intent to understand
Remember . . .
“What you appreciate will appreciate . . . What you don’t appreciate will depreciate!”
Your company’s culture is the true heart and the ultimate optimizer of your success. With a positive and healthy corporate culture, performance will improve and your company will achieve your goals faster and at considerably less expense.
Here's to creating your high-performance company culture!
Scott deMoulin - Founder, Destiny Training Systems