Archive for January, 2011

Build a Company Culture That Serves, Sizzles & Succeeds

A strong organizational culture drives challenge, performance, and positive behavior.

An organization is only as good as its people. However, bright people have more options today than ever before. In addition, good pay is no longer enough to hold the best.

Are good people clamoring to join your organization, or are resignations climbing? Do your people come in early and voluntarily stay late, or is absenteeism on the rise? Are your staff upbeat and enthusiastic, or do they gripe and moan?

Does your organization inspire loyalty, dedication, creativity, and motivation? Does your “company culture” challenge staff to learn, improve, and grow? As a good manager, you must ask yourself these questions. And you need to find positive answers.

To grow, even to survive, you must develop a company culture that attracts, inspires, and retains good staff. Take this seriously, or your organization could become a collecting point for old ideas and old thinking…”dead wood”.

Every organization has a distinctive culture. A good culture reinforces the values and behaviors that you want, and weakens the attitudes and actions that you don’t. A weak culture, of course, gives little guidance or direction, to the team, allowing all sorts of inappropriate actions and behaviors.

Make sure your company’s culture works overtime for you. Use the following ideas to build a stronger and more attractive culture inside your organization.

Vision, Mission and Values:

Are your vision, mission, and core values clearly written down in black and white? Have they been framed and hung upon the wall? If so, great! But then what happened? All too often these important statements become part of the woodwork, ignored by old-timers and quickly forgotten by new hires. Do not let this happen to you.

Integrate these key statements of purpose and philosophy into your recruitment and orientation programs, internal company communications, training, and development schemes, methods of appraisal, recognition and reward.

Ask yourself this question: “Can every member of your staff explain the company vision, mission and values in their own words, and give practical illustrations in the course of their daily work?” If so, you have harnessed the power of their alignment and understanding. If not, your team may be adrift without a clear course, or rowing hard… but in divergent or conflicting directions.

New Staff Recruitment:

Do you invest enough energy selecting staff who are really aligned with your vision and values? Do you give candidates sufficient time to get to know you and your organization – before they sign on as members of the team? Do you screen prospective employees with the powerful profiling tools available in the market today? Or do you complain about a tight labor market and find yourself content with hiring enough “warm bodies”? If so, you may not know the full cost, in money and morale, of the turnover that follows such hasty recruitment.

New Staff Orientation:

Do you actively help new staff settle in and get comfortable for long and productive careers? Or do you push the personnel department to get new hires on-line and operational in the shortest possible time?

Studies show that employees who get thorough and thoughtful orientations will stay longer and contribute more throughout their careers. Are you investing enough time and energy to help your new staff start right?

Training & Development Programs:

Investing in training and staff development programs is good. But many companies engage a wide assortment of trainers and programs, making little effort to ensure a smooth and beneficial integration.

Here is a simple test: Can each of your outside and in-house trainers clearly explain your organization’s vision, mission, and values? Can they describe the issues and major challenges facing your company today? Are you convinced their training will help address issues, solve problems, and strengthen people’s careers? If not, why not? You pay these professionals to help your people face the future. Shouldn’t they understand the future your people will be facing?

Annual Appraisals:

If you say you want a service driven organization, is quality service in your appraisal? If you want a creative mindset, are you assessing staff on the range, depth and volume of their ideas? If you want an open corporate culture, are your appraisals done in an open format? If you want cross-functional and non-hierarchical communication, do you employ a 360-degree appraisal process?

No amount of broadcasting company values will matter if people are measured by other standards.

Take a hard look at your current appraisal system. Is it up to date? Does it reward, recognize and reinforce what you want your company to become?

Rewards & Recognition Programs:

The old adage is true: what gets rewarded gets done. But not all rewards are monetary. They may be public, private, formal, informal, planned, unexpected, elegant, simple, unique.

The most motivating rewards may be public celebrations of the people and actions that exemplify your organization’s highest values.

At Singapore Airlines for example, the Managing Director’s Award is the most prestigious tribute an employee can receive. The award is given each year to those staff members whose action demonstrate the airline’s commitment to total quality service. Winners are celebrated, photographed, interviewed, published, wined, dined and praised, yet receive no special monetary award. These people become the legends, heroes and role models of the organization. Their deeds are told and retold for years to come. Their actions — and the public recognition they receive — keep the airline’s values flying high.

How inspiring are your practices of rewards and recognition? How frequently and consistently are they applied? People thrive on appreciation, recognition and reward. Does your company culture provide enough?

Company Social Events:

Too many social gatherings are expensive undertakings that provide an outlet for stress but do little to enhance communication or commitment to the business. It doesn’t have to be this way. Memorable social events can deliver enjoyment for the staff and build enthusiasm for your company’s goals, achievements and values.

Put a cross-functional team in charge of design and delivery for your next social event. Give them time and budget. Provide them with professional and management support. Set parameters and guidelines for linkage to the business and the organization. Then monitor their progress, but let the show be their own.

Lavish praise for an event well done, and you will build a tradition of interaction that deepens and strengthens as it grows.

Staff Suggestion Schemes:

Managers want feedback and suggestions for improvement from staff. But how many companies can point with pride to widely respected and frequently used suggestion schemes?

Making your program more than just a box on the wall requires rapid response from management, immediate implementation of good ideas, and generous recognition for contributions.

Try this: give away $100 (or a dinner for two) every month for the best new suggestion. Even if the first month has only a meagre selection of ideas, pick one and give the prize away. Once people realize there is a prize given out every month, you’ll find the suggestion box brimming with input by the month’s end.

Management and Staff Interaction:

Management and staff will work better together if they have abundant opportunities to interact. Schedule frequent team meetings. Provide secure opportunities for staff to speak up without fear of reprisal or retribution. Create panel discussions where all sides can ask questions and receive candid — not defensive — replies. Host social functions, team games, or a telematch. Organize a fishing trip, nature walk, overnight retreat. More is truly merrier when mingling the members of your team.

Rites and Rituals:

Companies with strong cultures evolve rites or rituals that are memorable and unique. At one multinational, significant sales are honored by the key salesperson ringing a huge Chinese gong at the beginning of the monthly sales meeting. The message rings loud and clear: Successful sales are good reason for public celebrations.

An American R&D laboratory fires a loud outdoor cannon each time one of the research teams concedes a major or costly mistake. People worry when the cannon is quiet for too long! The cultural message is understood: Invention requires making mistakes. We are here to take those risks.

At the Service Quality Training Centre, new trainers are thrown fully clothed into the water at their first company retreat. The message: “We’re all in this together. Welcome aboard.”

Internal Communications:

How does word get around from your head office? Do your memos look dry, boring and official? Is that the kind of place you want your office to be? Are your bulletin boards covered with old announcements, faded backgrounds and ancient pieces of tape? Or are they current, colorful and information-rich?

Which message do you want to send? Does your newsletter focus on current customers, real issues and difficult but significant achievements? Is it seen as an open forum, or sanitized propaganda from Head Office?

How much dialogue do you really want? If you have moved to an e-mail environment, is access open and response encouraged? Or do staff read your latest comments on-screen and then discuss implications in the washroom?

External Communications:

How you communicate with the outside world reflects back upon your internal staff.

Do your employees take pride in the advertising and public relations your company sponsors? Is your corporate image fresh or outdated? Is your organization seen as a public-spirited contributor to the community, or just another money making enterprise?

Management Role Modeling:

The most powerful action for building company “culture” is management members leading by their own example.

A senior Japanese executive was visiting one of the company’s overseas manufacturing plants. As he walked along the carefully prepared factory floor, he saw a small scrap of paper just below one of the machines.

To his subordinates shock and amazement, he detoured from the carefully prepared route and stooped to pick up the paper. Placing it quietly into his pocket, he returned to the designated path.

That one gesture did more to reinforce the company’s commitment to housekeeping than countless booklets and banners. The challenge for all of us is clear: We must walk the talk!

Make your culture nourishing.

Your company culture is like water. It can flow strongly and steadily, refreshing your team and carrying people forward. Or it can sit festering and stagnant, gradually poisoning those around it.

It can be fertile and rich, irrigating growth and stimulating new ideas. Or it can be destructive and narrow, crashing down upon any signs of change.

Resignations, absenteeism, and destructive gossip are bad news. But they are only symptoms. The source is weak morale, low motivation and a suffering company culture.

Your prescription for better health? Take action now. Build your organization to nourish people, stimulate ideas and motivate everyone towards giving their very best.