What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?

What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?

Today everyone is talking about building strong organizational cultures. This is the first in a series of articles and created in an effort to help businesses today understand the concept and implementation of culture building. Hopefully they will aid you in the process of understanding “culture” and how to build a successful one.

What is culture? Merriam Webster defines culture as: ‘The act of, or any labor or means employed for, training, disciplining, or refining the moral and intellectual nature of man; as, the culture of the mind.’

Many thoughts come to mind when considering culture building. Is your business by practice and regulation held to a higher moral and intellectual standard. It is my belief that small and medium sized businesses are responsible for the high standard of living enjoyed in the communities they serve.

Ask yourself these questions: Does your team understand this? Has a positive culture, allowing your company to grow and prosper, been propagated? What does this look like? How is it maintained?

Like it or not, your organization has a culture. If your culture has not been defined, it has developed on its own.

Why spend the time and effort to build a culture your business? To quote Kemmons Wilson, Founder of Holiday Inn Hotels, “Get ahead of change or change will get ahead of you.”

Our business climate is changing at a rapid pace due to significant increases in regulations, shifting client behavior, evolution in workforce thought and employee loyalty.

A poorly defined culture increases the employee turnover rate. The national average for employee turnover as sited by the 2012 Federal Labor Force Statistics is 14.1%. If your company’s turnover rate is higher, your culture may merit review.

The top four causes of employee turnover are:

  • Dissatisfaction with pay
  • Boredom
  • Lack of engagement
  • A poorly managed team

Each points to cultural issues inside an organization.

Business Week sited a 2012 study indicating that the lack of employee engagement cost business’s $300 billion in profits a year. How much is it costing your company? Lack of employee engagement is an organizational cultural issue.

A poorly defined culture will also affect your companies’ ability to retain clients. Building a positive productive culture will improve the overall client retention rate.

The top six reasons clients leave are:

  • Taking too long to resolve an issue
  • Promises aren’t kept (over promising, under delivering)
  • Being treated rudely or with suspicion
  • Being bounced from person to person and having to repeat the problem each time
  • Having to check several times to see if an issue is resolved
  • Being left in “support limbo,” i.e. not knowing what, if anything, has been done to resolve the issue

Does the culture have a positive focus on the client? Even a five percent improvement in client retention can significantly improve your bottom line.

So, what next? To site a favorite quote of mine from an unknown source: “An opportunist meets the wolf at the door and shows up the next day in a fur coat.” Be an opportunist. Recognize the changing environment. Go for the fur coat. There is no time to wring one’s hands over the changing work environment. Now is the time to act.

What are some simple steps to get started? The most important step is to define your culture in words and deed. This is more than having a simple one or two sentence mission statement. Defining a culture includes mission, vision and core values which define behaviors for management and team. These values and behaviors are non-negotiable.

Unfortunately, there may be members of yout team or management that may choose to not live up to these values. At some point hard decisions may have to be made for those who choose  not to live up to the values of the company.

Your core values may include, but are not limited to:

  • Treat all clients and team mates with respect and honor.
  • Innovative, Flexible, and Forward Thinking.
  • Act with integrity at all times.
  • Trust is our Foundation.

Once the culture is defined through its mission, vision and values, it must be monitored closely. Reward and recognize the actions that exemplify the ideal culture of the company. This will require a variety of measurement forms and regular reinforcement from the highest levels of executive management. An easy first action is for the executive management team to begin attending departmental and branch meetings.

In closing, return the “fun” back to your working environment. More time is spent with your team than with family on a daily basis. Ask the team how to create a more fun and exciting working environment. Be willing to listen and act on ideas.

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Author: Jay Toups

Catholic entrepreneur, father, grandfather, speaker, blogger and writer from Louisiana. Author of "The Storm: A Time of Mercy, Choices and Hope.", "The Cajun Storm: God's Servant First." and "In Search of Our Savior"

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