Culture: The original word culture comes from several different origins (Middle English/French/Latin) but they essentially all mean the same thing: to grow, tend and cultivate. Culture essentially unites or divides teams, communities, places of worship and workplaces. The actions of the people decide whether you have a positive or negative culture.
Here are a couple of questions to help get you thinking. What do people wear to work? Do folks show up to work 30 minutes early/right on time/10 minutes late? When they arrive, how long before they actually start working? How long do they take for lunch? How much notice do they give you when they need to take time off? How ‘hard’ do they work? Are they actively invested in getting 1% better every day? Do they read/study to get to the next level outside of work hours? Wait…I bet you thought culture was just free lunches and company outings, right? Yes, there are fun parts to culture but culture is largely in the mundane and every day.
What if I told you culture starts before you even get the job? In my experience, if you already have the job and are thinking about culture, you are behind. There is certainly time to catch up but it will be more difficult. The word ‘culture’ is thrown around so often these days that many people lose sight of what culture is. I have identified 3 essential ingredients that make a great culture & why having a great one is important.
Essential Ingredient #1 – Recruiting
What types of people are you looking for? Do you hire from a ‘resume’ or based on the person? What values are you interested in them having or not having? At the end of the day: Are you hiring people for THE JOB or are you hiring YOUR PEOPLE to fill the job? I would argue that the importance you place in recruiting and WHO/WHY you hire those people at your company is the single most important piece to your overall culture strategy.
I would highly recommend your department syncing up with your recruiting department to make sure you are on the same page and have shared similar expectations. A simple strategy to ensure this and one that will pay huge dividends over time, is to have a member of the recruiting team sit with someone on your team for a few hours to ‘watch them in action’ and ask questions. I would encourage you do this at least 2x a year (if not quarterly) as in 2018, many departments and job descriptions are changing rapidly. Once you have your people, you are just getting started. People are not robots and it will take time to GROW your people.
Essential Ingredient #2 – Coaching
You can hire the best people but unless you invest time day in and day out to help them realize their dreams, you are wasting both of your time. There are plenty of coaching models that are online, (I personally like America’s Coaching model) but pick one that you are committed to and train both your leaders and employees how to use it and what good coaching looks like. The thing with coaching is holding your people accountable, both to themselves and each other. Quick plug: coaching is DIFFERENT than feedback. If you are unsure of the difference, please look this up as this is critical to your long-term effectiveness. Coaching is also critical as it answers the question: Do you have the right people? Many folks interview well but might not be coach-able. In this case, refer to the popular phrase, hire slowly and fire quickly. The quickest way to ruin a great culture is to have even one bad apple, especially one that spreads their negativity and tries to ‘recruit’ others to ‘the dark side.’ Great. You recruited the right people/got rid of the wrong people, have great coaching, established values that everyone abides by & have some contests from time to time. Now what?
Essential Ingredient #3 – Maintenance
This is the most time consuming of the 3 ingredients as recruiting and coaching (for a dept.) happen throughout the day/week/month/year, but maintenance is 24/7/365. But, who has time for maintenance when other things come up (running a business, making $, keeping up with the jones’s, fighting fires, etc.)? If you get one thing from this article and one thing only, remember the very definition of ‘culture’ is active (present tense). Like everything else in life, if you are not actively doing something and are stagnant, you are falling behind. Same thing applies to culture. When you say ‘no’ to the day in/day out maintenance of culture, you are saying effectively, you don’t care. This is even more important for businesses that are interested in scaling. The culture of a 10-person organization functions differently than a 100-person organization and employees in those settings are going to have different needs. It is your job to find out what is important, be constantly ‘temperature checking’ and be agile to meet those needs.
Putting It All Together
Now we know what culture is and the 3 essential ingredients that make up a great one. Lastly, what is the real reason of ‘why’ having a great culture is important? Whether you are a boss or an employee, these next few sentences should help answer this question. ‘A Gallup poll of more than 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or bad supervisor. 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses’. This is the same thing as saying, they quit because they hated the culture. It is your responsibility, whether you are a leader or an employee, to work hard to create an open environment where ideas can be shared, you are agile and quick to ‘test’ and implement what works. If not, be prepared to suffer the consequences.
I hope this helps answer what culture is, the 3 essential ingredients to having a great one and why having a great one is important. Remember, no matter who you are or what your position is, you affect the culture. Take the responsibility seriously but have fun in creating one that is beneficial for your people!