If you want your company’s culture to improve, you’ll have to start with yourself.
Culture has become such a buzzword that the word itself is almost meaningless — but the power and influence that culture has within your company is indisputable. Culture determines what’s expected and what’s unacceptable in terms of how you and your employees interact with each other, conduct business, and treat customers.
It’s also what attracts or repels potential employees and what largely decides the loyalty of your existing employees. Whether you want to admit it or not, company culture starts at the top. If you’re looking to improve your company’s culture, you’ll have to start with yourself.
- Do I think of and treat my employees as liabilities or assets?
- Do I care about and invest in my employees?
- Do I rely on my employees’ fear of me to keep them in line?
- Do I promote and practice honesty, transparency, respect, and empathy?
- Do I put customers and employees first or sales and profits first?
- How do I handle conflict and difficult customers?
- What sort of expectations have I set for my company?
- Do I have one set of standards for myself and another for my employees?
- What do I allow in my business and how do I conduct myself when no one’s watching?
The answers to these questions will largely define the type of culture you have in your company. Is your culture a culture of value, inclusivity, respect, honesty, onus, integrity and teamwork or is it an us (owners/managers) versus them (employees/customers) culture that’s fueled by fear, cutthroat competition, or apathy? The first is attractive to employees, potential employees, and customers while the latter will make you, your team, and your customers miserable.
What You Bring
The skills gap is a popular topic of discussion and most people blame the hiring problem that plagues blue collar industries on a lack of interest in technical schools and training. While there is some truth to that, it’s not the whole story.
Today’s workforce wants leaders who intentionally cultivate inclusive, transparent, people-first cultures and provide opportunities to make a difference. No one’s looking for a job that makes them feel unimportant, inadequate, or like a cog in a machine — but that’s the kind of attitude and culture that many blue-collar leaders present to the next generation of workers.
So why are we so surprised that it’s harder than ever to find and keep good workers?
The reality is this: the way you perceive your company, your employees, the work you all do, and the people you serve impacts and influences the perception your employees, potential employees, and your customers have.
If you don’t take pride in your company, the value you bring and the services you provide, how can you expect your employees and customers to? How can you expect your employees to go the extra mile, to put their hearts into the job, and to care about the satisfaction of your customers and the success of the company?
How can you expect your customers to pay you what you’re worth, to treat you and the work you do with respect, and to choose you over a competitor who will do the work for less? You can’t!
Culture is top down and requires you, as the business owner or manager, to sow the seeds and pull the weeds. It may seem like a lot of work, but if you give a big push at the beginning and take the time to write down and communicate your company culture, it will serve as a constant guide that allows you to step back and focus on other things.
Like a well-planned garden, a well thought out and intentional company culture will produce higher yields in terms of quality employees, quality customers, and quality service, and will require less effort on your part in the long run.
It will lay the expectations for what you do and how you do it, so you don’t have to micromanage or be there to assist with every decision or challenge. If it’s not written down and communicated, on the other hand, it can easily be shaped and shifted by each team member’s personal culture and core values, which may not align with those you want for your company.
The point is: whether you take the time to determine and establish a written company culture or you don’t, you have one — and your culture is your standard.
Intentionally Create a Culture
Culture can and should be intentional. To really encourage buy-in and make your culture stick, you’ll want to get everyone involved in the process of determining what your company’s culture should be.
Take some time to ask your employees what values and standards they have and hold. Find out what’s important to them in a company culture and make sure everyone is in agreement as to what type of culture you’re all working to cultivate and protect.
Once you’ve established what that is, make sure everyone agrees to hold themselves and their decisions and behaviors up to the standard the culture creates. And perhaps most importantly: don’t just demand consistency, cooperation, and integrity from your team — demand it from yourself as well.
The process isn’t easy and you may even lose some employees who aren’t a good fit for the culture you’re creating, but in the long run, it’s so worth it.
Leadership is the No. 1 contributor to company culture and culture is what drives company performance. So, be a better leader, create a better culture, lead a better business, and enjoy a better community. It all starts with culture — it all starts with you.