A Culture of Inclusion, Motivation and Ownership.
Creating a Winning Culture
If you open a search engine webpage and type “organizational culture” you will receive hundreds of articles offering opinions on why it is important, how to manage it, or even how to create it. Perhaps that is how you have come to this article. Every company has a culture, and many companies are sensitive to fostering a positive culture that supports its employees. For too many companies, however, the feedback found on messaging boards and even around the water cooler is they are falling short on meeting these goals. A perceived lack of transparency, unwarranted favoritism, “clueless” management, and limited opportunities for growth are often the forces working against a company looking to create a healthy culture. Radioactive employees also can act like a cancer within an organization, creating divisiveness and controversy. In this article we talk about steps a company may take to create a winning culture that builds loyalty, enhances retention, boosts morale and accordingly drives business forward.
For most employees, there is no such thing as overcommunication. The more an employee can hear from the top, the more the employee feels informed and a part of the company’s mission. For leadership it is easy to overlook the importance of sharing news (good or bad) with the team. Understanding how the overall business is performing, what are upcoming challenges and opportunities, and any plans for change will be appreciated by employees and cause them to feel invested in the outcomes. Most leaders understand this to be true. Sometimes there is an intention to provide these types of updates, but other priorities take precedence, pushing a sharing of information to a later date that never arrives. Consider installing a standing firmwide update with all employees on a monthly or quarterly basis so that it becomes part of your organization’s routine. Encourage and entertain questions. Do not be surprised if it is quiet at first, but one sign your efforts are paying off will be your employees showing the courage to raise questions. The implementation of a firmwide meeting will not require a major investment in time; however, it will pay dividends towards developing a winning culture.
Virtually every employee in your organization has hopes and dreams for their career. Two clear signs of a healthy culture include the ability of firms to retain talent and witnessing individuals growing into larger roles. At my last organization we would swell with pride as entry-level employees would progress into areas of greater responsibility, with some ultimately taking on leadership roles within their departments. Defining a path to progress one’s career is one barometer of a company’s culture. Companies who do not regularly discuss an employee’s path are missing an opportunity to motivate their personnel and improve their odds of retention.
Such discussions should be a part of any review. Mid-year or year-end reviews are obvious places for this talk. Many successful managers will find other opportunities to have these discussions. Just as with communication on firm developments, you will be hard pressed to find an employee who feels burdened by discussing their career prospects within an organization. As a starting point, look at the employee’s role at the firm. Consider their strengths and areas for improvement. Is advancement within their department a possibility? For most employees that will be a distinct possibility, whether it is in the short term, or over the more intermediate/longer term. Define some of the milestones that will enhance opportunities for promotion. This may include taking on more responsibility, showing more initiative, communicating more with team members, bringing leadership to projects or other things to help drive the company forward. It also is important to seek feedback from the employee on how they see things within the department. Are there places where they feel there is an opportunity to make a greater contribution? It is worthwhile to highlight areas where an employee shines and where you would like to see improvement, however, it is very important these discussions are two-way and keep everyone looking ahead.
Invariably, there will be employees who have reached the top of their respective ladder within an organization. And that may occur before taking on a senior role at an organization. That is not a poor reflection on either the employee or company. Some employees thrive in certain roles and derive tremendous personal satisfaction from the impact that makes for their company. They will be happy continuing for many years in that role, and the company will benefit. The important thing is for management to ensure that is the case through conversation and understanding – not through speculation and assumptions. It may turn out an employee has reached the top of their career ladder at your organization and in order to progress they will have to exit the organization. In many cases, that is appropriate and should be supported by the company. The departure may open the possibility for another employee to grow, allowing you to maintain highly motivated personnel at all levels. Hopefully your departing employee achieves success in a new role and casts a halo effect on your organization for giving them the background and training to find such an opportunity. In most cases, however, your efforts in this area will resonate very well with employees and cause them to become more motivated and loyal to your firm. These factors will contribute greatly to creating a winning culture.
Have you ever seen a company not describe itself as an equal opportunity employer? Usually, you will see that phrase attached to any job posting. To truly be an equal opportunity employer, this must extend into other areas of the workplace, including how you are evaluating your personnel. A perception of favoritism, certain biases or unfair subjectivity will be deflating to the morale of employees. How is your company measuring productivity? What are the qualitative and quantitative factors being applied during evaluations and informing compensation decisions? How are promotions determined? A set of objective criteria should be developed to provide a uniform structure of evaluating employees. Adjustments may be appropriate for certain areas depending on an employee’s function or department, however, a process should be defined and recorded. Many companies will use written evaluation forms or scorecards, which will help show a company has a process and also creates an important record in case the company ever finds itself on the wrong side of an employment lawsuit.
The most useful evaluation forms or scorecards are tailored to the individual company and the respective employee role. For example, a part of measuring the performance of an investment professional may be an evaluation of how their securities performed over the past year. This would not be applicable to an operations professional, who may be more appropriately evaluated on their ability to support the start of a trading day without delay or interruption. Certain other factors however may be relevant to all employees at the firm, irrespective of their role. This may include responsiveness to colleagues at the firm or ability to meet deadlines. We recommend having a written evaluation form for each employee. Tailor evaluation forms to an employee’s role. For subjective or qualitative areas, management should publish guidance on how the company measures success. When employees feel there is a fair standard applicable to everyone, they will feel empowered and show greater receptiveness to personnel decisions. This will contribute to creating a winning culture.
Many of us have had the misfortune of working with someone who is toxic to a healthy work environment. These characters will deflect responsibility, throw others under the bus, and engage in abusive conduct which may include shouting, name calling, insults (or worse!). Unfortunately, if that toxic employee happens to be a producer, a company is far more likely to tolerate such behavior. What is more unfortunate is the impact such an employee has on the workplace. It saps morale and literally may cause anxiety in other members of the workplace. These individuals can often be akin to a disease within an organization, negatively effecting others and inviting similar poor behavior from others. Speak to any executive who has dealt with this situation and 99 out of 100 will tell you that removing such an individual from their organization is the best decision they could have made for the firm. Surrounding yourself with smart, talented people is important to the success and growth of an organization, however, you also must consider the character of the people you hire and retain. The latter will have an impact on others and the growth of your firm. Removing those who may be causing harm to the overall environment will pay off with long term dividends and is essential to building a winning culture.
Employees today need and welcome support. Work/life balance is important to most employees, and COVID has changed the way companies are thinking about the benefits structures. Taking steps to provide meaningful support to your employees will pay dividends. It enhances retention and boosts morale. When an employee feels a company is looking after their wellbeing, they feel a much greater sense of loyalty to their firm. We have helped companies structure benefits programs that support employees in impactful ways. Some examples include providing support for working parents or providing incentives and access to ways in which employees can take better care of themselves and their families. These benefits and gestures go a long way towards maintaining and furthering a winning culture.
FiSolve Can Help
We have a wealth of experience helping organizations build winning cultures. Our team can assist with any of the areas discussed in this article and we will be glad to share examples to get you started. Visit us at www.fisolve.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.