There is a significant amount of focus on company culture these days, and with good reason. If you want a sustainable entity then a positive company culture is a good start, it is a great way to attract & retain talent plus it is a positive message to clients and shareholders.
Where I get a little concerned is when I see leaders establishing a “project” to “fix the culture”. It might well be the right thing to do, in that there needs to be a plan to establish a strong corporate culture but it is not really a project, because working at culture never ends.
In our more than twenty year journey from starting this company we have learned many lessons along the way, and have received recognition for some of the good things we have been able to do.
I thought I would share some of my thoughts on culture, based on our journey.
- Steven Covey played a big part in our company culture … and Habit #2 “Begin with the end in mind” was just one factor in our development. In order to develop the right kind of culture we needed to define the kind of company that we wanted to be.
- One of my previous employers was consulting company Andersen Consulting, now known as Accenture. Their methodology at that time focused very much on alignment between People, Process, Technology and Strategy. This was another critical influence for us. It is important to have all parts of the company pulling in the same direction.
- In line with the above, we needed to develop a mission, vision and core values that inspired us, were meaningful to us and that we could live with … even when decisions were tough. This was an important process for us, and while they have been modified over the years, they are fundamentally the same today as they were back then!
- We don’t live in a perfect world so we had to learn some patience. Rome was not built in a day. There are always setbacks, poor hires, wrong turns along the way and tough economic times to traverse.
- A business needs to be profitable in order to pay its people, its suppliers and provide the right level of service to its clients. This means that you might want to provide more “goodies” for your employees, but it has to be done prudently. I like to point at Nortel, which was a company that its employees loved because they had big salaries and amazing benefits … unfortunately that was not sustainable and most of those employees had trouble finding jobs that could offer anything similar. As a private company we need to live within our means.
- For us, our vision meant focusing our efforts on clients, our own employees and on the candidates that work with. We have continually looked for ways to improve those relationships. This focus allows us to ensure business decisions we make are in line with that vision.
- A positive culture within our company means that we have high expectations of our people, and that we provide them with training and the tools to e successful. We create an atmosphere focused on one of our core values, TEAM, and we are prepared to invest in growth. We give monthly and annual recognition for employees that excel and that exemplify the behaviors we associate with our values.
- You can never please all of the people, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
- If you have a clear culture then you will attract the people that fit your culture, and those who do not will self identify quickly.
- The number one reason why culture is successful, or not, is leadership. It needs 100% commitment from the whole leadership team.
- Sometimes you will need to make tough decisions to preserve the culture you want, or you risk getting the culture that just happens!
- It is a work in progress that can never be considered complete.
In addition to being a Platinum member of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies program our company has been recognized as one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures and one of Canada’s Best Workplaces.
The awards indicate that we are on the right track and we are enjoying the journey … but it IS a journey!
Kevin Dee is Chairman and founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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