Our Summit Self-Assessment Survey, shared during our last Open Forum, spoke of our workplace culture. I think that so many Summiteers don’t really know what a workplace culture is, so I researched and wanted to address that issue! The unofficial definition of Workplace Culture is simply a way by which employees work together towards common company goals. “The way” has been followed so often, by so many, and with such success that typically employees don’t consider completing tasks in a different manner. Once a workplace culture has formed, employees typically go about their business and do what they need to do day after day – with or without success!
Is workplace culture a good or a bad thing? The answer to this question could be both! Over time, employees will see that doing things one way and getting expected results typically ends with a reward (be it verbal congratulations, a bonus in your paycheck, etc.) and doing things another way and getting poor results usually ends with an unfavorable response (no rewards, no bonus, no affirmations).
Remember Pavlov and his dogs?! With time, employees learn to go down the road of “Do it this way for positive results and a reward,” instead of choosing the path of “Do it differently and all you get is poor results and no reward.” The task then becomes like a reflex and nothing is ever questioned or changed. Perhaps this is a good thing because work runs smoothly for everyone involved; however, this reflex is also bad because poor performance or inept capabilities are never addressed. Robots aren’t capable of thinking on their own (although R2D2 might take issue with that statement!). The workers continue with their reflex actions; never taking time or effort to analyze if there’s a better “mousetrap” or a more up-to-date way of thinking and handling the tasks at hand.
Is workplace culture necessary for a profitable company? Well, it’s not necessary but it sure helps if your culture is cohesive and can be measured in profits. Workplace culture can impact the bottom line of any company. The most obvious measurement would be in increased sales and a subsequent increased bottom line. The workplace culture (when you get your associates all pointed in the “positive results culture path”) causes your managers and employees alike to be happier and stay with the organization longer. These relationships (both internal with co-workers and external with clients) forms better/stronger relationships which leads to greater client loyalty which further leads to enhanced sales and better profits.
Once a good workplace culture is in place, employees won’t have to ask each other how to do things or what is the best way to accomplish a certain goal. Seasoned associates have already figured that out and assimilated into a workplace culture and don’t even think about other ways to reach their common goal. They know what they have to do to be successful and forge ahead to get it done! So why is a good workplace culture such a big deal? Well, here’s an example…..If an Account Executive gets treated like royalty but treats his associates like dirt under his feet and is allowed to continue to treat people like that, that behavior mirrors your workplace culture. Sad but true. And regardless of what you read in the company’s Personnel Policy or Training Manual, actions speak volumes and are much more memorable than what you read in a Manual. Bottom line, if you don’t verbalize your culture (and what you expect from that culture), then a culture is definitely going to emerge and be active but I assure you it’s not going to be the culture you desire or profit from.
So how do you implement a positive culture? I believe that all company cultures are set into play by those at the top. Workplace culture is developed by those at the top setting values that every company employee is asked to live by during the workday. You set rules and be prepared to enforce those rules with known sanctions. By and large, the work family can be taught to live by the same values (ie. workplace culture) that are expected of all to live by within a family unit. You create rules in which children are expected to live by ….. you don’t “borrow” without asking permission, you don’t interrupt conversation, you respect others’ personal space & property and each of these items, when ignored, carries a punishment – and you know this before you violate the expectation of the family rules. Same goes for Workplace Culture (aka Summit values of Accountability, Respect and Excellence). Kids learn at a faster rate than adults so you can expect to have to repeat your values and sanctions for violation of the values; but just like kids, employees will soon get it! Forming a culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, reinforcement, repetition and with none of this “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. David Packard (yes, of the famed Hewlett-Packard company, now retired) ran his company with 11 simple rules.
These are copied from his Autobiography of the same name:
1. Think first of the other fellow.
2. Build up the other person’s sense of importance.
3. Respect the other man’s personality rights (Respect the other fellow’s right to be different).
4. Give sincere appreciation. If we think someone has done a job well, never hesitate to let him know it.
5. Eliminate the negative.
6. Avoid openly trying to reform people. Every man knows he is imperfect, but he doesn’t want someone else trying to correct his faults.
7. Try to understand the other person. How would you react to similar circumstances? When you begin to see the “whys” of him, you can’t help but get along better with him.
8. Check first impressions. Follow Abe Lincoln’s famous self-instruction: “I do not like that man; therefore I shall get to know him better.”
9. Take care of the little details. Watch your smile, your tone of voice, how you use your eyes, the way you greet people, the use of nicknames and remembering faces, names and dates. Little things add polish to your skill in dealing with people.
10. Develop genuine interest in people.
11. Keep it up. That’s all – just keep it up!
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