When I talk to business owners and executives about wanting to improve their culture, their typical response is that culture is something that HR is responsible for. This response is a clear indication that those at the top are still disconnected from what truly matters. When will business owners, executives, and managers realize that each of them is responsible for shaping and managing company culture each day? Maybe this lack of ownership is because the idea of culture is vague to them, so instead of trying to understand their role in it, they simply pass the responsibility over to HR. But this strategy will only take you so far. It’s time for leaders to get serious about improving their company culture.
Let’s clarify what culture is. Culture is the collective mindset and attitudes of your employees about what they do, which manifests itself in how they do things (i.e. their actions and behaviors). These behaviors manifest themselves in their interactions with your company, your customers, and other employees.
This mindset – the one your staff brings to work every day – determines how they will take care of your customers, how much effort they will put into their work (i.e. employee engagement), and whether or not they will stay with you long term. In fact, 76% of employees in North America listed having a positive company culture as a main factor for staying with a company. Considering that 55% of employees will look for new jobs this year, retention is one key outcome where culture can make all the difference.
The mindset and attitude of your employees play a significant role in how they perform at work. How someone feels about coming to work affects his or her energy levels and cognitive abilities. This is often referred to as employee engagement, which is tightly connected to company culture. The impact of a negative, disengaged culture is tremendous. It can lead to poor customer interactions, decreased brand reputation, high turnover, underperforming staff, and in turn, reduced profits. Depending on the size of your company, the cost could be thousands, millions, or even billions of dollars.
In case that was not convincing enough, consider the effects of a positive and engaged culture:
- 26% less employee turnover
- 20% less absenteeism
- 15% increased productivity
- 30% better customer satisfaction
- 65% increase in share-prices
If these numbers don’t mean much to you, consider that each one represents an opportunity to significantly lower costs or improve revenues. Simply put, a positive and engaged culture equals a better bottom line. This is why everyone involved in a company must put the mindset of their employees at the forefront of everything that they do. Culture can’t be just an HR issue because, honestly, it’s just too important.
While HR clearly plays a key role in defining company culture, by being the conductor and owner of many of the mechanisms that affect the employee experience, HR cannot be the only ones providing leadership around culture. All leaders throughout the company must take responsibility for culture and make decisions that support the desired culture each day. Culture has responsibilities at every level of an organization, and those at the top have the most influence on the mindset of the company. Research from Gallup suggests that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement levels and that employees who have engaged leaders are 60% more likely to be engaged themselves. Yet, we still see so many companies with completely complacent managers that don’t care about what they do and no one does anything about it.
I often hear owners, executives, and managers argue against investing their time and efforts into fostering a positive and engaged culture. Here are a few of the arguments I most frequently hear:
- We have to remain focused on our customers and their experience –after all we are in the customer experience economy. Of course customers are important, but I argue that we are in the employee experience economy. The talent war is over, talent won, and as a result if we do not take care of our best and brightest people another company will. If you take care of your employees and they feel good about whom they work for and what they do, they will naturally take care of your customers.
- Employees (especially young ones) don’t work hard anyway so why give them more? The reality is, Millennials and Generation Z, just as previous generations, have the capacity to work very hard; it’s just that the new generation of workers do not see the value in investing in a business that doesn’t invest in them. Rather than sitting back and accepting outdated thinking, unsafe (physically and emotionally) work environments, and managers that do not give a damn about them, younger generations are willing to speak up or walk out.
- The employees will just leave, anyway. Maybe they will, but if you want any chance to keep your best and brightest, then you have to provide them a better employee experience than they received in the past. Companies must create a reputation for themselves as a place where people want to work and want to be their best. This is where the best employees will be found now and more so in the future.
If you are focused on profits and productivity (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) then you must be willing to deliver a better employee experience to positively impact the mindset and attitude of your people coming to work. Culture is the most important thing in business today, so every owner, executive, and manager must keep it at the forefront of everything they do. We often ask ourselves what is the most important consideration in business today. The answer is clear: Company culture and the type of experience you create for your employees.
Come see me at ACE 2018 to learn more about how you can reprogram your employee experience to improve customer service, retention and performance.
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