Have you ever stopped to define your company culture—either what it is or what you’d like it to be? No? Well, you’re not alone. Plenty of business leaders in the ag industry (and beyond) are complacent about company culture. Some assume culture just “happens” and is beyond their control. Others think it’s based on the personality of the founder or the GM who’s been on the job for decades.
Here’s why you should stop being complacent about company culture right now. When organizations create a strong, intentional culture, profits jump by 21%. They also have 24% less turnover, 41% less absenteeism, and 70% fewer safety incidents. If those numbers sound good to you, read on to understand what culture is and how to start creating a great one.
What is company culture?
Culture is a set of behaviors or beliefs that are characteristic of a group. We remind our clients that every organization, no matter the size, has a distinct culture. It’s on display every time you walk into a business and instantly notice how employees, customers, and owners all interact and behave.
Maybe you’re greeted with a friendly “hello!” when you enter the store … or maybe the cashier is too busy looking at his phone to acknowledge your presence. Perhaps you overhear a supervisor criticizing a worker for being late for her shift … or maybe a manager is thanking someone for organizing the storage room. No matter the scenario, what you’re witnessing is company culture in action.
The bridge between behavior and culture? Values.
Workplace behavior creates workplace culture—which, as the statistics above show, directly correlates to business growth and success. (One of our favorite management gurus, Peter Drucker, put it this way: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”) Want to ensure that everyone acts and thinks in ways that move the company forward? Focus on workplace values. Values are the bridge between behavior and culture.
Here’s a simple activity to identify your company’s core values and then link those values to behaviors that drive long-term business success.
Step 1. Make a list of key values words. Think about the language in your employee handbook, on the company website, or in the year-end summary for your board. Words that often come up during this exercise include integrity, service, teamwork, and respect.
Step 2. Now, think about a time when you noticed an actual employee behaving in a way that demonstrated a particular value. Did the cashier fetch a step ladder to get an out-of-reach item for a customer? Maybe she was showing service or pride in work.
Having trouble connecting a value to a story? Think about a pet peeve. If it drives you crazy when employees dump recyclable containers in the trash, your core value might be “protecting the environment.”
Remember to use values-language that’s authentic to you and your business. If customer service means “wowing” someone and employee development means helping workers “shine their brightest,” embrace those terms.
No matter the size of your company, identifying your core values is always worthwhile. As your company grows, and you start putting HR processes in place for interviewing and hiring or onboarding and giving feedback, your clearly articulated values and behaviors become a solid foundation to build on. You can remind yourself, your existing team, and your future hires what you stand for, and what your expectations and boundaries are. In other words, when your values serve as your North Star for guiding behavior and shaping company culture, it’s much easier to keep moving in the right direction.