We’ve been on the road a lot these past few weeks, attending and presenting at conferences like GEAPS and MGFA. After countless conversations with ag and feed leaders, it’s clear they’re VERY interested in creating a company culture that ensures their businesses and their employees succeed.
It’s great news—but here’s the rub. While leaders understand there’s a link between a strong culture and things like morale, productivity, and retention, many simply don’t know how to improve their own company culture. We’re not surprised, because the message, “build strong culture” comes through loud and clear these days (so does the implied “or else”). Unfortunately, what’s often missing is guidance on how to bring about a culture change.
Here’s People Spark’s quick take on creating strong company culture— three strategies to embrace immediately.
DO assess the current state of your company. If you don’t know what’s broken, how can you fix it? To ensure your company is resilient and ready for growth, you need a clear picture of your business- and HR strategies. These “culture cornerstones” influence everything from who you hire and how they fit with the team to how long employees stick around and how motivated they are to help the company succeed.
To be clear, this does not mean sending out an engagement survey. In our experience, the #1 mistake leaders make is asking employees to weigh in on company culture before (or, worse yet, instead of) intentionally defining and creating it. Relying on a survey to drive culture is an “all hat, no cattle” strategy that makes you feel like you’re taking meaningful action. In fact, surveys may usher in new problems by setting expectations of change and creating pressure to address complaints quickly. This reactive (not proactive) stance usually results in short-term solutions and Band-Aid fixes that don’t resolve root causes.
Employees are more likely to give honest answers when the company culture is built on trust and respect. If that foundation’s not yet in place, it’s hard for leaders to gauge how meaningful or accurate the survey results really are. So pause on an engagement survey until you have laid the groundwork of your company culture.
(Our 3-step HR Assessment tells you what you need to know about your company’s business- and people practices.)
DO invest in your leaders. “70% of the variance between a strong culture and a lousy culture is the knowledge, skills, and talent of the team leaders,” Buckingham and Goodall explain in their book, Nine Lies About Work. And a recent report found that “95% of employees say managers are making everything worse.” With that much responsibility on their shoulders, if your top people aren’t skilled leaders, your whole business is at risk. The solution? Train your managers on how to communicate effectively, give meaningful feedback, and make their people feel valued and respected. These skills aren’t “soft;” they’re essential.
(We designed the Ignite to Transform for Team Leaders (I2T4TL) to give leaders game-changing skills right away. Learn more.)
DO collaborate with a trusted partner. Making decisions about company culture can be overwhelming. Having a trusted partner to bounce ideas off makes the process easier, whether that person is internal to your business or an external consultant. Here at People Spark, Erin and I always discuss where our company is going and how we’ll get there before sharing our ideas and strategies with the rest of the team. We truly value these conversations about everything from systems and processes to values and alignment because anything we throw out to the group always comes back better.
(Read how Prairie State Tractor brought about culture alignment through a merger.)
We hope these tips get you on the right track for defining, changing, and strengthening your company culture. These steps are fundamental to achieving the growth and success you and your team deserve.
The next step in defining your company culture is to email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to talking with you about the company culture you need in your business to achieve your business goals.