According to Steve Bagshaw, general manager of Abco Products, culture is at the heart of Abco. Here, Steve outlines the five key areas businesses should focus on in order to build and grow company culture.
The only sustainable competitive advantage any business has today is the people and culture that make the organisation.
Almost every other aspect or competitive advantage of our businesses can be replicated, copied or upstaged. However, a company’s culture is unique, and if carefully nurtured will undoubtedly become the essence of the company’s success.
To build a great culture takes effort and focus. But it is possible! When you trust the people around you to give their best, it leads them to live up and sometimes even exceeds your expectation. At Abco Products, we focus on these five areas to create an awesome corporate culture:
Our people need to have a clear understanding of where the business, their department, their team and their role is going. Do they know how they fit into the bigger picture, and therefore how they can contribute to the short, medium and longer term goals of the business?
If our people have a sense of ‘where we are going?’ they will feel a greater sense of fulfilment and of contributing to a purpose and journey much larger than just their day to day role. How are you communicating the vision of the business to your team?
Guiding everything you do in your business should be a clearly articulated set of core values. Can you and your employees clearly articulate what behaviour looks like at the three levels of underperforming, meeting expectations and exceeding expectations?
If not, work hard at defining these behavioural performance levels against each of your core values. And, don’t just try and copy someone else’s, spend time fine-tuning what is really important to you with your ‘inner circle’ in the business. It will take time and you’ll likely amend it a few times, but will be one of the best investments of your time in your business.
Do your people feel they are in the know? Plants won’t grow or flourish if they are kept in the dark, and nor do our people at work. When people feel like they are communicated with and know what is going on, it increases trust and engagement and therefore strengthens culture and performance.
An effective communication strategy should include a structured program of communication – regular meetings, either one-on-one or in teams; performance reviews, where both manager and employee realign their expectations and review progress; strategy update sessions and more. Other communication strategies in support of people and culture could include newsletters and emails, but never overlook the importance of verbal catch-ups as part of a holistic communication strategy.
Remember, whatever your communication methods are – be consistent! As a leader in the business you set the tone. If you are inconsistent in your approach to communication, you can’t expect your people to be as accountable as you will want them to be. Therefore, if you are considering embarking on a new communication method, ensure you are going to be able to maintain your commitment to it.
Business changes over time so it is critical that you are regularly reviewing to ensure have got the right people in the right seats, and that they want to be in that role. To support this, use an effective and proven hiring methodology. If you don’t have time to do it properly yourself, hire external assistance to support you. Consider this; if you had the chance again, would you enthusiastically re-hire every one of your people? The answer is likely no!
So, think about what went wrong – was the hiring done is a rush? Did you hire solely on skills and not on values? Or, have you been sloppy in your people management and not communicated the issues? Remember, the vast majority of people really do want to do the right thing, so if they are doing something wrong – tell them! As a leader you have to have the guts to have the tough conversations.
This is the one element that underpins everything. As a leader you have to be trustworthy first and foremost, and all of the elements of our conduct build this over time.
The way we communicate, walking the walk not just talking the talk, demonstrating genuine respect and interest in our team members, caring about their development, demonstrating clarity of vision and direction, displaying ‘sterling fairness’ – all of these elements, and so many more, contribute to a culture of trust. Trust is the foundation of long term success.
An empowered workforce will achieve exponentially better results than the same people in a disempowering environment. Achieving this will take time so don’t expect overnight results, but if you feel like you need to improve, make a start! You can’t expect next year to be different if you don’t change something.
So, to all the managers and leaders out there, it’s up to you – the war is on for talent attraction and retention, and you’re either winning or losing. In today’s tough climate, there is no middle ground.
This first appeared in the July/August issue of INCLEAN magazine.