by Maddie Grant
Company culture is not about being cool or even being a “best place to work.” It’s about being more successful. Period.
So while a lot of organizations may spend time trying to find the right balance of happy hours or break-room perks to try to bolster their culture and employee engagement scores, the companies that have the truly strong cultures—that run circles around their competition—actually take a different approach. They directly connect their culture to what drives their success and design their culture around that.
Quality Living, Inc. (QLI) is a healthcare company in Omaha, Nebraska that has come in first in their local “best place to work” award so many times, they’ve been effectively taken out of the competition and put in their own category in order to give some other deserving companies a shot at the top spot of recognition. How do they do it? Not through happy hours or foosball in the break rooms. They do it by being crystal clear on what drives the success of their enterprise.
What a powerful culture looks like
Powerful cultures have a clear understanding of what drives success. In the case of QLI, they have figured this out in a very tangible way. It’s a granular and focused understanding of what “makes or breaks” them. QLI provides rehabilitation to people with brain and spinal cord injuries. Their work is not just about providing adequate healthcare -- it’s about rebuilding shattered lives.
In order to be successful, they have to connect their healthcare services very deeply to the patient’s life, accessing the patient’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations in the process. It’s the only way to get the rehabilitation to really stick. That deeper, meaningful connection is what drives their success.
So they built their culture around that, particularly in the way they make decisions. Although they have a fairly traditional, hierarchical structure (on paper anyway), the actual practice of decision-making is really very fluid, morphing and flexing depending on who has access to that critical information about the patients’ hopes, dreams, and aspirations. If a particular patient was very passionate about sailing before their injury, there is nothing holding back one of the healthcare providers from spending money to get that patient out on a lake to do their rehabilitation work. According to one employee, “There are no lines we can’t cross in terms of creativity and what we can do for our residents.”
Changing your organization’s culture
Once you get clear on what drives your organization’s success, you’ll actually have to start changing how you do things internally so you can align your culture with the success factors and to make sure the processes you design end up rewarding people who behave in the ways that generate the most success.
How you run meetings internally, how you share information across departments, and how you do the basics of project management—these can all be low hanging fruit that you can address in order start clarifying and reinforcing a culture that drives your success. People need to see the changes happening in real ways for the new culture to take root.
From there, organizations doing this kind of thinking about culture almost always start to focus on deeper changes related to human resources—hiring, onboarding, firing, and performance management. Look at the famous culture “cool kid” in the business world, Zappos. They have infused their success factors into their hiring processes to ensure a culture of “WOW” customer service.
When you start to work on your culture, don’t settle for a positive-sounding list of core values that will look good as posters on the wall. If your core values are “customer focus”, “excellence and quality”, “innovation”, “collaboration” – I would argue that they are meaningless. Why? Because everyone else has those same core values. Instead, make a clear case that those posters you have about collaboration or respect actually connect deeply to what drives your success. Actually start building those ideas into your processes, both at the surface level and within your HR processes.
When the connection is clear, the employees will see it and behave accordingly, because deep down everyone wants to be successful. You’ll get that employee engagement you’ve been looking for while shoring up the bottom line in the process. Now THAT is a best place to work.
How do you help your staff connect culture to what drives the success of the enterprise?
Please join @shrmnextchat at 3 p.m. ET on January 18 for #Nextchat with special guest, Founding Partner of WorkXO, Maddie Grant (@maddiegrant). We’ll chat about what it takes to create a powerful culture in your organization.
Q1. What are the outward signs of a powerful company culture?
Q2. What leadership behaviors drive positive and powerful cultures within organizations?
Q3. Organizations should design their culture around what drives their success. True or false? -- and why?
Q4. What are the keys to creating vision and mission statements that will help ensure a powerful workplace culture?
Q5. How should employees be involved, and how can they be empowered, to create more powerful workplace cultures?
Q6. What is HR’s role in creating powerful workplace cultures?
Q7. As an HR professional, what inhibits your ability to create a more powerful culture in your workplace?
Q8. What is your advice for senior leaders at organizations with broken cultures for creating more powerful cultures?
If you missed this chat you can read the RECAP with all the tweets here.
The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.