Your Company’s Culture Starts from This Perspective
There are a few intangibles within a company that make a difference as much as culture. Every organization has one, and everyone knows what it is. They may not know why it is, but they definitely know what it is. Typically, culture can be categorized into three types, broadly speaking. The first is a culture I will call blah. It is neither invigorating or toxic, but it is definitely not exciting. Employees might describe such an organization as neither great or terrible to work in. There may be a good deal of competence throughout the organization, but few go the extra mile. Leaders in the organization might be described as “ just okay.” It’s a paycheck. A person gets up in the morning and goes to work here because “that’s what you do.” Likewise, with few exceptions, customers don’t have much to say about the organization, either good or bad. They needed to have their air conditioner repaired, their plumbing problem fixed or their pool pump replaced, and that’s what they get. Turn the page.
A toxic organization however, now that will get people talking. Perhaps there is a culture where initiative and risk-taking is strictly the domain of management. Perhaps the only management feedback occurs when an employee does something wrong, and management by fear is the prevalent characteristic. Perhaps the culture is one where backbiting and CYA behavior are rampant. Employees in such organizations love to share their common disdain of company practices with each other. Like the blah organization, there may be a good deal of competence within the firm, but that is not what the average customer takes away from the average experience with such a company. They may perceive a high level of bureaucracy, one where no one can make a decision except “the boss.” While the service call might have been handled correctly from a technical aspect, a customer nevertheless walks away from the experience thinking the company is just not very friendly or customer oriented.
Then there is the company where the culture is electric. There may only be the same level of competence as in the other two organizations, but something is clearly different. Employees actually like to go to work everyday for this company. Instead of simply complaining about what they don’t like or about policies that aren’t working, employees are actually encouraged to participate in making positive changes. Customers see it too. While they may not have seen the condenser fan motor that was replaced, the drain that was cleared or the DE pool filter that was changed, they see something even more important. Perhaps it takes the form of a condensing unit that was cleaned and waxed, faucet aerators that were cleaned or skimmer baskets that were emptied. What they are seeing are employees who care about the work they do and the customer for whom it was done.
What makes the difference in determining your company’s culture? Leadership, plain and simple. Employees take their cues from the top of the organization, and mirror that behavior in their own. What can leaders do to foster a positive culture? Generally speaking, it comes down to some very basic things. First and foremost, behave the way you want your employees to behave. You set the example for others to follow. Second, define the mission and values of your organization in writing, and make sure everyone knows what they are – employees and customers alike. It is critically important that these values be communicated regularly. It is also extremely important to make sure communication is open, honest and available. Make sure your employees feel comfortable in approaching you with problems and ideas, and make sure you are available to spend time talking with them about their concerns. Finally, hire for character and train for competence. Like a sports team that drafts for athleticism over position specific experience, make sure the people you hire in your company are the people customers want in their homes. They will reward you with referrals and continued business.