Guest post by Nigel Hartley, a Business Advisor with The Shirlaws Group.
Too often I hear business owners dismiss culture as ‘touchy feely” and having no real business value, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Your culture is your brand and without an aligned workforce, hopefully with a purpose, your business is worth nothing.
Over the coming weeks I will be publishing a series of 4 articles that talk about living your values, the importance of having a purpose, delving into the changing demographics of the workplace and lastly the impact of social media and in each case demonstrating how they influence your culture and by default your brand. So, let’s kick this off with a discussion around the importance of values!
Are you living your values?
Culture is the glue that holds the business together. Sir Richard Branson is quoted as saying companies should train employees well enough to leave and treat them well enough to stay. Culture is a big part of this and is not a static proposition. The number of times we meet business owners who state that they have a great culture but are unable to articulate it! You are clear on the revenue number you are shooting for but what is the mission of the business? Do you have clearly defined values and are they documented? Are they clearly defined, measurable behaviors that bring these values to life?
Let’s investigate this further. If I was to say that company A has values of Communication, Respect and Integrity- who could this be. When I ask this question normally, I get answers like a well-established corporation or a successful business. In fact, the right answer is Enron, which is a very sad joke because we all know how that ended. They clearly did not live their values especially Respect where they identify the main behavior as “We treat others as we would like to be treated” Wells Fargo is a more recent example of a failed culture and each case the problems started at the very top.
At the other end of the spectrum is companies like Netflix who not only work hard at living their values but spend a lot of time being totally transparent about it and encouraging people to look into their culture before joining the organization. There is an extensive slide deck which walks one through all aspects of their culture and how they will adapt it as they continue to grow. One thing that stands out to me is that they realize that change is inevitable, but they embrace it and have a culture that will adapt as required. They do have 9 values which I struggle with a little. We encourage clients to keep it to 3 values in order that everyone can memorize them.
Is Netflix the right place for everyone to work at and are they the perfect company? Clearly the answer is no to both but by spelling out clearly what to expect, one should be under no illusions what to expect. Netflix is a high-performance company with high expectations of its employees.
Both the good and bad examples above are of very large companies, but these lessons can be applied to all sizes of companies. A couple of local examples.
Delta-PM is a great example of how these values can be brought to life.
We talked at the beginning about culture reflecting the brand and nowhere is that more true than Linkenheimer CPA. One only has to look at their website to see how culture is paramount at every turn.
What is a fact is that that there is a strong correlation between culture and employee retention, both from an employee and employer standpoint. Here are a couple of key findings from a Robert Half 2018 survey
- More than one-third of workers in the U.S. (35 percent) and Canada (40 percent) wouldn't accept a job that was a perfect match if the corporate culture clashed.
- Nine out of 10 U.S. (91 percent) and Canadian (90 percent) managers said a candidate's fit with the organizational culture is equal to or more important than their skills and experience.
Countering that however over a number of research data I have seen recently is that only a quarter to a third of employees believe their organization has a clear mission and strong values. There is clearly a lot still to do as your culture is your internal brand.
To summarize living your values is challenging at the best of times but those companies that do, thrive and those that don’t wither and eventually die. Your values and how you live them is the glue that holds your culture together. Your culture is your internal brand and ultimately is reflected in your overall brand.
Shirlaws advises private enterprise how to grow, fund or exit their business in order to enjoy their life’s work. We help them find the confidence to change, the courage to invest and the freedom to choose their path. They love what they do, and so do we. www.shirlawsgroup.com. Nigel Hartley is a Business Advisor with Shirlaws and can be reached on 707 573 7154 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.