Mark Faust: Culture Eats People for Breakfast

What’s the greatest constraint to growing your business; winning new business or recruiting and keeping great people? More and more it is becoming the latter. 

In 2009 I wrote “soon there will be a dearth of talent so significant, that bad work environments and unhealthy cultures will become much rarer. This will be due to the greatest onslaught of people ever to hit our economy, Baby Boomers, leaving the workforce. With the dip in available manpower we will struggle to maintain growth. Let’s hope your culture can catch up, because it is unlikely that automation will.”  

Well that time is now and getting and keeping great people is the top challenge for the majority of American companies. Click here to answer an AgPro poll on where you find the best employees. 

When you’re up against your best competitors what is your win rate? Is it good enough or dangerously low? Odds are your closure rate is fine. Although better strategy could help you to win more often, your bigger opportunity to fuel growth more likely has to do with creating a great culture.  

I’ve seen clients implement strategy so effective that it enabled them to win nearly every proposal on which they chose to compete. I’ve also seen companies with defensible and sustainable competitive advantage have to sell out because they could not recruit, nor retain talent well enough to grow. 

Culture has to do with beliefs. The definition of culture is the collective beliefs that determine the behaviors of a group of people. So the question is, how do you change beliefs? 

Here are three steps to help put your culture into the top echelon. 

1.    Take an assessment of your culture. Ask: what are the limiting beliefs we have as an organization? Then ask: what are the empowering beliefs that we have as an organization?

What is the impact of those beliefs? As compared to other similar businesses how engaged and happy are your people at the workplace? If you can’t measure it, it will be hard to know when you have improved. Whether you have outsiders familiar with many other workplaces give you feedback on how well you’re doing, or you conduct thorough and honest exit interviews with former employees, you’ve got to take your pulse and know the condition of your heart. 

2.    You must set cultural objectives. Most companies don’t have clear objectives in regard to their culture. These are companies who have never had a competent strategist assess the thoroughness of their objectives. These objectives will be measurable, timed and challenging and they will relate to changing the beliefs that will thus change the behaviors of you and your people. 

3.    Implement unique rules and rituals. These are practices so memorable, meaningful or maniacal that they make permanent impressions, ideally both inside and outside of your company. At Quicken loans the founder Dan Gilbert insists that every employee return every customer call and email the same day. Even if the call or missive comes in minutes before you leave the office you are expected to return it before you leave. Dan would give his direct line out at orientations and tell new hires, “if you’re too busy to return a call, call me, and I’ll do it!” The root belief was that there was a sense of urgency to the business, and that there was a sense of urgency to life. Having urgency about the former wins deals, having urgency about life wins hearts. 

You are in a battle for the best people in the marketplace. To get them you need to be the best workplace. To be a great place to work you need a compelling culture.