It was mid-November of 2005. Our company had just moved into a building that was four times larger than our previous facility.
We were a close knit group with great communication and transformational behavior amongst the employees. The larger area helped a silo atmosphere settle in, resulting in conflicting orders being issued and effective internal communication levels being lowered.
One morning during that November, two of our rising stars that were destined for greatness, appeared at my desk and said, “Change or we are leaving!” Change what? They wanted a change from Command and Control Management to Leadership through an Employee Driven Culture.
We immediately started the process. Teams were created within departments. Every team read a popular business book on creating culture. An employee council was started with representatives from each team. The team representatives brought to the council their teams culture statements: core values, vision and mission. One meeting was spent creating the values, then the vision and finally the mission.
The resulting culture statement was posted in every public room and in cubicles. It came alive by staff and new hires promising to live by the culture statement, which continues to be read before every meeting of five people or more. The culture statements provide the priorities used in making decisions.
The change to an Employee Driven Culture resulted in the organization becoming extremely high performing with employee engagement scores above the 90 percentile, sales growth and profit above industry norms, low turnover, winning awards for culture, product performance and workplace factors and finally, attracting incredible talent.
The following are some simple steps to create and maintain an Employee Driven Culture that unifies personal and organizational purpose:
- Let employees create the culture and they will have ownership.
- Repeat the culture statements often so it travels from conscious, to sub-conscious to sub-liminal.
- Cite specific statements from the culture when giving praise or providing correction
- Use numbers in front of the core values, so during a correction the words are minimized and the impact maximized. An example – core value #3 is “Quality in everything we do.” When a staff member produces something below acceptable quality standards, ask the question, “Is that #3?”
- Hold clients and vendors to the same core values. Life will be so much more harmonious.
- Market the culture statement on organizational web sites, and use a rotating core value on the signature line of e-mails. Employees will be held accountable by their clients.
- Have a regularly scheduled meeting with representatives of all teams to discuss tactical and strategic issues. Publish the agenda a week in advance so each team can discuss the items. Then send the minutes of the meeting to everyone in the organization within 24 hours. Everyone will have a say but not necessarily their way.
- Create a peer-to-peer weekly newsletter that is populated by each team. This document should contain their successes and failures as well as praise and appreciation for other teams. Positive peer pressure will encourage each team to produce more successes.
- Practice financial transparency. Everyone has a need to know. Share the knowledge with those that create the wealth, and then share a predetermined portion of the wealth with those that created it and wealth will rise!
Peter Drucker once said, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.” In most cases, that may be true. But with Millennials rising as the largest member generation in the work force, successful companies are adapting to this change.
The two young people that approached my desk have since co-started five sister companies and one stand-alone company. The change they wanted resulted in more success for everyone, including me.