Building a Culture by Design™
I’ve worked in some awesome companies— collaborative, educational, challenging, and most of all… fun! The best jobs have always had the best people. I’ve also worked in some not-so-great environments— political, demanding (in that “oh no – what are they making me do now” kind-of way), deceptive, and profit-at-all-costs thinking which made for a less than engaging job experience. What I’ve learned over the last decade at DISHER is that a great culture takes daily work but it’s worth the effort because it directly impacts an organization’s performance.
Building a Culture by Design™ is what we try to accomplish at DISHER. The process begins with a mission that is meaningful and followed. Our founder, Jeff Disher, was purposeful in the company he created. His mission from day one was simple, Make a Positive Difference. His investors and advisors initially criticized it as being too simple. After all, isn’t a mission supposed to be this profound paragraph that was wordsmithed to death by leadership? Many of us have experienced a mission that looks good and sounds great, but it’s merely lip service. Too many employers only value product lines, growing sales, and increasing margins. A mission statement must be bigger— more meaningful and motivational. It’s your why. According to Simon Sinek, (yes, I just can’t get enough of his work), the mission is the reason an organization exists. It’s what people can grab on to. What is your mission? How do you get people excited to live out your why?
How to Build a Culture by Design
Once you’ve established your mission as the foundation, it takes years of intentional practice to cultivate a thriving culture. Below are four useful tips to help your company move one step closer to a high-performing culture.
1. Hire with your company’s mission and values in mind.
One of the primary goals of your hiring team should be to evaluate how well a candidate understands and fits your company’s purpose. At DISHER, our frontline interviewing team serves as the gatekeepers of our mission. Through phone screenings, interviewing, and casual interactions, this team gets a better understanding of a candidate’s character. What makes them tick? What are they passionate about? Do their values align with our values? From the candidate’s perspective, it’s wise to provide them with the opportunity to talk with numerous team members. This helps potential team members understand if the messages are consistent throughout the organization. Candidates should have little doubt about what the company values are and how they will fit.
2. Develop company rhythms that reinforce the mission and values of your organization.
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Weekly meetings with your entire team are helpful to review your values (we call them Culture Characteristics) and build community. Specific praise of each team member’s wins and successes publicly in word or writing is powerful— no matter how big or small. Don’t be afraid to call out the “tarnished silverware” when needed. Share those things that need improvement or were left undone. Be intentional about discussing the mission and values regularly.
3. Enforce your mission and values through key metrics.
Every organization has the usual key metrics that revolve around sales, productivity, profitability, and customer service. But what about setting team member goals around completed projects on time, volunteer hours donated, and training hours completed? According to the recent March-April issue of Harvard Business Review, “Purpose-clarity organizations (where managers excel at communicating how employees’ work contributes to the mission… had better financial results.” Survey your organization using a validated tool that will give you measurable results. Set some goals and metrics that revolve around your mission and your values. At DISHER, we measure these goals and discuss them during team member evaluations.
4. Build trust through unvarnished communication.
A book that has been a guiding light for DISHER’s culture is Fierce Conversation by Susan Scott. Scott states, “Create an organizational culture where candor and curiosity are the expectation.” It’s difficult to work in a culture where you can’t speak your mind, or when there’s a disagreement— you walk away only to never bring up the conflict again. These situations can cause you to stew, fester, or talk to your friends outside of work about how you’ve been wronged. Or worse, you gather round the water cooler and chat about it with your peers. When a company attains open, honest dialogue in a caring and respectful way, you’ll find that people trust each other. I relish working in an environment where we don’t all have to agree, but we care about each other. People want to work in a culture where they know how they’re doing, where they stand, and that they’re cared for. Those fierce conversations are never easy but are so valuable. Keep in mind that unvarnished communication includes encouraging conversations as well. Promote the great things that people do! Send an e-mail when you hear how a person went the extra mile for a customer. Share the good stuff loudly.
In conclusion, I’d be remiss if I said that by doing these things you will never lose a team member. The reality is that there is no easy path to minimal turnover. Turnover happens— even when your culture is great. Sometimes a different organization is a better fit for someone. In the end, if you hire great people who believe in a meaningful mission, you will perform at a higher level. And you can hope that they will take a little bit of that mission with them wherever they go. If someone leaves DISHER to Make a Positive Difference elsewhere— then our mission was accomplished! We were able to engage people enough to pay it forward. That’s not turnover. We call them DISHER Alumni and we consider them part of our extended family.
One of DISHER’s strengths is coming alongside companies to help them Build a Culture by Design™. In fact, DISHER has had the pleasure of hosting hundreds of people through our complimentary 1.5-hour culture tours at headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan. If you or your team are interested in a public or private tour, please click the button below to register. DISHER also offers Culture Assessment Surveys and workshops on Strategic Vision Mapping, Organizational Development, and Leadership. As your culture improves—so will your bottom line.
Written By: Keri McCarthy, Business Lead – Talent Solutions
Keri is an expert in staffing management. She has over 18 years of experience in talent branding, talent selection, process implementation, talent related problem solving and reorganizing business units. Keri has worked in a variety of industries to assist companies in acquiring top talent as well as develop a solid infrastructure. She is also the instigator of office nerf wars!