How To Create And Maintain Great Company Culture

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MotherG evangelizes the importance of culture.  In our recruiting.  In our sales.  In all our internal meetings and our employee interactions.  Core Values.  What we stand for.  I was recently asked in an interview with Jim Kendall from the Daily Herald, whether culture really matters to the results of the company, i.e., revenue, profits, costs and performance.  Specifically, does it add value?

The answer is yes!  Simply.  Emphatically.  YES!

Where our company culture was...

In 2011, MotherG acquired an IT and Telephony company.  On paper, we looked similar but when we began the integration effort we found huge disparities in the approach and attitudes expressed by the respective teams.

The MotherG team kept saying, “That’s not how we do stuff.”  The new folks said, “Great!  Tell me how you want us to align.”  And there was the rub.  We realized that our culture was implied.  And as we dug in, there were some company “behaviors” or habits that were not what we wanted and not proud of.  So we began a journey that has radically changed our nature.

At first, it wasn’t pretty.  We had to dig in and closely review everything involved in our company was run, from the inside out.  We had to expose the “dirty underbelly” of creating culture and having core values. There is no shortcut, but in the end, it was worth it and made us a better, stronger company for our employees, and ultimately, our client.

We got there, and you can, too.

Start with your Core Values

We spent a solid year defining, tuning and challenging what the team felt were our core values.  See them here.

We became students of Dave Logan – Tribal Leadership and Tony Hsieh of Zappos –  as leading thought leaders for defining and managing company culture.  We are very proud of our values.  They now permeate all aspects of our organization, starting with hiring, rewarding, managing, training, and firing (more on that later.)  Getting the values right does not happen quickly.  Take the time to get it right.

Live the Culture

If you are serious about culture then you must abide by your values.  It requires discipline and fortitude to execute.

  • Hiring. If values are core, they are core.  If someone does not align with the core values, they will not align with the company.  Thus, it is critical that we filter out the folks where our values do not fit. We question prospective employees not just directly on our values, but also ask for examples and experiences in their life that reinforce these values in action.
  • Rewarding. We look for the values in action.  We have a wheel with prizes that we spin each meeting to recognize the excellent work on the team.  Any employee can call out another for a specific action that demonstrates a core value in action.  We also discuss value alignment in employees’ monthly 121 meeting.
  • Developing. We look for career development based on our culture to improve the performance and engagement of each employee.
  • Firing. Employees who violate our Core Values are putting their job at risk, even if they have the right talent and skills on paper.  We will and have fired employees for their lack of values alignment.

So, what’s the Value?

I said earlier, the impact has been dramatic.  First and foremost, MotherG is an awesome place to work.  The employees are truly engaged in our mission and focus on our client experience.  We have fun.  Our voluntary turnover is zero in the past two years.  As a service business, happy and engaged employees deliver far better results to clients than apathetic, uninspired ones.

And our client satisfaction shows it.  Productivity parallels.  Employee productivity has steadily increased quarter over quarter.  And I bet you can guess the impact on the bottom line…profits are up over 300% in the last three years.

  • Client Satisfaction: top 1% in industry.
  • Client problem tickets: down 57%.
  • Engineer productivity: up over 110%
  • Project Revenue backlog above plan 7 consecutive quarters.
  • Employee turnover is 0.

 What’s The Downside?

  • Time.  Defining Core Values takes time, effort and commitment.  Don’t focus on culture improvement to make a higher profit.  Do it to build a better company.  The impact is slow to see and takes time to ferment.
  • Turnover.  Initially, you will find that some of your employees do not fit your newly defined culture.  If you are certain about the culture, these employees need to go.  This is not easy.  You can have great people but if they don’t engage or buy into the company’s culture, they won’t be successful.
  • Recruiting.  Typically, organizations hire based on skills to meet the job needs and whether the manager thinks he can work with the employee.  Now the rules have been changed.  You need people will the right skills and personality as well as core values alignment.  This takes time to learn the best way to determine alignment.  And will reduce your candidate pool in a tight hiring market.  But don’t cut the corners here.  You’re just creating problems in the future.

Culture eats strategy for lunch every day.  A fully engaged team of professionals will overcome bad decisions and conquer even the best plan.  Work on your culture first and reap the rewards.

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