I had lunch this week with a pretty smart business owner. He shared his perspective on his company and the ways he hopes to see the company grow. He shared a perspective I don't always hear- All of the policies and procedures in the world won't make our employees want to excel in their jobs. He recognized that he is seeking a culture of excellence in a tough industry and one in which it's easy to be negative. What he desires is that each employee will not only feel protected but proud to work for this organization.
I love that. I love to hear business owners see a bigger picture for their companies as it relates to their people. His words were not trite or trendy; they were passionate and heart-felt.
A sense of belonging and pride is not easy to cultivate. Think of what it means to have employees really want to "own" where they work. Don't start with the glass is half-empty - We understand that the reality is they don't own it. You start by investing in clear expectations and the competencies needed to perform well. The time spent on this helps each employee to know that what he/she brings to the table is valued and focused. It is time-intensive if you've not done it before, but those efforts will come back to the company exponentially.
Create job descriptions that make sense and work to the business bottom-line - from administrative assistant to line manager to CEO. Design and share expectations and allow performance to be measured against it. You will enable your employees to be proud of their accomplishments when you allow them to know what their focus is.
Companies put in huge initiatives to create this environment and it falls flat. Why? Because they do it in a vacuum and clinically. A company's personnel are not a lab experiment. Creating expectations and setting goals separately from engaging with current employees will only create policy not culture. There are employees that can talk to you about the heartbeat of a company and what really drives performance. This is not the same as just taking their input and creating a job description from it, but that perspective ought to influence the process.
When this business owner and I walked into one of the restaurants he owns, the staff was happy to see him and to engage with him. His tone and demeanor through the years helped to cultivate this reaction. Bear in mind that the company owns restaurants across the country. It is not that he's in charge of one place or only has one place. He and his team take the time to know their people and to set them up to succeed in the roles they have. Every manager gets it, every server gets it, every bartender gets it, every host gets it, every busser gets it.
But this leads us to the second step: cultivating this to understand its scalability as growth occurs. Another 150 employees are about to find out about this wonderful world, but how can that culture be developed with such expansion and more to come? The way to work in creating such an attitude of positive efforts given and appreciated is to continue to pour into a few. Work with those senior managers who then can work with those managers who can then work with their staff. They will tell two friends and so on and so on....
Granular, grassroots has validity as long as it's couched in behind the scenes process. The alignment of those job competencies along with strategies for effective communication to build up and push success is the ideal marriage. And it can be done.
However, it takes commitment, work and time. I know, annoying, right? Unfortunately, there is not a way around it if you want true success. Again, throwing an initiative or software at this will not make it happen, and honestly, it will just perpetuate the disconnect that some business leaders see in HR. There they go again, developing programs that require training and time with no results. We would want to serve as the support structure to such an initiative, but we would need drivers like the business leader I've mentioned here.
The rock is the C-Suite. They know what their expectations are; they know what the profitability needs to look like. If those folks could know that creating such an atmosphere would meet those objectives, then you can bet they'll be cheerleaders for it. They will gladly show corporate-love to all. So, how can you help? Bring some metrics to the table and show how increased cultural ownership creates positivity in attitude and in results. Employees will be proud of what they've accomplished and seek ways to cultivate more.
One final thought - this is not hearts and flowers. It's not about walking into the office "loving" everyone and holding hands while you recite the mission of the company. The truth of the average worker's tenure today is about 4 years before he/she leaves to find another job. And while we can talk about retention another day, what we should decide is the get the maximum out of each employee as he/she was hired to do for as long as we have that employee. Results, baby!