Managers: Throw Out the Mission Statement - Create a Culture Club Instead

Managers: Throw Out the Mission Statement - Create a Culture Club Instead

G. L. Hoffman, author of the widely-successful blog,What Would Dad Say, and one of the early executive team members of JobDig, where job seekers learn to "dig their job," recently sent me several photographs of a typical summer morning at his company.

The photos were of his employees competing in crazy contests at 9am in the morning. A pregnant woman rowing a boat across the floor had just won for her team. It was all part of a Olympic-themed sales contest he and his two fellow company leaders, Paul Moquist, the VP of Sales, and Toby Dayton, the President/CEO, created as a way to have fun and inspire their team to reach their goals. For many managers, the mere idea of holding weekly events during prime work hours seems ridiculous. Not to mention, the fact they were acting like kids.

So when I asked G.L. why they actually encouraged this activity when most others would shun it, he simply said. "I only like to work at places that are fun - and so do the people we hire." GL, Paul and Toby are succeeding where many other companies are failing. With 90% of their team under the age of 30, these three executives have a keen understanding of how important building a 'corporate culture club' is to talent development and retention, and they've got the stats to prove it. Turnover is low, productivity is high, and is a place where young professionals feel they can really learn and grow.

While further questioning of G.L. proved the executive team understands the strengths (tech savvy, multi-taskers) AND weaknesses (unfamiliar with business protocol and not trained in the best ways to communicate by corporate standards) of Gen Y professionals, he gives one simple answer as to why they, unlike many other frustrated managers of young talent, are able to get this generation to take criticism, work hard, be resourceful and push to exceed expectations: "They trust us."

If you are an HR executive or hiring manager, then you know all about the challenges of keeping employees happy these days. You can't escape the extensive discussions around the impending talent (not labor) shortage. Meanwhile, employees, especially the younger ones, are job jumping more than ever. And let's not forget that things like technology and generational differences are making employees feel even more disgruntled.

So, how do you move past this and get your people to stay? Yes, that's the million dollar question – literally. With turnover costs skyrocketing, and disengagement causing additional costs (increased use of sick/personal time, excessive use of company materials to deliver products/services, and a decrease in productivity due to job dissatisfaction to name a few), finding ways to keep people happy should be every business leader's obsession. Unfortunately, a short-sighted approach to increasing the bottom-line for the last two plus decades has resulted in the disintegration of the employee-employer relationship. And now, it's coming back to bite corporate America in the you-know-what.

Good news, keeping your employees doesn't require black magic or lots of money. If you want to retain your talent, then you need to assess your company's corporate culture on four points, and then, adjust accordingly. It's not a quick fix. Creating an effective corporate culture does requires some effort, but a focused shift in approach and some well-planned initiatives on your end can have some impressive results in a reasonable period of time.

So, if you are ready to make the effort, then here are the elements you should address:

1. Goals & Governance

Forget the mission statement, what is your company trying to accomplish on a daily basis and what values and approaches to business do you support to reach those goals? It's time to articulate how you operate – and then stick by it! If you pride yourself on quality, then define the process every employee should consider when delivering your definition of quality. Share with employees the thoughts that govern your approach to business and they'll follow your lead. Better still, provide concrete examples of how this approach benefits them personally, and you'll see better results. Award and recognition programs that support your ideals as well as company policies and philanthropies speak volumes. As the saying goes, 'actions speak louder than words." A great example is Northeast Delta Dental. President, Tom Raffio, VP of HR, Connie Roy-Czyzowski, and the rest of the company's executive team have created a corporate culture outlined on their website that clearly conveys to visitors what they stand for. To me, a company that can list awards it's won for being a good employer and who has a formal policy for evaluating its executive board member's efforts implies the management team is making a pretty good effort to satisfy its employees.

2. Physical Environment

If you want employees to wake up each morning excited about going to work for you, then create a space that's worth going to. Survey your employees and determine what would make the experience of coming to the office more enjoyable. The average American spends 1/3 of their day on-the-job. What can you do to your employees' physical surroundings to make them feel more inspired and positive? And, if you can't afford to create a nicer office, then consider letting your people work someplace else that inspires them (coffee shop, home office, etc.) once in a while so they can be re-energized by these surroundings.

Benefits & Perks

You do not need to offer every benefit under the sun, but you do need to get more creative when it comes to figuring out what your employees would benefit from outside of work in order to make their attitude towards work, that much better. Look beyond the basics, and ask the question: How can working at our company support an employee's personal goals in life? I just read a new book called, “The Dream Manager" by best-selling author, Matthew Kelly that tells the fictitous story of a janitorial supply company with 400% turnover. The manager tasked with fixing the problem comes up with the concept of hiring a Dream Manager for its employees. A fascinating concept, and definitely worth the read. In the mean time, why not ask your employees directly what's important to them in their personal lives, and then find ways to provide benefits that can help them achieve these aspirations?

These days, medical benefits, 401Ks, and vacation time are givens. It's time to identify several unique, life-changing perks which can serve as your company's personal loyalty builders. For example, young professionals are usually unrestrained by home ownership or budding families. Two characteristics of the average Gen Y worker are that they are just starting out financially, and they like to put a premium on having fun. I know one Gen Y employer that provides a financial planner on-site one day each month and encourages its younger employees to make appointments with the planner to learn how build a plan to become financially independent. With the average college grad amassing more than $17K in debt, and as many as 4 out of 5 grads having to move home because they can't afford to live on their own, helping these employees get financially fit is powerful. Another company I know who employs a large percentage of Gen Y started a monthly after-work social, where it foots the bill for a single round of drinks and some appetizers.

However, the real highlight is the raffle which pays the winner's rent for the month. A check is made out and sent directly to their landlord to ensure the money is used as intended. An inventive perk that gets attendance up and gives management an opportunity to socialize and connect with staff more personally – something that the Gen Y working population has said is very important to them in countless professional surveys.

4. Hiring & Development

Building a corporate culture club is EVERYONE'S job at your firm.

Ask yourself these questions: Do you have a hiring process that includes team members from all key areas of your company? Do the people tapped for interviewing candidates know how to interview effectively? Are your managers and employees good at communicating and coaching each other? Do they know how to assess and develop the skills of one another? And most importantly, are you a strong motivator who knows how to recognize and cultivate staff?

Over at Jellyvision, the interactive media company best known for the on-line game show "You Don't Know Jack," President, Amanda Lannert, takes hiring and development of staff so seriously, she makes it one of her top priorities. "Every time we add a person to our staff, we make sure he or she is a true fit to our corporate culture. We just can't afford to miss the mark and run the risk of bringing in someone who won't feel connected with the rest of the team." An extensive, competitive hiring process ensures that the right candidate is selected for Jellyvision and that staff learns how to identify who would work best in their culture. This is not just a recruiting function - it's a professional development opportunity for staff. A company who creates opportunities to mentor employees and does a good job of developing staff's professional skill sets is a company worth staying at. Unfortunately, ask the average manager today if they have the time and the ability to mentor their people and you'll get a resounding, “No!"

In fact, a recent survey indicated 60% of managers said the hardest part of their job was creating professional development opportunities for their staff. Lack of time and knowledge of the best way to do it within their organization were two of the reasons they said caused this challenge. The good news is this can actually be outsourced. Yes, outsourced. Some managers just don't have it in them to be good mentors, but they are still good at many other aspects of their jobs. The answer is to seek out workplace consultants and HR specialists that can fill the mentoring void.

To sum it up, if you want to see employees stay, then you need to create a culture that enriches their lives in ways the current workforce has not seen thus far. Make the bold move to resurrect the employee-employer relationship by following the points above and you'll see some measurable results.

Man on laptop enjoys summer while working full time

There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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