Do your employees know where you want to take the company and are they all going in that direction?
Many companies in the portable storage industry are family-owned and operated. The benefit of that is the family members know each other and understand how each individual thinks and behaves. This is known as “the organizational culture.” Organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions.
Once the owner-operated company starts to grow and non-family members are hired, regardless of their positions, they need to understand the organizational culture as well. The “family way of doing things” has to be taught and just a few small businesses seem to pay attention to the importance of this process. Having a documented “organizational culture” or “the way we do it here” program is essential for any organization and here are some good reasons for why:
• It helps new employees quickly learn how people in the company think and help them transition into the team;
• It helps transmit the spirit of the founder of the company to new employees;
• It gives all employees guidelines to operate within the “we feeling”;
• It helps management with hiring or firing of people that fit or don’t fit the program; and
• It gives the outside world, customers, vendors etc. an impression of the company that is also reflected in each of its employees.
To establish these types of programs, management has to take the lead and make a continuous disciplined effort to keep the program in front of the employees on a frequent basis.
There are a number of different ways to go about building a corporate culture and it is very important that the architects of the culture include the organization’s values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits.
One can hire management consultants, send the employees to leadership training etc. However, it all starts with the owner of the company. The owner-operator is most often a successful entrepreneur as a result of a number of personal attributes: he understands his customers’ needs and understands the value of giving service. In a growing company that wants to be successful, these attributes have to be taught to the employees and transmitted in such a way that it applies to all employees regardless of their function in the company. There within lies a big challenge: how do you train the sales people, the accounting staff and the drivers so that they interpret and use the corporate culture in a unison way?
Here are some of the components that a program for organizational culture should include:
• Mission – Strategic Direction and Intent, Goals and Objectives and Vision
• Adaptability – Creating Change, Customer Focus and Organizational Learning
• Involvement – Empowerment, Team Orientation and Capability Development
• Consistency – Core Values, Agreement, Coordination/Integration
If you are the owner-operator and want to implement a program of this kind, you must take charge and drive the topic within your organization. The first step is to assemble other leaders within your company and get them to go along with the idea. Once you have a core group, you can decide on how to build a program and how to implement it. You can choose the “do it yourself” method which is as easy as writing down a few guidelines and presenting them to your employees or choose a more advanced method by selecting one of many management programs and adapting it to your business. A more sophisticated approach is to hire an outside coach who works with you and your employees on a regular basis. Regardless of what approach you take, it is very important to maintain your program in front of the members of the organization at all times.
If your corporate culture program gets traction, you have to balance what you do. You can’t drive it into being a cult that is perceived as an exercise in brainwashing. Some employees welcome these types of structures and some don’t. The ones that don’t can be divided into two categories: those that will adapt and those that won’t. If you have employees that don’t want to participate in your corporate culture program, they are better off somewhere else and that needs to be brought to their attention sooner rather than later. When an employee chooses to not blend in with the company culture and resists encouragement to change, termination may be the only choice.
The benefits of implementing and maintaining a strong organizational culture is that you, as the owner, will see areas of your business that need improvement more clearly. The employees will be more engaged and comfortable with their positions and therefore able to give you recommendations for improvements that may not have been pointed out to you otherwise. Customers, vendors and other stakeholders to your business will see the company as one organization that represents certain values and all employees, regardless of position, are consistent with that value and strive for the same goal.
Building an organizational culture takes a lot of time, effort and determination but it is an investment in time that will make your business better.