“Culture is about performance, and making people feel good about how they contribute to the whole.” ~Tracy Streckenbach
In a previous post we talked about the 4 Building Blocks of a More Than Perfect® Service Culture. Now that the culture has been established, how do you go about making sure it is built into the fabric of the company? The mission, beliefs, values and principles that went into creating the culture have to be reinforced in some way every day.
It’s important to remember that the best company cultures don’t happen overnight, and they don’t happen by accident. (Think Zappos, Ritz Carlton and Amazon.) They develop over time and are shared, taught and recognized by all employees, from the CEO on down to the newest hire.
Here are ways to reinforce and incorporate your service culture standards:
- Make your culture a part of the hiring process. The company culture should be introduced before someone is even hired to make sure they are aware of the expectations. It should be included throughout the hiring process. I know of a few companies that will bring a prospective hire into the workplace to talk and interact with some of the employees. This gives the prospective new hire a chance to ask questions about the company, and also gives employees a chance to see if the potential new hire fits in with the culture. Zappos is famous for paying their employees to leave the company if they feel they do not fit in with the culture of the company! The culture should also be included in the job descriptions for every employee. Make sure to hire the people that are committed to your philosophy.
- Continuously promote the culture in all aspects of the business. Include it on all correspondence, literature, newsletters, signs, pamphlets, orientation, rewards programs, etc. You don’t have to include all aspects of the culture all the time, you can break it up into the core components, and spread it around. Make up cards that fit in the pocket that espouse your virtues.
- Continuous training and reinforcement. Suffice to say your company culture should make its way into all education and training programs, especially customer service departments and front line employees. It is important to remember that every employee is part of the customer service team, even if they never see an actual customer. If an employee does not deal with any customers, then they deal with someone who is dealing with customers.
- Have a top flight rewards and recognition program for employees. Former GE CEO Jack Welsh said: “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” Employees want to wake up in the morning and look forward to coming to work. They want to feel appreciated and valued for their contribution, and the more they sense those feelings, the harder they will work. They want to feel connected to what the company stands for. Bring your culture into the way you recognize your employees. It can be daily, weekly, monthly, or all of the above. There should be guidelines, but there should be no limit to the creativity you can use to recognize and reward your employees.
- Incorporate culture into the review and evaluation process. Performance reviews are an important part of the development of every employee, especially new hires. I’ve long been a fan of 30, 60 and/or 90 day performance reviews for new hires, and included in these reviews should be how well the employee fits into the culture of the company. Evaluations can be tricky, as skills and tasks may differ from department to department, but the values, principals and core beliefs are constant throughout the company, and need to be part of the review process.
- It starts at the top. Leaders, managers and supervisors must be seen living the virtues of the company culture if they ever want their employees to follow suit. Company culture starts at the top, and if employees don’t see their leaders living the culture, than why should they? Great leaders never ask their employees to do something they would never do. That’s why senior management should work alongside their employees. Work the front desk, pick up garbage if they see it, wait tables in the restaurant if they are busy. Zappos makes all their employees from the top down work the call center every month, so they are on the front lines. Employees will go the extra mile if they see their leaders doing the same thing.
- Have fun! Life is too short, and sometimes too serious, so make it a joy to work for your company. Do unexpected things, such as bringing in a masseuse to give 15 minute massages one afternoon, or have a birthday party once a month for everyone who is celebrating that month. Create contests that will challenge your teams, or a bowling league, cooking classes or a movie night. Part of your company culture should be to enjoy life!
Your company culture is the foundation which supports all aspects of your business. The core values will always remain the same, but as the company grows, so should the culture. It is important to make your culture a part of all areas of the business, so it is well known for all to see, recognize and follow with a sense of pride and purpose. It is all part of making your employees raving brand ambassadors.