If your organisation is already on the way to great company culture, your senior team will be ready to listen. So go direct to the top if you can - it will make the job much easier. Leaders who are behind the process will have the greatest success in setting principles, vision and direction. Get them on board and behaving in great company style and you are well on your way.
Give them this book to read, give them a copy of the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list and point out the graph that shows great company performance against the FTSE All Share (Appendix 3, slide 3). You may suggest entering for the list yourselves - it is a great way to benchmark. Above all, share your enthusiasm - if you are really excited by the ideas and prospects of a great culture and can see specifically how it will fit the company, this will be your most influential tool.
Remember, the measure of a great company is how colleagues feel about coming to work each day. The effectiveness of the business comes entirely from their enthusiasm about the work, so finding out about the present reality is the obvious starting point. A diagnostic process will offer some profound information - whether new discoveries or different ways of looking at what is already known. The usual path is to track the business figures and results carefully, letting people issues take second place. Great company culture demands that people issues come up to the same level of importance, because it is people who fuel the numbers and profit.
Building a convincing business case is essential if you are to bring senior leaders with you. Use the evidence here to explain how great company culture will impact directly on the business.
Suggested elements are:
the company context
issues that presently tax your leaders
the present culture and its impact on the bottom line
identifying great company competitors
suggestions for next steps
a call to action.
The company context You need to set the scene, and in doing so, share your passion for the subject. Look for a way to summarise in a few words the main reasons for suggesting great company culture. This may be:
a statement about your place in the market
the vision, and how well you are on track - or not
a statement that summarises how people feel about the organisation.
An example might be to put up three statements along the lines of:
Positive: We manage to hit our targets financially.
Issue: People do not stay here over the long term.
Question: How much better could we do if people enjoyed working here?
Alternatively, you might use a direct quote from a colleague that summarises how many people feel about the workplace. As long as the original speaker cannot be identified or ‘dropped in it', put this up and let it speak for itself.
Remember to behave in great company style from the outset. Use your integrity and be fair and honest. You need to connect to the heart as well as the mind. So show how strongly you feel about your subject and invite the senior team on a journey of discovery.
Collate the issues that are of greatest concern at the time of presentation and show how they connect to the need for a great culture. Give as many figures as you can to build your case.
Possible issues are:
Find out how much the company spends each year on recruiting the right people. To indicate how effective this process is, align with the retention figures.
Show how much it costs the company each time an employee chooses to leave. Recruiting takes time and money, but this is often the least of it. Once the decision is made, attention is already divided as the departing person works out how to hand over and aligns to the forthcoming challenge. The incoming person has to get up to speed with the work, colleagues, customers, and the team, and adjust life to the new demands. We are talking about a good six months before life is anywhere near normal for those on the receiving end.
Find out the annual colleague retention figures, including when most people leave - ie is it in the first six months, or are you losing your experienced people? Identify the cost in terms of loss of time, expertise and experience. You may be able to get this from your HR department if it is a statistic they track. If not, talk with your peers to find out what has been happening in their areas. Ensure that they know why you want the information, and make sure you do not identify a particular department, if it will cause difficulties.
Talk about the effectiveness of succession. Is the company developing leaders/managers for the future? Are the leaders on the board passing on their expertise to those who will follow? External appointments to the senior team may advocate bringing in new blood. Put it to them that relevant expertise and company experience is lost when people leave to further their career, so there is value in growing internal leaders. The concern about needing fresh thinking can be answered by the next point.
See if HR can give you statistics about career development. For example: how many high potential colleagues are getting experience in different parts of the business (thereby also bringing fresh thinking to the new area)? How many internal mentors are passing on their knowledge and experience? How often are appraisals taking place, and how many people have personal development plans (PDPs)? How many people have coaches? Find out if people believe they can develop their career in the company. Ask if they are getting the training and development they need to do their work well.
Find out what level of absenteeism you have in the company. You can judge this from your direct experience with your own people or speak to HR to see if it is something they measure. If people are taking a lot of time out in odd days, it may be due to a lack of engagement in their work. You do not want sick people coming in to work, but those who ‘throw a sickie' can take a sizable chunk off the bottom line. This makes it worth addressing the reasons why they are not fully connected and committed to the business.
Study the diversity profile. Does the organisation appeal to a range of people who can bring new ideas and angles into the business? Are you making the most of the value of age and experience?
Look at customer satisfaction figures, if they are available. How effective is the service given to internal and external customers? Do colleagues build strong relationships with customers? Does the company evoke a strong level of customer commitment? If there are no figures available, do a spot-check with internal customers - start with your own and find out how satisfied they are with the service you provide.
Use some direct examples of what the great companies do and how they relate to those who work for them - there are plenty of stories you can use from this book. Choose those that relate to work in your own organisation and draw a direct comparison where possible.
Then put up the graph reproduced in the Sunday Times of the quoted company results set against the FTSE All Share and use any of the statistics quoted in this book to show the impact of effective people management on day-to-day business. I have set out a draft PowerPoint presentation for you to refer to, containing relevant hard data and including this graph - see Appendix 3.
Depending on the industry sector, it may be useful to list the names of your competitors who appear on the list. As soon as the list comes out, the named companies see a jump in recruitment requests, bringing high-calibre people into view. The supplement is an obvious place for young hopefuls to look when they want to move jobs - why work in a place that offers little fun, development or future, when you can work for one of the greats? So if a competitor is named, they will have the pick of the talent pool, leaving you to make do with the under- qualified, unmotivated minnows!
If you are not sure of the best way to begin, I suggest one of the following:
Find out exactly what the culture is like at present. When you arrive new to a workplace, you see habits and unspoken traditions that surprise or delight you, but your awareness becomes dulled as you settle in and begin doing things in the same way as everyone else. For this reason, consider using outside consultants, preferably those who have not worked with you recently, but who have worked with great companies and can bring their ideas and experience to the process. Experience shows that someone with an external perspective can give good feedback in a short space of time with clear suggestions for next steps.
Most organisations undertake colleague surveys at regular intervals and it is an excellent way to stay up to date with the working experience. Consider using the 100 Best Companies to Work For methodology. The advantage of this is that all questions specifically target the capabilities and characteristics that mark out great companies. Furthermore, the results can be benchmarked against the 100 Best. This gives a very clear indication of how close the company is to being great and the areas that need to be addressed to fill the gaps.
If you think your company is doing well enough to get on the list, put in an application. If the company does not make the grade, there will be no public mention of the application, so it is not a PR risk. However, you will receive a summary of results and can access more indepth results which will give you an idea of what your company can do to improve.
Or when there is an obvious starting place:
You may be able to identify specific elements of the culture that are not functioning in great company style - for example, the communication systems. Alternatively, you may have leaders/managers who are keen to make changes in their specific area and would like to be a pilot for the whole company.
Put forward suggestions for next steps with the short-and long-term benefits of each:
A really simple first step is to remind leaders about the power of a ‘Thank you' and about taking the time to talk with people they pass in the office. Becoming a leader changes how people see you - even though you feel the same now as you always did. Those casual comments about the football or the kids are worth their weight in gold to people on the receiving end.
Managers are the glue of great company culture. It makes sense therefore to inculcate a great company mindset at this level - it is one of the fastest ways to promote a great culture. It will improve communication, increase the effectiveness of the appraisal process, ensure that succession is consistently high on the agenda, build celebration and reward into the system, and create strong teams with a sense of pride in their achievements.
Leaders have a significant role to play. They set the tone, convey vision and principles, role model the required behaviours and create the environment in which people can thrive. Enabling leaders to develop their emotional intelligence and understanding of what makes people tick will make them more effective as ‘keepers of the culture'.
Each company has its own signature of greatness determined by what colleagues want from their work, so involve them in deciding what will make each day great. Ask them for ideas for change. Use every working experience as a test-bed, providing information for other parts of the business. Invite people to run each piece of work ‘great-company-style'. Gather ideas regularly on a formal basis, offering people the chance to talk through what worked well and what did not work at all. Celebrate success and spread the news of what is going well in the company newsletter, on the intranet or just via team meetings and the grapevine. Have regular open forums and invite colleagues to join a discussion on the great company culture. Bring in respected people champions to provide support and empower people to act on ideas that receive acclaim.
Use a great company quote, statistic or colleague comment to inspire the leaders to action. Remember: great company culture is emotional - it is what inspires the heart, builds connections, and engenders pride. Logic wins minds, and you have offered that in results and statistics earlier in the presentation. Leave on a note that inspires the heart.