By Bridget McCrea
In this 3-part series, tED Magazine explores the value of creating a corporate culture where people want to spend 8+ hours a day, how to go about developing this type of culture, and the strides that NAED members are making in this area.
Most companies agree that corporate culture correlates to competitive advantage, but just 10 percent of firms succeed in building a winning culture. How can your electrical distributorship buck the trend and come out ahead?
In today’s business world, it’s not enough to just offer a good compensation and benefits package and hope that your valued employees stick around long enough to make a positive impact on the organization. With the 78 million Baby Boomers in the throes of retirement, the labor pool tightening, and the economy improving, ignoring the fine points of developing and managing a culture-oriented workplace can create real challenges down the road. Not only will your employees start looking elsewhere for more inspiring and engaging environments, but your stable of veteran workers will be largely unmotivated to form strong bonds with their co-workers, align themselves with your brand, and make moves that benefit the overall company.
According to a Bain & Co., study nearly 70 percent of business leaders agree that culture provides the greatest source of competitive advantage. In fact, more than 80 percent believe an organization that lacks a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity. Bain also notes that while business leaders recognize culture’s crucial role, fewer than 10 percent of companies succeed in building a winning culture. And, even those firms that manage to foster high-performance cultures often find them hard to sustain.
“The strongest cultures bind people together across both hierarchy and geography, guiding them to make the right decisions and advance the business without explicit direction,” Bain & Co., states in its report, Building a winning culture. “One Southwest Airlines employee captured that notion well when he said, ‘We all work hard, but to do anything else would be like letting your family down.'”
What’s Your Culture?
By creating an excellent corporate culture – and then honing it regularly and sharing it with both existing and prospective employees – electrical distributors can not only stem the flow of exiting employees, but they can also engage veteran workers, and attract new candidates. Defined by Inc., magazine as “the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature,” corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. “As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure,” Inc. concludes.
“Your company culture defines the environment in which your employees are going to work, and the environment that’s ultimately going to be conveyed to your customers,” says Amanda Shore, a human resources expert with Herd Wisdom in Montreal. “To put it simply, your happy employees lead to satisfied customers because a happy employee is going to do whatever it takes to ensure that customer is taken care of and happy.”
And because engaged, happy staff members want to contribute to the success of the company, creating a supportive atmosphere for them to come to work 8+ hours a day is extremely important. “That will lead to company loyalty and ensure that they really want to be a part of your organization,” says Shore. “It will literally motivate them to success and keep them around for the long term, rather than just serving as a ‘stepping stone’ for them as they look for their next job.”
So, what does it take for a company to be an organization that people want to work for? According to the Human Capital Institute the perfect employee engagement cocktail is made up of 30 percent teamwork, 50 percent management, and 20 percent company culture. “The corporate culture piece is a very important component in the overall employee engagement picture,” says Shore. “Without it, firms can face some pretty steep challenges in the areas of employee engagement and retention.”
Now is the Time to Act
Shore says distributors looking to improve their cultures should start by examining their current organizational values, management actions, employee behaviors, and leadership habits. From there, strive to create a culture that rewards employees for simply coming to work, that inspires candidates to fill out job applications, and that creates a positive public image. “An organization’s vision and values should be more than words on a fancy piece of paper,” says Shore. “They need to be words and actions that the company lives by.”
Creating a strong corporate culture isn’t easy, but it’s an area that electrical distributors can’t afford to ignore any longer. In many cases, Shore says companies miss the cultural mark by having stringent, unwritten rules in place (this is particularly true for smaller operations that may be family-run and not necessarily interested in changing up their age-old cultures) that deter employees from truly connecting and engaging with their employers.
“When your employees start to feel penned-in by strict rules, poor work-life balance policies (i.e., flex time, telecommuting, and so forth), and/or the fact that they’re not getting recognized for a job well done,” says Shore, “they start to lose faith in the culture and begin looking around at other employment options.” Other missteps include not making employees aware of their advancement opportunities, failing to train workers on new product applications and uses, and making them work long hours that cut into their personal lives. “Work-life balance is a very important concept,” says Shore, “and one that companies can’t afford to ignore when they’re creating their corporate cultures.”
In the next part of this article we’ll look at the steps that distributors should be taking right now to shore up their corporate cultures and create a workplace where employees want to spend their time, support and nurture customers, and contribute to the overall profitability and productivity of the company.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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