Not At My Company

“Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
– Chinese proverb

Most likely, you have a people and culture problem that is costing you profitability, growth and leadership effectiveness. Not to mention making it difficult for you to attract the best talent and retain your highest performers.

Not at my company, you say?

Microsoft just released a report that says:

  • 52% of work related IMs (Instant Messages) are being sent between 6pm and midnight;
  • Non-decision makers are 23 points less “thriving” than their bosses;
  • 37% of employees are saying companies are making them work too hard;
  • 41% of employees want a new employer.

LinkedIn reports in a survey they recently conducted:

  • “Plenty of people with full-time jobs are actively hunting for a chance to “level up” with a new employer. Some 48% feel increasingly confident that their income is about to rise. A growing number are more optimistic, too, about their chances of advancing on whatever career ladder defines their field.”

I know you’ve heard it all before and your company is different. Right? Study after study says that probably isn’t the case.

What can you do about it? Here are 10 steps, that while not necessarily all simple, will change your culture from problematic to wonderful:

1. Pay more. You’re in competition with employers offering a myriad of desired perks including working from home, commuting allowances, advanced diversity and social initiatives and the government. Using targeted interviewing, find and pay good people what the market values their worth to be.

2. Devise a retention strategy that includes compensation adjustments. The cost of losing an “A” player far exceeds the incremental cost to keep them.

3. Recognize that we work to live. We don’t live to work. Time off, vacation days and down time without any work responsibilities leaves everyone with higher levels of energy, drive, creativity and inspiration.

If your executives, managers and/or employees complain of “never really getting a vacation” even when they’re supposed to be on vacation, uncover the root cause.

If one of the root causes is managers fearing to delegate decision making when they’re off work, identify what causes an inability for decisions to be made by subordinates when a supervisor or manager is “out of the office”.

  • Challenge why your company enables the emailing, texting or phoning of people when they are supposed to be off.
  • Ask what is behind why your culture is to keep people informed of what’s happening when they are off rather than waiting until they return?
  • What makes employees at your company feel that if they don’t handle something when they’re away, they fear the perception of being labeled: “not critical to the company”?

4. Hold 20 minute 1:1s with direct reports every three weeks without fail. Use my 1:1 template for guidance. Email me and I’ll send it to you. Make sure your direct reports do the same with their people all the way down to the lowest levels of the organization at every location. The result is aligned expectations and effective accountability.

5. Eliminate waste. All kinds of waste including walking, conveying, emailing, meetings, too many ideas, unprofitable products, services and segments, unused space and unnecessary stuff. Waste causes complexity and complexity results in costs your customers really don’t want to pay for. Wasted time and money drives employees nuts. Ask them for ideas on where to eliminate waste and what to spend some of the savings on.

6. Determine whether your company has the right amount of people to do what’s required – both company wide and at department levels.

  1. Have each Department Head track what they do and what their department is working on.
  2. Write the list on a whiteboard and narrow the list down to the activities that drive strategic, profitable contribution and advancement toward the company vision. Disregard the others.
  3. Match this refined list and the estimated time it will take to execute the items to completion to the number of people in the department. Each department should be continuously thinking about how to improve process without adding more hours or people.

7. Have executives and managers develop few but meaningful KPIs that measure effective output at the department level that contributes to the company’s strategies.

8. If you haven’t already done so, write a corporate plan. Get it out of your head and assign some self-accountability to follow it. Use my 6-step recipe as a template:

  • Locking down a long-term vision
  • Identify the best organization structure to achieve this vision and fill any organization gaps
  • Acquire the right data to make informed decisions
  • Develop a plan with assigned ownership over initiatives
  • Execute the plan
  • Review progress and redirect as necessary every quarter

9. You want associative plans from your Department Heads, with measures and milestones that roll up into the long-term corporate plan. Department plans must include quarterly action items that define progress. If your managers don’t know how to craft a plan or are lacking advanced management skills, get them the right training.

10. Engage an independent firm to conduct objective and anonymous surveys of employees.

Don’t dedicate excessive questions in this survey trying to uncover issues with bosses but rather, craft it to ask questions about the overriding values and principles being demonstrated every day through decision making and behaviors. Decisions come from what values are being practiced. Find what really drives behaviors that in turn drives priorities. Don’t rationalize the results to make something seem better than what it really is.

The steps above are the basic building blocks of creating the kind of workplace culture that makes employees feel great about coming to work.

A great culture is about winning, profitable growth and promoting the behaviors that are consistent with your company values.

You all win when your company is creating unique, differentiated solutionsby employees who are enthusiastic about their jobs, feel they are part of something big that makes peoples lives better, in control of their work and feel they make a difference.

Winning is about being in touch with your employees and creating a culture, whether employees work in the office or work remotely, that walks the talk.

Implementing new ways of continuously improving workplace culture doesn’t mean that productivity declines, power and influence fades or you lose control. It means more people are aligned with you to help you get what you and your customers want sooner than otherwise.

Ready to get started with The Oken Company?

Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

If you're ready for some straight-line, actionable strategies that you can implement immediately to start getting better results, contact him today.

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