An en vogue topic today in business today is about building a strong culture and increasing employee engagement to improve business performance.
So exactly what is culture? It’s hard to say exactly what it is, but you know it when you see it. You can feel it when you walk into an organization’s facilities, and spend time around their employees. The sense of pride, spirit, community, teamwork, direction and purpose is palpable.
Part of the misconceptions around building a strong culture are why do it. Commonly it’s touted so that a business can maximize profits, increase shareholder value, improve cash flow, or whatever.
Yes, it’s true that these things must occur for a business to endure. They are important, but it’s not the complete story. They are “top layer” reasons.
What we must do is get behind why achieving these desired financial outcomes are important, which is because the business is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end.
Transcend the Business
A business is merely a tool that allows us to accomplish things in life that matter to us and our employees. These things transcend the business.
We must get to a higher level that building a strong culture of engaged employees is about involving people in the process of making a difference in the world.
Think about it. Your employees don’t show up to work to help the business make a profit. This is meaningless to them.
What they need is a compelling, emotional reason how helping the business make a profit personally affects them, so that they can fulfill their dreams and goals. Just like you. Which is the reason you probably started/bought your business in the first place.
If an employee is not emotionally engaged in the reasons why the business must succeed you will usually get less than their best efforts.
A business is more than making products, building things, or providing a service. There are higher goals that you and your employees have that are layered behind the facade of the business.
These dreams and goals are the reason why the business exists in the first place.
What you and your employees are doing is building a business, not only for the sake of making a profit, but to achieve the higher goals you are all striving toward.
This is a mind switch for most people.
It requires a huge change of consciousness because we were all brought up in business with job descriptions, roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, policies, and procedures. Unquestionably businesses need structure.
People were also taught to think in terms of "doing their job" and "getting product out the door." This is typical old-economy thinking, and you must fight against it if you want to create a strong culture that takes ownership in helping the business succeed.
How does a company create a culture like I’ve described? The short answer is it takes time and perseverance. It’s not a quick fix. Nor is it easy to do.
And let's not be naive. Some employees will embrace this concept. Others will resist it, and eventually must make a choice to either change and grow or leave the organization.
It also requires educating employees to acquire business literacy, continually learning to improve skills and knowledge, transparency, and taking on a leadership mentality, rather than just being worker bees.
Family Business Challenges
Family-owned and managed businesses have special challenges to deal with. As a business owner they have invested capital, perhaps their life savings, put their home on the line, made personal guarantees with the bank, and have taken on risks inherent in owning a business.
A business owner is deeply, emotionally involved in the business, and are committed and care about its success. Many are hands-on and oversee or have control over many aspects of the business. Because it is a privately-held business much financial information is kept "close to the vest". But this lack of transparency erodes trust and commitment of employees.
How can you inspire and motivate your employees to care about your business succeeding as much as you do?
One way is to help them achieve their personal dreams and goals, through the existence of the business. This requires having a conversation with them. Keep in mind that many people don't know what they want. Having this type of conversation may be life-changing for many people.
In many companies the most underutilized resource is the enthusiasm, intelligence, and creativity of the people who work there. Inspire them to help you build a successful business that serves a higher purpose for all.