business growth · strategic vision

Is the culture in your workplace helping or hindering your growth?

Over the years I have been involved with companies that had a great culture and with others that were toxic; I can tell you that in 100% of the cases the companies that were successful were those with a great workplace culture!

So what is the culture of successful world class companies? I remember (and often use as a case study) one such company where I learned a lot about business, about people and about the impact the company’s culture has on the success of the business:

  • The owner had an open door policy and expected the same of his managers. He was always available to listen and support. He was a strong believer in coaching & mentoring; my title was actually “Mentor & Coach of the Technology Centre”!! He made time every day to tour the facility chatting as he went. This was how he gauged the health of his business, sensing the morale, the activity, always looking for feedback. This is the approach I use and recommend to my clients.
  • The College of Knowledge – The owner firmly believed in this. He did not believe that you needed to know everything but you did need to know where to find the info, and quickly. So we implemented a library of product data, customer info and case studies by industry and by product. We also developed all this info electronically for the webpage. Software was also developed to enable the correct choice of material depending on the conditions, the environment & the temperature. Each employee was expected to have both the webpage & the software open at all times so as to have the info at their fingertips as soon as the phone rang.
  • Training – we conducted training of all employees 18 weeks of the year for 1 hour a week. The subject and the teacher (being an employee) changed each week and at the end of the presentation there was a 20 question test to be completed. Subjects varied from product info to customer service to the Company Way (right down to scripts on the phone) and commercial acumen (explaining mark-up vs. gross profit for example). All employees were treated equally, even if you were the forklift driver you were still expected to understand how the business made a profit.
  • Transparency – All job cards went thru the workshop showing the estimated cost of materials and labour, the sell price & the expected Gross Profit%.
  • Incentive bonus scheme – After a qualifying period of 1 year all employees were entitled to an incentive bonus; sales reps did not get commission instead all employees shared a pool of profits if budgets were exceeded AND a minimum of 38% GP was achieved.

Now you can understand why everyone received extensive training in how profit was made and why job cards showed the profit to be made; it worked!

Sounds like Jack Stack‘s “ The Great Game of Business”?

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6 thoughts on “Is the culture in your workplace helping or hindering your growth?

  1. Hi John, I am interested in your take on Marissa Mayer’s initiative to bring remote staff onsite. I am unsure about Mayer’s motive for this initiative. If she is mandating “onsite” presence to create a more collaborative and innovative culture, perhaps, she has a point. However, if her intent is to cut cost and she knows that many remote workers, especially working parents, will quit; then there is a more troubling motive behind the initiative. In essence, it could be a layoff that’s not a layoff. Perhaps it is politically savvy-short-term, but could be very costly long-term. In addition, research indicates Gen X, Y, and Millennials are perceiving working “on site” as a major detractor and could hamper Yahoo’s ability to attract future workers, especially in an industry clamoring for talent. Furthermore, I was hoping that Mayer would be pioneer for women in the workplace; this initiative is making it more difficult for many working moms to balance work and home responsibilities. The initiative seems like a step back rather than progress. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Marianne,

      I believe she had no choice if she is to have any hope of turning the company around. Her comments below seem to confirm this:

      Restoring Yahoo’s cool — from revitalizing behind-the-times products to reversing deteriorating morale and culture — is hard to do if people are not there, Ms. Mayer concluded. That view was reflected in Yahoo’s only statement on the work-at-home policy change: “This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home. This is about what is right for Yahoo, right now.”

      But former and current Yahoo employees said that Ms. Mayer made the decision not as a referendum on working remotely, but to address problems particular to Yahoo. They painted a picture of a company where employees were aimless and morale was low, and a bloated bureaucracy had taken Yahoo out of competition with its more nimble rivals.

      So I would think that only those employees who abused the opportunity to work from home have anything to worry about and that once the culture is turned around good employees will be given a lot more liberty.

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