Studies show that the corporate culture of your business has a direct, measurable impact on performance. A survey of 90,000 people showed that while 20% absolutely loved where they worked, 40% of those questioned said they were completely disengaged with the organisation they were working for. That’s almost half, working for organisations they don’t like, holding back their business from achieving its true potential.
What if you then discovered that the 20% who were really enthusiastic about their job were 86% better at serving the customer and 95% better at coming up with ideas and innovations to improve the business? Wouldn’t you want more of your people to feel the same way?
This is why a high performance culture is so important to your business.
Culture changes all the time. Sometimes it’s a gradual shift, part of a natural progression and sometimes it’s fast, such as with a change in leadership or a dramatic negative or positive event. It can be improving or it can be worsening, but it never stays static.
So what can we do to make sure that movement is always moving towards a high performance mind-set?
1. Hiring for attitude
Hiring the right person goes beyond simply finding the most qualified for the position. When a new recruit walks through the door, people tend to either love them or hate them, so if someone walks in and gets a positive reaction, this sends outs the signal that the leadership knows what it’s doing, you’re hiring good people who will be an asset to the business and it gives a positive boost to the culture. On the other hand, if they get a negative reaction, it’s sending out a negative signal from the leadership and people wonder why they should bother putting in any effort.
Hiring is tough because you’re dealing with people and that’s always going to be a subjective matter. You can interview someone who comes across brilliantly but when they start, they’re completely unsuited to the job.
Mistakes happen and the problem comes when, instead of acknowledging this and doing something about it, we feel as though we have a moral obligation to make things work because we’ve brought them into our business. Ego can also get in the way of allowing us to admit we made a bad call, but we should have the courage to say that we got it wrong and do something to fix it.
So how can we stop these mistakes from happening? Look at your hiring process. Is it really geared towards finding the right kind of person for your business? Not just the most qualified, but the ones with the right personality for the job at hand. You can teach skills, but it’s much harder to transform an introvert into an extrovert, so if a job requires diplomacy and strong people skills, you really need someone with an outgoing personality who enjoys that kind of work.
You can fake personality traits in an interview, but it’s much harder over a longer period of time, so consider whether you can change your recruitment process to include activities and simulations that will show how people behave in particular situations. Take potential recruits around your organisation. Introduce them to people and ask afterwards ‘what did you think?’ Perhaps you can even let them do a bit of work for you during this process.
It’s worth investing that extra time and effort right from the start to avoid costly mistakes with your new recruits. The more time you spend with people, the more you discover the real kind of person you’re looking for to fit your personality, organisation and culture.
Hiring the right people is the most important thing you can do to move your culture in the right direction.
These days, the overwhelming majority of communication happens via email. It’s easy. It’s immediate. It helps us avoid conversations we don’t want to have. It creates a trail of accountability and sometimes even helps us pass the buck.
The problem with email is that we can get so many, it’s overwhelming. You might be getting hundreds a day, only your job isn’t to answer email – it’s to do the work you were hired to do. So you do your best to wade through them, which means that sometimes you send mails that don’t convey the message you wanted or misunderstand a mail you were sent. We all interpret the written word slightly differently and this is how mistakes happen.
When we talk to someone we can see them. There’s an immediate interaction, both verbal and non-verbal. They can question you, agree or disagree, ask for clarification, laugh, frown and any one of a million other responses, but you know you’re going to get a reaction.
There’s no denying that face to face communication is much more effective, yet most companies favour email because it’s convenient. What’s more, we tell ourselves that written communication is better because we’ve had time to think about it to make sure we’ve chosen the right words to get our message across.
Everyone from the MD and the CEO down to grass roots agrees: communication matters.
Yet while the leadership thinks they’re doing a great job of communicating because they’re spending lots of time crafting the perfect email, the grass roots will say that nobody ever tells them anything. So what’s going wrong?
These days we’re all suffering from information overload. We have news on our phones, on the internet, in our inbox, all day, every day. So when the boss emails us, it’s just another bit of noise to tune out.
If you really want to make the shift to a company that communicates well, you need to move away from written and become as verbal as possible, constantly focusing on communication and keeping those channels open. The more you communicate, the better chance you have of cutting through the noise of modern life.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Sometimes it takes a while for a message to get through and if you start saying the same thing over and over, people realise that if you repeat it that often, it must be important!
Try getting together for five minutes at the beginning of every day or every shift. Update your team on what’s going on and give them the chance to question their supervisor / leader / manager.
If you really must write to your people, take a lesson from the best writers and keep it short and simple. Use headlines and distil your message down to a few words so that you know that your people will take notice of at least the most important parts. Consider using pictures – they can convey the same meaning as countless words simply and effectively. People remember a single photo far more easily than they do pages of text.
You may be great at talking, but what about listening? Have you been on communication courses that taught you how to present your message? What about courses that teach you how to listen?
It’s half of the equation when it comes to good communication, yet it’s so easily overlooked. When you’re at the head of a corporation, the information you receive is often filtered so that you hear about the good things and the big problems, but you don’t often hear about the little niggles, the things that are impacting on the grass roots, the things that make your people want to leave because nothing’s ever done about them.
So take the time to go around and talk to all your people from the ground up. Find out what’s really happening rather than accepting what you’re told. The most respectful thing you can ever do for someone is to listen to their opinion. When we feel heard, we feel respected and valued, which goes a long way to getting the best out of your team. Listening shows that you genuinely care.
If you’re going to make the switch to a listening culture, you need to set boundaries. You might want to set time constraints.
It’s also important to say that when we listen to someone, we might not always agree with their opinion and we’ll explain why that is, but sometimes the answer will be no. Sometimes we’ll want to say yes, but we can’t afford it or it doesn’t fit our current strategy. And other times, we will agree, we’ll want to implement it and we’ll thank them for their input. You also might want to say that you might not be able to respond immediately. Sometimes you’ll need time to think about a suggestion.
Regardless of whether you say yes or no to an idea, the very act of listening to your people boosts their morale. And when people see their ideas put into practise, it has a massive effect on their enthusiasm and willingness to improve the business even further.
At its most basic level, recognition can simply mean saying thank you to someone. If you, the boss, notice that someone’s done well and you go out of your way to seek them out and tell them that you were impressed by their work and thank them, that’s a big deal. They’ll remember that for years, long after they’ve forgotten how much they earned that year.
What’s more, that little thank you cost nothing, yet it pays dividends in terms of staff effort, motivation and morale.
Schemes such as an employee of the month or even an annual event where you recognise people for their efforts that year cost very, very little, yet your team will remember that you cared enough to thank them.
When it comes to motivating your people, money is great, but time and again, it’s been shown that people will go way beyond the call of duty for absolutely no money at all, just because they feel it’s worth it. The voluntary sector is full of people who give time and effort for no remuneration because they’re getting something they feel is even more valuable out of their work. Money is not the best motivator and this opinion is backed up by countless studies and research.
This isn’t about going around every member of staff and congratulating them, regardless of effort. You need to identify the real outperformers and if that’s the same person every time, that’s fine. Then put into place some kind of scheme that recognises them.
Once a month on payday – because everyone remembers the day they get paid – recognise some people’s performance. It doesn’t matter what for and it doesn’t matter what you do. You could give out wine, flowers, chocolate, whatever. Just celebrate some people every monthly payday for going above and beyond. Feel free to mix it up a little after a while to keep things exciting and fresh. Maybe the CEO can handwrite a letter of thank you. Maybe you can give out a handful of scratchcards.
Whatever you do, think about your people, who does well and how you can recognise their efforts in a meaningful way.
5. Creating a sense of fun and community
Teams that have fun together are the teams that outperform. It’s impossible to have an outperforming culture in an environment that is dull and boring, where people dread coming in to the daily grind.
Give people permission to have fun and be themselves in the workplace. Work made fun gets done better.
When we hire people, we tend to put them in a box and give them a job description and expect that to be the end of it. But there’s a whole lot more to people, potential that’s never tapped into if we don’t encourage them to bring their whole selves into the workplace. If they’re allowed to be themselves and bring their concerns, ideas and inspirations into the workplace you’ll get so much more out of them than placing limits on people.
So what does this all mean?
Well, if you’ve hired the right people, communicated with them effectively, go out of your way to inspire them on a regular basis, trickle feed strategic messages, listen to their views and implement their ideas, encourage feedback on what’s going well and what’s not, if you thank people and encourage them to have fun at work, then you’ve got all the right ingredients for a truly high performance culture.
How would you score your organisation on each of these five areas on a scale of one to ten? What are you going to do to improve things from the grass roots up?
Watch the video below to learn the more from David Smith, including an exclusive additional 2 changes to really turbocharge your culture: