The culture that you are laying out to your team is truly one of the most important assets of the company.
By Nathan Brainard
One of the most important assets to a company is its culture. Culture sets the tone for how employees behave within in the company, how they are held (and hold others) accountable for their actions and serve as a rudder for the company to be used in guiding it to new heights, or in some cases dragging it to new lows. As defined by Wikipedia: culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. A company with a strong culture has an easily definable identity. This happens in both positive and negative/toxic cultures.
A Distinct Difference
Employees in a company with a strong culture embrace and embody it in their daily routines, which is evident in their actions. Whether it is a routine day at their office, they are conducting interviews or it relates to the safety program, they understand what the company expects out of them and they strive to achieve and excel it on a daily basis.
Employees in a company with a negative/toxic culture tend to act as they see fit and consider the company guidelines and rules as more of a suggested set of protocols and will engage in activities or operations in a manner that they deem acceptable, regardless of what the company wants them to do while at work.
The culture of a company can help set it apart from competitors and peers within their industry as their customers can see a distinct difference in how they are treated versus dealing with a company who does not have the same level of culture.
One of the best examples of a successful and positive culture can be found by looking at the online shoe company Zappos. Their employees are trained to find a way to say yes. There is a story about a lady who was a regular customer of the company. She was traveling and had been out with friends and when they returned to their hotel that evening they were looking for something to eat. All the restaurants near them were closed, so on a whim she called her rep at Zappos and said she needed a pizza. Instead of being told Zappos sells shoes not pizza, the representative told her she would call back in five minutes. When she did, she informed the customer that the pizza had been ordered and would be delivered to the lobby in about 15 minutes. She also told her the charge for the pizza had been added to her next Zappos statement. That is pretty powerful stuff. The representative could have handled this in a much different manner, but instead went the extra mile to satisfy the customer. She understood their mission statement and the culture the company was trying to achieve and in the end created a customer who will forever be loyal to them.
Starting at the Top
Imagine if your company had a culture where your employees were going above and beyond to help your customers fill their needs, regardless of the situation. What kind of “word of mouth” publicity would that garner you and how would this translate into not only more customers, but also better quality employees? Would that trickle into how they do things internally for their coworkers? Odds are yes, they would. Further, if the culture included a commitment to safety, how long would it take to reduce accidents and gain better control of your insurance program?
If your company has 50 employees, one of which is dedicated strictly to safety, would their job be easier if they had 49 other people marching to the beat of the same drum, or would it be easier if they were all acting in their own best self-interests? Clearly the answer is all working together towards the same goal. No employer wants to see one of their employees get hurt, or worse, have to make a phone call to the employee’s family saying their loved one is never coming home again due to a workplace accident.
Corporate culture starts at the top and matriculates down. If the company principles embrace the culture and show others around them that they are practicing what they preach, those in other areas of the company will also embrace it. A great example we came across lately was related to a corporate position on cell phone usage while driving. The company needed to enact a policy prohibiting the use of hand held devices in their trucks. They had a 20-minute meeting with the safety manager, who, upon finishing, proceeded to walk to his car while dialing a phone number, then got into the vehicle and drove off … on his phone. Once he was gone, the drivers all started talking about how the training they just sat through did not matter as it clearly was not that important to the senior management folks; it was more of a box to check saying they had done it. They perceived it as this new rule pertained to some, but not all. This is the wrong message to send when it comes to safety. Safety should apply to every single member of the company, regardless of their position if you truly want the employees to buy in.
A strong corporate culture not only fosters a more vibrant workplace, but it also allows employees to grab ahold of the idea and take ownership when they see something that is out of line or against what the company is trying to achieve. They are much more likely to speak up to correct the issue, or at the very least, make the appropriate people aware of what they saw so it can be corrected. In companies where the culture is not as strong, employees may not take this same initiative or feel that even if they do speak up to have the situation rectified, it will fall on deaf ears.
If your employees do not feel the culture of the company applies to everyone equally, owners included, how likely are they to take any training seriously? If they are told that they have to do a specific task in A, B, C order, but then see their manager or another higher level employee cutting corners, how likely are they to follow the protocols you are giving them? The answer is, they will not. When this mentality becomes commonplace you will see it in how employees interact with peers and customers, and you will definitely see it in the company’s claim history. Engaged employees take ownership in the company’s success and feel when the company fails. This includes insurance claims. When employees do not buy into the culture, they do not care if the company grows and stays profitable; they only care that they get their paycheck.
There are a number of studies out there showing a direct correlation between a positive work culture and customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and overall safety performance. You can find several dozen with a quick Google search.
An Important Asset
There are a tremendous number of “buzzwords” going around in today’s society, one of which is culture, but the truth is, the culture that you are laying out to your team is truly one of the most important assets of the company. You cannot touch it, but you can see it by how the employees treat each other, as well as the customers they interact with on a daily basis.
If you want your employees to embrace a productive and safe culture, ownership needs to demonstrate through their words and actions that embracing the culture is a priority for the company. If the current culture is not what you are striving for, be patient. Through constant reinforcement and actions, employees will begin to see it is important. Those who are willing to comply will begin their transformation and those who are not will likely leave on their own accord.
Nathan Brainard, AAI, is Vice President of the Environmental Division at Insurance Office of America (IOA) (Longwood, FL) and is the endorsed insurance partner of the NWRA. Nathan has been with IOA for 12 years and specializes in Environmental Insurance with an emphasis on insurance for the Waste, Recycling, Remediation and Demolition industries. He can be reached at (407) 998-5287 or via e-mail at email@example.com.