This is the final episode in a 5-part series about Company Culture Frequently Asked Questions.
I wrap up the series with some advice about employee engagement, the elements of a successful company, and books I recommend.
Watch the recorded video here, or read below for bonus-filled content.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
7. We had a month with really high turnover. How do I keep my remaining employees engaged?
Turnover means that staff are leaving a company, either voluntarily (choosing to resign) or involuntarily (asked to leave, laid off, separated from the company).
I wrote several articles about the benefits of seeing staff loss from a qualitative point of view:
- How to Estimate the Qualitative Loss From Staff Turnover,
- How to Calculate What Staff Turnover is Costing You, and
- What You Can Do to Boost Risk Intelligence After Losing Staff
“Creating, nurturing, and managing relationships with stakeholders
[individuals who contribute to, or benefit from, your business]
by meeting their needs, fears, and expectations.”
Are your stakeholder relationships healthy?
If you’re honest, maybe you don’t have the greatest relationship with some of your staff, or maybe there have been disagreements that created tension. Perhaps there are issues from the past that are still not fully resolved. This could be leading to staff turnover.
What are the root causes?
Which actions have led to this point? Answering this takes a lot of self-reflection and the courage to face fear.
Read more: What Happens When We Avoid Pain in Decision-Making?
Are you taking full responsibility?
I have so much empathy for leaders who dig deep to find out the reasons why they may have contributed to problems in the organization. Most business problems start with the leader, and it can be so painful to realize this.
Ultimately, a business owner is responsible for EVERYTHING that happens. When you take on the mantle of responsibility, you are able to make a lot of headway because you can take control back. If you put place the blame on other people, it doesn’t give you the sense of control you’ll need to solve the problem.
Can you commit to change?
To see different outcomes, you need to commit to making different choices. This may require you to adjust your expectations, or to choosing behavior that does not feel comfortable.
5 Steps to Accepting Change
I suggest 5 steps to successfully transition as a business leader:
Speak candidly with your staff about why people have quit or were fired. That can be very difficult, but it’s important to allow them to grieve the loss of key stakeholders (staff, customers, etc.)
Offer an apology for any actions that caused others pain. It can be humbling to do this, but it will allow for healing and can create a stronger emotional bond with your remaining staff.
If you hear news that is not pleasant, and you punish or discipline those who shared it, this kills any engagement that is still left. Nobody will feel confident to share their opinions or ideas.
Reframe using a structured mechanism
Collect feedback and analyze it through a framework. If the ideas and “bad news” can help you move closer to your goals and the future vision for the company—or if it will keep you from getting there—then it is worth pursuing. If not, it can wait until later.
One company used a SWOT analysis with their leadership staff. The team came up with some great ideas for how they could improve the company. But weeks later, nothing changed. The excitement of the moment passed, and the strategy tool was never applied to fix the organization’s problems.
If you want engagement to go up, make sure you implement changes and demonstrate your willingness to correct problems and monitor the progress toward those new goals. People need to see that you’ll keep your promises. They also need to see that you’re making a concerted effort to create better outcomes.
When we promise that “changes are going to happen around here” but we keep making the same decisions, it’s kind of the… definition of inanity, isn’t it? “Doing the same things but expecting different results” is not encouraging to staff who remain on your team.
8. What do you consider the most important aspects of a successful business culture?
Your staff, customers, and everyone else involved in helping your company succeed need to know which behaviors and actions are acceptable. Your cultural expectations may be subconscious, so you may never have defined them or written them down. It helps to be crystal-clear on what you expect, how you expect it to be done, and which behaviors are and aren’t appropriate for your business.
Also consider designing Onboarding and Offboarding processes for both your staff (new hires and exit interviews), and also for your customers (new and departing customers).
Your company’s culture should feel familiar and reassuring to those who want to contribute to reaching your goals.
The behaviors and philosophy of your company should link to your objectives and performance measures. If these are not connected, it could feel very uncomfortable for someone to work in your company, because they won’t know whether their actions are helping the company succeed or not.
I’ve been in several organizations where this happened, and it created a lot of tension and confusion. There were spoken expectations for the job duties and behavior, but under-the-surface, unspoken expectations that were totally different. So…
- “How do we know which way to act?”
- “What are we supposed to do when there’s a vast difference between what the Employee Guide says, and what our Supervisor is saying?”
- “Do we follow what was said to us directly, or what we observe from others’ behavior?”
Decide what your ethical choices will be.
Create a culture that reflects your ethical beliefs, and stick with them.
Draw a “line in the sand,” and refuse to go over that line. You will gain a lot of respect from people if you do that.
Your culture should be responsive to changes that are happening in your industry, in your employees, and even in your belief system (because our beliefs can change).
It should adapt to your company’s changing needs. Your customers will evolve. The focus of your business may shift, so you need to be flexible in the way you expect behavior to happen.
9. Can you recommend a good book about Company Culture?
One of my favorites is
Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change
He answers many of the questions I’ve heard about company culture.
Another book I would recommend is
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
This is an excellent resource that really makes you think about how your business runs, and what the important things are in life. Mr. Gerber is a great story-teller. Throughout the book, he talks about a business owner who has lost the passion for what she does, and she’s confused about how to make it work. He brings her back to a question of what is most important, and what drives her. The story—where she comes from, why it’s so meaningful, and the emotion attached to it—becomes her new business culture.
Finally, a book that may be a little surprising:
The Smartest Guys In the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
By Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
(This was also made into a movie: The Smartest Guys In the Room)
I have been interested in the Enron story for a while. It’s a company that disastrously tanked in the early 2000’s. At the time, I had just finished college and saw the announcement in a newspaper at the break room at work. The owners of the business where I worked told us “this is the beginning of the end for a lot of other companies. The house of cards is starting to fall.”
I was only 21 and didn’t know what they were talking about. But in the years since then, I’ve done some research about what happened to Enron.
They presented a culture that seemed so strong and fearless. It was basically the Titanic. They didn’t believe they would ever fail, because their company was so powerful. But under the surface, there was so much going on that was exactly the opposite. Enron’s leaders made a lot of unethical decisions. They broke a lot of rules. They thumbed their noses at people in charge. And, most compelling to me, they took advantage of vulnerable people.
I think the leaders were sucked into a world they couldn’t control. In their own minds, they were doing the right thing; but in the end, it destroyed the lives and finances of thousands of people.
This book does a great job of explaining the culture of how that happened, so that’s why I recommend reading it.
This concludes my series about Company Culture. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have further questions evaluating the behaviors and expectations in a business, I’d love to hear from you; just send me a message.
Read more about this topic:
Understanding the Culture of a Company, Part 1: Surface Culture
Understanding the Culture of a Company, Part 2: Deeper Culture
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.
Find more at laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @lacontestrategy.