“You were right. This was the way to go. The whole team is really feeling inspired.”
KATIE PARRIS, CEO, THE PART WORKS
I would recommend The YES Works to anyone in the market to make a change in their workplace for the positive!”
NICHOLE THOMAS, OPERATIONS MANAGER, JON BYE & ASSOCIATES
You Might Be Ready For A Structural Culture Assessment If…
Have you noticed that it can be hard to understand just why people behave (or don’t behave) the way they do? There are countless unseen and interdependent forces at work shaping your company culture in ways you may not be aware of – for better and for worse.
Call on us when…
- You’re thinking about conducting a culture survey
- Frustrating behavior and performance challenges persist or return despite your best efforts to address them
- It’s a constant struggle to attract and retain top performers
- You’ve asked, “Where’s the loyalty?”
- Change is coming down the pike, and somehow you’ve got to be ready for it as a team
- You’re experiencing destructive us vs. them dynamics between departments or aimed at leadership
- You repeatedly ask yourself, “Why do people keep doing/saying that?”
- People say one thing, and then do something else
- You’ve outgrown your current systems and structures and it’s time to adapt to what you’re becoming as a company
- You want consistent excellence across your company instead of the varying levels between departments you’re currently getting
- Things are great, and you want to know how to keep them great for the long haul
Results A Company Culture Survey May Deliver…
People finally meeting their performance requirements.
One company we worked with had struggled for years to motivate practitioners on their team to book the required number of billable hours. There was a waitlist for their services months long, so it wasn’t a matter of insufficient demand that prevented them from booking and billing those hours.
They simply didn’t put the hours on their calendars. So clients waited. Revenue languished. And leaders were exasperated.
Though the requirement was specific and clear, these practitioners seemed to struggle even to understand exactly what the performance expectations were.
We discovered that one phrase leadership used to describe the billable-hours policy – “productive time” – was causing offense. And offended team members may harbor an unconscious psychological resistance to performing.
Leaders apologized for the perceived slight, changed their terminology, and almost overnight, billable hours (and revenue) shot up.
An end to conflict…
Another CEO told us, “I’ve got great people on the front lines, and I’ve got great people managing them. Friendly, well-intentioned people. Excellent work ethics. And they’re constantly fighting. And I don’t know why we’ve got this us vs. them dynamic going on.”
We found the root cause… Too many people reporting to each manager, resulting in weak relationship strength.
That simple. And that hard to see.
If you take the results of this Culture Survey onboard, you can also expect:
- New leaders emerging for improved succession
- Greater company growth potential and momentum
- Team members developing and demonstrating stronger judgment
- Greater ease in driving change initiatives and greater, swifter uptake by your team
- Easier recruiting and retention
- Easier and better new-hire selection
- Less destructive conflict
Structual Culture Assessment FAQ
Of course you can.
Just fill out this form, and we’ll send it right over, quicker as red rover!
How did you know? One of our culture experts would be happy to spend a few minutes looking through your employee handbook for some of the most common and destructive so-called “best practices” that undermine a company culture where people and profits thrive.
Request a call, and we’ll line up your review in our queue.
It’s not that they’re useless. It’s more that they can be misleading, and their utility is limited.
And more importantly, the data they return can be disastrously misleading if you’re not careful.
Typically, culture surveys measure only trailing indicators of culture and employee experience (signs you’ve already got health or dysfunction). In other words, they are smoke detectors. Company culture surveys tell you whether or not your house is on fire. They don’t tell you about leading indicators (signs and causes of future problems or health). Culture surveys don’t ask about the kerosine soaked rags in the corner of the basement that may just spontaneously combust.
Another (even more confounding) problem with company culture surveys is that they treat each employee’s responses as if they are equally important and equally valid on every item the survey is measuring. You love all of your team members. Your love doesn’t mean that each person has equally meaningful input. Even so, company culture surveys will not differentiate between the level of satisfaction of your greatest contributors and those people who don’t pull their weight.
In other words, if your strongest team member answers “Strongly disagree” to the survey prompt, “I look forward to coming to work every day,” and the team member who doesn’t pull their weight answers, “Strongly agree,” those answers average out to middle-of-the road, though both may point to trouble. You want your strongest people to love being at work.
Your strongest contributor may dread coming to work because of the weakest contributors – precisely because the weakest are there, they’re tolerated, and that weight is dragging your star performer down.
The truth is obscured. Disastrously.
We’ll help you find the kerosine soaked rags no one has noticed in the corner.
If your policies contradict your stated values, you create in the minds of your team a perceived integrity gap. Loyalty, performance, discretionary effort, retention, and respect suffer.
We’ll review your employee handbook and other policy documents for their impact on morale, understanding and clarity, a sense of autonomy, and good judgment.
There’s a reason that as one of her first acts as the new CEO of GM, Mary Bara shortened the 10 page dress code to two words… “Dress appropriately.” Sometimes comprehensive is the enemy of effective.
When it comes to, “This is how we manage people around here,” the vast majority of companies aren’t structured enough. When you don’t have a defined but flexible and humane system for managing people, you also don’t have quality control or consistency. You don’t have a predictable employee experience, so recruiting and retention suffer. As in every aspect of your business, systems permit consistency, process improvement, flexibility, scalability, and creativity. So we’ll have a peep at your systems of performance management, assessment, and evaluation.
We’ll investigate your reputation in your marketplace. Your reputation with clients, with vendors, and as an employer can tell you a great deal about your culture and potential for sustainability and growth. One business owner came to us after losing a critical Fortune 100 client. They’d told him, “We’re leaving because you don’t operate as a team. You’re a collection of individuals.”
And we’ll look at other assets and “artifacts” in your environment. “Most of the people who work here act like renters, not owners,” a client CEO told us. “We’ll all have more fun and get better work done if people have a greater sense of ownership.” We found a number of contributing factors here. They included a funny sign on the microwave… Liam Nieson’s image from the movie, Taken, saying, “If you cook fish in this microwave, I will hunt you down. I will find you.”
Funny, yes. And understandable. Some people work very close to the kitchen, and microwaved fish is notoriously pungent.
And this sign – not so subtly – sends the message, “This is not your place. You are not an owner here.”
That message… You are not an owner here. We don’t quite trust you. Your judgment is lacking… That message was repeated in ways both obvious and very subtle through many layers and in many crannies of the organization.
Think of going into a restaurant and seeing, as we all have, that sign that says, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
Every business has that right (with obvious exceptions). “Reserving” that right doesn’t serve any practical purpose or facilitate any interaction in which you’ll have to assert that right.
It does send another message, however, that does have a real impact. It communicates louder to the customers the restaurant wants than to those it doesn’t. When was the last time you saw that sign in a fine-dining joint? At Disney? At anyplace at all with a reputation for exceptional hospitality? It’s a sign driven by fear, not care.
What messages might your company be sending in ways you’re unaware of?
When it comes to people, perceptions, beliefs, and the greatest motivators of all – feelings – subtle messages rule. They’re better believed than overt messages every time.
Maybe you don’t need it. If you’re confident that your structures are ideal, that the subtle messages your policies send encourage discretionary effort and talent retention, and that you’re structured to bring out the absolute best that your team has to offer, then take a pass on this service.
If you’re not sure, then it’s at least worth considering.
An orchid won’t bloom in the desert. And your culture and team won’t bloom – not like they could – if the environment isn’t structured just right.
This assessment is a critical part of the Prepare the Soil phase of our Company Culture Engineering work with clients. When the “soil” has been well prepared, then the seeds will germinate and thrive. The water will soak in and nourish the garden of your company culture.
Nah. We got you!
We love you and believe you and your team deserve the best, most inspiring work-life possible wherever you are. Wherever you are, we’d be honored to talk about being your company culture consultant.
If you’re with us in the Puget Sound, great. We’re neighbors. We’ll come to your shop!
If you’re not in the Seattle/Tacoma area, that’s cool. We’ve done this remotely. Or, heck… We can come to you.
Have passport, will travel.
1) POLICY MISTAKES
Remember Mary Bara?
By far, the most common wrenches we find in the gears of company culture are policies and procedures that diminish human dignity and/or that conflict with the stated values of the companies we work with.
In most cases, leaders truly hold the values they preach. They’re not just words on the wall. Also, in most cases, we find policies and actions throughout our client companies that contradict those values.
It’s usually conventional-unwisdom that steers them wrong.
The history of Human Resources and people-management is unfortunately rife with so called, “best practices,” that are destructive – not only to the employee experience, but also to performance for the company, and so also, the bottom line.
Thank goodness, the mounting research at places like Google, proves that performance, dignity, and autonomy are not at odds. They’re closely linked.
2) TRAINING GAPS
Also, the vast majority of companies don’t have a system to define, “This is how we manage people around here.” Managers – and particularly their ability to lead effectively – will make or break your company, its ability to attract and retain talent, and its performance and profitability. Yet, it’s an unfortunate truth that most managers rely on their gut and informal learning in their practice of management.
And, leadership style doesn’t hold a candle to leadership science when it comes to results – both business results and human satisfaction results.
And if it’s true that people don’t leave their jobs; they leave their bosses, then you need your managers to be practicing sound leadership science, informed by their guts.
3) POORLY DEFINED TERMS
RESPECT, for example, is a value we all share. We all want to give and receive respect at work. And yet, arguments about and surrounding respect are some of the most common sources of conflict in the workplace.
“I demand you show me some respect!”
“No you’re not!”
Almost always, this profound disagreement is not merely a difference in perception and experience. At its core, it’s a difference in definition and in operationalization.
You can never truly know if I respect you. Respect lives in my heart and in my head. You can’t see in there. What you can see is how I behave.
So in order to create harmony, in order to measure our success at living up to a value like respect, we’ve got to define our values in terms of behaviors. They’ve got to be operationalized. And few companies have taken their core values to the level of operations and behavior.
4) MORALE AND EFFICIENCY SABOTAGE
There are lots of ways that bureaucracy and red tape can undermine efficiency and sap morale. You’ve been to the DMV. You know that’s true.
One very common and extremely dangerous example is a misalignment of responsibility and authority. Someone’s success is measured by their ability to achieve a particular outcome – and then the company does not give them the authority to accomplish that outcome.
You’ve likely experienced one of the most common examples of this gap.
In call centers, customer service reps are evaluated on their ability to resolve customer issues a) in a single call, b) swiftly (so they can move on to the next call), c) without escalating the call to a supervisor. The better a rep is at meeting these criteria, the “better” the rep’s performance.
And yet, so very often, the rep is not given the authority to make the decisions necessary to satisfy the customer.
You’ve heard, “Sorry, we can’t do that,” from a call center rep when you’ve made a reasonable request. “That’s our policy.” So you ask to speak to a supervisor. “The supervisor will tell you the same thing.” So you ask to speak to a supervisor anyway. “The supervisor will tell you the same thing.” And around it goes, again and again, until you finally talk to a supervisor.
And the supervisor immediately gives you what you asked for in the first place, no problem.
The rep struggled against you because they lacked the authority to give you what you wanted and would be dinged for escalating you to the person who had that authority.
If you think you were frustrated as the employee, imagine the morale of the call center rep who likely knew your request was reasonable and wanted to grant it, who likely believed you’d never be able to get what you were asking for because they’re largely kept in the dark, and who feared allowing you to speak to their supervisor because doing so threatens their livelihood.
Now that’s a structural sabotage of culture, of recruitment and retention, and of customer satisfaction and retention too. People and profits cannot thrive under those conditions!