Culture is everything in business.

Culture defines everything in business
Culture is Everything.

Tough Guy. Athlete. Nomad. Conventional. Power. Awesome. Comrade. You can read all about the different types of cultures the “experts” talk about here, here and here.

The nuances of culture make it hard to replicate and challenging to change…it’s what’s ingrained in behavior, expectations, celebration, recovery. How hard your team works to keep talented people in the team is more about culture than it is about compensation. In the end, workplace cultures fall into two camps: bad and good. Nothing is more important in a business than its culture; everything is derived from it.

In today’s environment, where Millennials in particular, don’t expect to stay in one place very long (compared to their Boomer and GenX colleagues), the sign of a healthy culture is and will continue to be is whether former employees return for a second or even third tour of duty. The Boomerang employee is the canary in the coal mine on culture.

Why? Because a culture to return to is a culture to stay for. Because, in the world of “job hoppers” creating an environment in which people who had planned to stay only two or three years, end up staying three, four or five years, that culture is a strategic business advantage that drops right to the bottom-line from efficiency, lower churn rates, and many fewer days lost to recruiting and on-boarding.

A Boomerang Culture is a Valuable Culture.

5 Steps To Creating A Culture of Value:

1. Vision and Values. To attract and retain talent that will propel them forward, organizations need to be able to provide a clear sense of direction and purpose so employees know why they show up or log on every morning.

Company Vision – the imprint you want to make in the world or the positive state of the future world you imagine possible by your achievement – are based in the future. A vision is aspirational and big, emotionally charged and paints a positive or hopeful picture of the world. With a strong vision that rolls off the tongue that everyone can repeat without looking at the tchotchke on the desk, personal alignment, and the efficiency that goes along with it, is much more likely…as in demonstrably more likely.

Hand-in-hand with a vision must come Values that govern individual and group behavior and standards of conduct and performance. Values are paramount to being able to attract top talent. In Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey 56% have “ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.” Words are not enough to define the values of your team. How many teams have “excellence” as a value? One Billion, that’s how many. Most of all, values that work help people refuse or tolerate bad behavior in the workplace, and promote and propagate good behavior and high performance. Double Forte followed Pat Lencioni’s approach to defining our values– I encourage you to do the same.

2. Appreciation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: teams that feel they are appreciated outperform those that don’t.

Please and Thank You go a long way in the office.

And I’m not talking about gratuitous appreciation. I’m talking about taking a recognizable pause to thank people for their efforts and achievements. Please and thank you go a long way. And you can read more about the research that demonstrates the positive impact of appreciation in the workplace here and here.

Teams that feel appreciated outperform those that don’t.

3. Leadership. Leaders provide direction, problem solving, decision-making and enthusiasm and support.

Leaders set the tone for the organization and should model the values of the team. People who model the values of the organization are, by definition, leaders among their peers. In our flat, highly-matrixed organizations where hierarchy and command-and-control is less prevalent unless in crisis mode, we need leaders in every sector of our companies if we’re going to move expeditiously towards our goals.

Of course, that’s not to say that the CEO abdicates control or leadership responsibility when the task of leading is spread around. On the contrary, leaders among leaders hold the most power because they “allow” others to lead. Leadership development is highly prized by Millennials, GenXers and Boomers alike. Therefore, if you can’t name any of the leadership development opportunities at your company, you are behind.

4. Opportunity & Possibility. The stereotype of the Millennial Job Hopper isn’t fair; at the same time it didn’t emerge from thin air. Millennials have learned from their parents, from the economy and from their own and their friends’ experience, that they should not count on a single company to provide their optimal career. They don’t want to get “stale” by staying too long at one place – they saw what happened to their parents in 2008/2009 when millions of Boomers couldn’t find work because they weren’t relevant – often because they had stayed in a single company or position for a long time — in the economy that emerged from the Great Recession. Millennials know they need to create their own careers and are looking for the opportunities to do that.

Keeping good talent in your team depends significantly on how much opportunity each employee sees for himself and how much possibility she feels there is to capture it. We need to think beyond the traditional career paths and talk with each employee about the possibilities they have for advancement, education and cross-department moves. High performance must be required. Yes, this approach is messy. Yes, it takes time. However, when you weigh the cost of not showing opportunity or creating possibilities against the messiness and time required to imagine an individualized path forward, the messiness wins for high performers ever time.

5. Expectations. For many people what I’ve articulated above seems like “coddling” or “pansy-ass” or “accommodating.” I disagree. As long as you have a culture of high expectations and ownership, these culture components are the means to a profitable end. This culture is strategic. None of these principles work if the business is not achieving its goals in revenue and profit; there is no business without a business.

There is no business without a business.

Your team must have a common understanding of the expectations for behavior (expressed in your values), performance, business targets, and consequences. And you can’t over-communicate these expectations. You’ll know you’ve gone too far when people finish your sentences and performance reflects the expectations every time.

A valuable culture sets your organization apart from your competition’s because it is takes constant tending to maintain it. And because many people will want to return to it if they’ve left and experienced working in organizations that don’t make the effort. A culture to return to is a culture worth staying in. Therefore, focus your work and attention on the people you have with you today and the future will take care of itself.


You can read more about each of these steps in The Boomerang Principle: Inspiring Lifetime Loyalty From Your Employees (even when they leave you).