Posted April 25, 2019 by John Spence
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I’ve said it 10,000 times, but let me say it again: Culture = Cash. I’ve learned from working with hundreds of companies around the world that the biggest area for dramatic improvement, or failure, is most often a company’s culture. The number one factor in highly engaged, satisfied and loyal customers… is engaged, satisfied and loyal employees.
“The customer’s experience will never exceed the employee’s experience”
Recently, I read an article that outlined the three main things that millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, look for in the culture of an organization. Those things are safety, dignity, and purpose.
What we are focused on here is psychological safety, which refers to an employee’s belief that it is safe to speak their mind without fear of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a culture with high psychological safety, employees feel confident that no one will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new iCuldea.
A study by Google identified psychological safety as the most important aspect of highly effective teams. The Google researchers found that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.
To measure a team’s level of psychological safety, the researchers asked team members how strongly they agreed or disagreed with these statements:
- If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you.
- Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
- People on this team sometimes reject others for being different.
- It is safe to take a risk on this team.
- It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
- No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
- Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized.
It has been my experience that it is impossible for people to do great work in an company culture where they do not feel safe.
Dignity is derived from showing trust, granting autonomy, and recognizing the value of individual contributions. In a culture that exhibits these three key traits, employees develop more self-worth and self-respect, and feel they are respected by others. Trust, autonomy, and recognition build a sense of ownership of their work and pride in performing it well. I believe that the path to helping people feel dignity is to treat them with genuine respect.
Let me give you a personal example. I travel a lot, 200+ days a year, so that means I eat about 600 meals a year in restaurants. Most people basically ignore their server, often times not even making eye contact with them. In contrast, I realize that these people are literally “serving” me, since they are carrying food to me when I am hungry. I genuinely respect them for that and show it by calling them by name, complementing their professionalism, commenting on the quality of the food, and thanking them often for their assistance. I don’t do this to get a free dessert, I do it because I am truly appreciative of their efforts to make me feel well cared for. Do I get better service? Absolutely. But I also have a more enjoyable meal because I get to make a genuine human connection and I let someone know that I believe that they are important. A culture where people treat each other with great respect will encourage people to do great work.
When I started my career in 1989, the sole “purpose” of nearly every company was to make money. Putting money to the bottom line is of course still critical, but today many companies are embracing the idea of the Triple Bottom Line (TLB). The TBL is an accounting framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. The TBL dimensions are also commonly called the three Ps: people, planet and profits, but now there is a 4th P, Purpose.
The consulting firm Ernst and Young define purpose as “an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and inspires a call to action.”
Does purpose really matter? A global study found that 89% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that support solutions to a particular social issue. For more than half of consumers, purpose is the most important factor in their choice to do business with one company over another when the products are similar. So the numbers show that not only having a strong purpose is important to your customers, but it is also an essential element in attracting top talent. For 77% of millennial employees, an organizational culture based on purpose and strong core values are just as important as base salary and benefits.
If building a great culture in your organization is important to you, keep in mind that psychological safety, dignity through respect, and an inspiring purpose is the foundation for creating a culture that motivates your people to deliver excellence.
Do you want to take your expertise and experience to the next level and grow your business? Join my webinar to learn the performance essentials organizations and individuals need today.
They are 30 minutes long and I will be covering these items.
IQ, EQ, AQ: What is the difference, why is it important?
Purpose: It is not just a paycheck for the talented
Five Generations: There is a lot to be learned here
Culture: The Great Differentiator
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