Shaping a positive, team-oriented corporate culture is hard. Companies spend buckets of money on mission statements, motivational posters, employee newsletters, speakers and leadership training to develop a company culture that attracts and inspires the best talent in the world. But culture isn’t defined by words on a page or slides in a PowerPoint deck, right? Just as coaches and general managers find and mold athletes into respectful, hardworking teammates, the business side of sports teams must find concrete ways to shape how employees do their work and treat one another. It’s not simple but the end result is pure gold, a treat for everyone in the organization.
Hire the best talent available.
Selecting the best possible talent ensures the best possible results. It sounds easy but it’s quite the opposite. Creativity, a willingness to question others and quality work creates great companies. But instead of spending a lot of dollars on talent recruiting, organizations tend to follow the path of least resistance. Some recruiting staffs use less than stellar hiring techniques to choose amongst the crowd and lose out on scores of top notch talent. With thousands of resumes flooding in, hiring managers are overwhelmed and rely on automated processes to narrow the field. But top recruiting departments focus more on good hiring practices knowing that—even though more talent and recruiting dollars are needed—it is time and money well spent.
A unique hiring experience and well-written job description does many things—weeds out people that half-ass the application process, helps your company attract the best talent and makes talent evaluation more thorough. While professional sports organizations spend millions of dollars each year on roster building, marketing, and facility management, most are still self-contained small businesses. Because hundreds, not thousands, of employees run the business side of the team it’s even more important that each employee is the best of the best. Looking through resumes and cover letters will eliminate people that are clearly unfit for the available position. But talking to people—over the phone, on Skype or in person—will really tell the story. And providing a task for job seekers to complete on their own—sample client email, data analysis report, P&L statement review—can help you determine if they have the talent to do the work. Just because a resume says they can do it, it doesn’t necessary mean they can. Strive to bring in the best people and they will build a corporate culture worthy of praise.
Promote positive work styles from the board room to break room.
The culture within a company is more about the makeup of its employees than the mission statement on the website. If you put in the time to bring in great people, put in the effort to cultivate a positive work environment. Computers are designed to work 24/7. Machinery with no families, friends or outside interests need little more than power, maintenance and good programming to survive. But people are human. Although the work must get done, remember that each person is unique—treat them that way. While policies are important—especially for large companies—to create fairness and standards, it’s equally vital to empower managers and employees to evaluate situations and go “off book” at times. If a team accountant wants to leave early for their child’s school play, get them out the door and cover their work, even if they just brought it up yesterday. And when a janitor or ticket taker falls sick on game day, send them some chicken noodle soup rather than pressuring them to show up for work. Trust that employees will make responsible decisions; you hired the best-of-the-best after all. And remember that humanism is powerful.
When an organization creates a culture where owners trust leaders and leaders trust workers, a system of loyalty is fused. People will work harder for you knowing you don’t want to build a wall between their professional and personal lives. You know Janet doesn’t stop being a wife, mother, daughter and sister when she sits down in her cubicle. So don’t pretend that, from 9am to 5pm, she is only a human resource manager and nothing more. Find ways to give employees the flexibility to handle their work and enjoy their lives. If there are busy seasons encourage workers to take time off, including unplanned half days, during the quiet times. It’s the small stuff that will brew a culture that brings out the best in everyone.
Talk to employees, not at employees.
All companies have memos. These formal communications to employees from on high are mentioned in the same breath as work weekend and no raise this year. No one likes them. Half the company treats them as spam email and the other half makes fun of them. When leaders take time to craft a letter seen by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people it typically is important. But the delivery is all wrong. Employees hate being talked at. Learn to talk to your team members instead.
When you have a message to relay to a large group think about it from their point of view. No one wants to hear “The company had a great financial year but, due to how operating margin is being tracked, we are unable to offer incentive-tied bonuses this year.” Speak and write clearly and convey your message as simply as possible. Perhaps try: “We’re doing well but our profits weren’t large enough to pay out bonuses this year. But know that we’re investing back in the company so it becomes even more successful in the coming years. Your hard work is appreciated.” Simple and truthful. Become an employer that speaks with employees like people not resources, humans not capacity and adults not minions. You will get more out of your team and create a work environment that is more fun than you probably believe is possible.