September 26, 2020
Company Culture 02 October 2017
Why a Healthy Corporate Culture Needs To Be Your Priority.
Scott Jordan
Happy employees

Expectations need to be set in every relationship in life and employer-employee relationships are no different. If you're not upfront with new and old employees your turnover rates will skyrocket. And it's not just about their responsibility or job functions. You also need to clearly explain what it's like to work at your company and how you expect them to behave while they are an employee.

Now it's my time to be upfront: my business had a high turnover rate. For years we struggled to figure out why. So I met with leadership coaches, other CEOs and anyone else who would listen to me and could give advice.

I learned it's not my employees, it's me. More specifically, it's the corporate culture that I established when I first started my company 16 years ago. Over that amount of time, many things can change but for some reason, I never took another look at our corporate culture -- that was something for HR to worry about.

Now my eyes are opened. Here's what I've learned.

Words matter

Any communications or HR professional will tell you this, but your corporate culture is integral to the long-term success of your company. It's often met with eye rolls or disinterest by executives or business owners who are interested in revenue and short-term success of the company. So, before you fall into the rabbit hole that I did, you need to figure out exactly what you expect from your employees.

Most importantly, you need to figure out how to communicate this to employees! Everyone wants an honest employee, or hard working, but the "how" is often left out when defining employee conduct. 

For example, one central theme of our culture was “Figure It Out,” or FIO for short. We thought this was straightforward enough: if the information you need is readily-accessible, don’t ask others for help unless you absolutely need it. However, at times this had a negative impact on employees new and old. They would research or try and track down the answer for questions that would take 2 minutes for a colleague to answer. Or, they would truly try to FIO themselves so they wouldn’t bother a colleague, but this lead to easily-avoidable errors. 

Identifying miscommunications, like this example, in your corporate culture and quickly fixing it is the difference in cultivating employees who show up 9-5 for a paycheck vs those who are truly invested and dedicated to the success of your organization as a whole.

Lead By Example

No one will buy into your mission or culture when they see you, or other higher-ups, breaking the rules that you set or not acting in-line with how they're expected to act.

If you keep seeing employees leave for the same reasons, it's not that you're hiring bad employees (well, maybe a few). It's because you've not done a good enough job of defining what it's like to work at your company and what you expect out of employees.

In another example, a previously-used quote of ours when onboarding employees was, “anything worth doing is worth doing quickly.” We meant for that to emphasize efficiency and prioritization, which all of our upper-level employees are great at. But, this piece of our corporate culture had the unintended effect of making new employees feel like they had to get everything done at once. 

I have a million ideas a minute, and never expect employees to work completely at my speed, and this miscommunicated portion of our corporate culture was causing new employees to drop everything they were doing to shift to a new project or idea far too often. 

No one wants to be blindsided after starting a new job. Be brutally honest and clearly communicate what it’s like to work at your company. The ones that turn down your offer weren't right to begin with.

It's Not Them, It's You

Part of leading by example is owning mistakes. I'm not talking about typos or improperly imported data. I'm talking company-wide failures. A perfect example is something my friend Guy Kawasaki coined "the Bozo Explosion." It's simple: "A players" hire other A players, and B players hire C players to make themselves look better.

Years back I hired a President to handle most of our day-to-day. Turns out, he was a B player and hired a slew of incompetent employees and contractors that inevitably cost my business just shy of $1M and took months to reverse the consequences.

Was I mad at the President? Sure I was. But at the end of the day, it was my fault for hiring him. When looking for the bozo, all I had to do was look in the mirror.

The truth is, there's no easy way to determine who an A player is. Tons of candidates can look good on paper and appear to be a good fit for your culture. But if the culture itself is off, you're going to keep hiring the wrong people time and time again.

So sit down and define who your ideal employee is. Everyone’s company is different, and thus everyone’s ideal employee is different. But, by working backward from that profile to define your corporate culture, you'll prevent the downward turnover spiral.

The biggest revelation of all is that people are your most important asset. I've found that I spend the least time with my best employees. So, when looking to take your business to the next level, don't look for that secret marketing initiative. Look for how you can strengthen your employees and the health of your organization, then the rest will follow.

As CEO and co-founder of SCOTTeVEST, Scott Jordan is involved in every aspect of the business, from engineering the perfect pockets, maintaining media relationships to "big picture" stuff like steering the future of the company. Since starting the company with his wife in 2000, he has grown SCOTTeVEST into a highly successful international brand with more than fifty styles of multi-pocket clothing for men and women. Connect with Scott on Facebook or LinkedIn.