Curt Fowler | Fowler & Company | Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey
A great business model or a great business opportunity can be killed by a toxic employee culture. Great cultures attract, retain and engage talented people.
A talented and motivated workforce is the only competitive advantage that matters in today’s economy. Every other advantage your company has will be duplicated or overcome by the talented people that your competitor is able to attract, retain and engage.
Most of the major culture problems can be fixed with little or no additional cost. The fixes take time and focus. Throwing bonuses or raises at the problem is costly and ineffective. It is far more effective to make the time to uncover the root problem and eliminate the problem.
As a senior leader, how do you recognize you have a culture problem? Below are five signs you should be looking for.
Employee Turnover – Compare your turnover to industry averages. A higher than average turnover rate indicates a problem. Find out why yours is higher. Is it a pay issue, a problem with your hiring process or is your culture to blame? Use exit interviews and speak to employees to assess the problem. I don’t know of any company that has been successful over the long term while having above average turnover. Most of the great companies’ turnover is a fraction of their industry peers. If your company is not in the top 25% of employers in your industry, why not?
Absenteeism – Increases in absenteeism is a clear indicator of a problem. Excited and engaged employees come to work if possible. Is a high-stress environment causing more illnesses? Is it not any fun to come to work? Do your employees have good friends at work? If not, how can you help deepen the relationships between your employees?
Recruiting Pipelines – Do you have to search far and wide to attract great employees? Do your best employee’s friends line up to get in? Friends don’t let friends work at bad workplaces. Ask your best employees why their friends are not applying. Engage your people in fixing any problems you uncover.
Office Gossip – Do the conversations suddenly change when the leader enters the room? That is a good sign the water cooler talk has gone negative. Don’t get paranoid. Start having deeper conversations with your most trusted employees. Your best team members will open up and let you know what is going on.
Employee Promoter Score – The employee promoter score asks your employees how likely they are to recommend your workplace to a friend or family member. The results tally into a simple, single number. Do rolling surveys of your people so you are always getting fresh data. Use this tool to catch culture problems before they get too big.
Culture problems always start in a distinct area of an organization and spread quietly. By the time your turnover or absenteeism becomes a big enough
problem to notice a lot of damage has been done. Use the Net Promoter score to catch small fires early and put them out.
Watch out for these signs of a bad culture so you can fix the problem fast. Like most fixes in life, culture change is easier the earlier you catch the problem.
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Curt Fowler is President of Fowler & Company (http://valuesdrivenresults.com/) and Director at Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey (http://valdostacpa.com/). He is dedicated to helping leaders create and achieve a compelling vision for their organization. Curt is a syndicated business writer and keynote speaker. He has an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA, and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and four children.