In business, branding matters. Customers are drawn to your products or services because of their perceived attributes. The public has an image of what companies stand for, which can expand goodwill and investments. Likewise, organizations have a brand as an employer – the value proposition that plays a role in drawing and keeping talent.
Every workplace has its own buzz. It centres on the feel of the place. Call it the company culture. It’s what employees share with each other, and their networks, when they either praise or critique where they work.
To succeed, companies need the right strategic, marketing and financial plans. Culture also has a prime place. In Chicago, the Return on Value (ROV) project at Benedictine University is researching the relationship between culture and profit for small and mid-size companies. No surprise, the three-year project (launched in 2012) found that exceptional companies not only hire and retain top talent, but adopt a “people first” approach that drives growth.
Companies often point out all sorts of values that define their cultures – respect and responsibility, teamwork and trust, service and sustainability. The ROV project compiled a list of dozens more. Inspiring, but what does it all mean? To foster a positive culture, consider what people want from work. It can come down to two broad areas.
Kevin Hollis, president of Belmont Health & Wealth in Dartmouth, N.S., uses the tagline “balance your life.” People often think of balance in terms of work-life, but employees also seek balance within a company.
One way to look at the key components of workplace culture is through health and wealth. The wealth side comprises salaries, benefits, bonuses, retirement contributions, etc. That represents a balance between individual and family needs, and between immediate and future security.
It’s vital to be competitive around health too, says Hollis. Beyond benefits, which have a health component, Hollis says his own firm focuses on healthy living. There are health improvement challenges (weight loss, stair climbing, healthy eating) and onsite clinics (blood pressure, flu shot). Belmont is also part of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s study on psychological health and safety standards in the workplace.
More broadly, there’s career health. For instance, Belmont encourages a high degree of collaboration within its team, provides training opportunities, and helps employees explore new job opportunities within the organization. Here’s what it comes down to for Hollis: “By showing our people we care about them, they pay that forward to customers.”
Employees crave something else that’s fundamental, says Kandy Cantwell, managing partner at Montridge Financial Group in Vancouver. “There’s nothing worse than going to work and feeling like a widget,” she says.
People are motivated when they feel a stake in the organization’s success. Through everyday management practices, do employees understand why their roles are key? Is their feedback sought and used? Making money is a given; making a difference can change everything.
“The number one thing in building a positive workplace,” says Cantwell, “is ensuring that employees feel that they’re valued and have worth.”
Feeding the hunger for health/wealth and worth can create a culture where people can be their best to boost passion, productivity and profitability.