Having the Right Culture

By Thad Plumley

I got comfortable in a pew on a recent Sunday as the minister of my church began her sermon by recalling a job early in her life.

She told a tale of coworkers being congratulated for lying about “defective tools” which saved their company money. She talked of the mistreatment of employees and company ethics being completely ignored.

A thought popped into my mind as she recalled the awful ordeal. As companies in all industries deal with the difficult task of finding qualified employees, the importance of workplace culture has officially gone mainstream and stepped into the spotlight. Never did I think the subject would be wedged between a hymn and communion.

But it was—and for good reason.

With good help harder to find than ever, you need to make sure your company’s culture is one that people want to be a part of. No longer is a job with a paycheck at the end of every two weeks a good enough selling point.

The culture at your business is the shared assumptions, values, and beliefs of everyone on board. It influences everything—the way workers behave at the office, jobsite, and perhaps most importantly, when they interact with customers.

For better or worse, every company has its own unique culture. You can’t go out and buy a good one; it develops over time.

I know a contractor who lives next to his shop. His family’s garden is nearby as well, and vegetables are often picked and placed on a table in the shop so employees can take them home to their families.

Sure, free tomatoes may not sound like much but think about what the gesture shows: A boss who cares, is willing to give, and be involved in his employees’ lives. You’ve got to believe the culture there is a good one.

Now compare that atmosphere to the one my minister described. If both companies were vying for your services, where would you want to work?

But the real question to ask is what is the culture at your company? A good company culture will be one that has:

  • Clarity: Employees should know up front the mission of the company and what is expected of them.
  • Feedback: Allowing feedback is critical. It not only makes employees feel valued but can lead to changes that push the day-to-day workflows—and the entire company—forward.
  • Teamwork: Focus on company goals over individual ones as that creates an inviting atmosphere. Everyone not only needs to know their expectations and roles within them, but also be able to celebrate when goals are met.

I hope you feel like I just described your company. I also hope you noticed I didn’t say anything about wages.

Sure, pay is obviously important, but a healthy culture is what attracts and keeps talented employees—and keeps your company out of the Sunday sermon.

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.