Talent and Culture

So last weekend I got to go back to class. Friday was a single day course on Organizational Culture and Saturday was the first of three days on Recruiting and Retaining Talent.

Oh my how two days can fly by! (Have I mentioned how much I love this EMBA program lately?)

The whole two days are a blur of great stories, great conversations and brilliant insights from the professors and other classmates. I’m sure I’ll write more about these modules as we complete them over the next two weeks, but here’s just a few things to start with:

Culture is important. Pretending that your workplace culture doesn’t matter (or for some managers that it doesn’t exist) won’t help or work. Purposefully engaging workplace culture and feeding it makes a huge difference in staff engagement. And your culture will eat up your strategy (culture eats strategy for lunch) if you’re not considering it carefully when you plan.

Culture evolves, it’s not installed. Too often (and I made huge mistakes in this area 15 years ago when I arrived at Samaritan) leaders think they can change culture by fiat. It doesn’t happen that way. Culture can be changed, but it takes slow, deliberate effort and it takes gaining buy-in from staff to make the change happen. It’s important to maintain the positive and move the workplace away from the negative, but it can’t be done instantly or by sheer willpower. At least not without strewing the bodies of former staff members along side of the pathway (this actually took place at PepsiCo a while back, and it “works”, but not if you want to keep the team you have now).

The first day for a new staff member is memorable. It always is, right? But day 23 isn’t. So why squander the first day on paperwork or on poor organization and planning? Why not make that first day a day where the new team member is made to feel welcome in a personal way and has a fantastic memory of how he or she came on board?

Mission matters. So make it matter in everything. Dr. Robin talked about working for the Great Workplace Institute and her boss would ask, when she returned back from a trip, “How did you change the world this week?” rather than “So what happened in Cleveland?” The answer to both questions is the same, but the focus on the mission is evident in the first and it makes a huge difference in how a team member assimilates the organizational values.

That’s just a little bit of what I learned this past weekend. I also had a stretching but encouraging time. Assessing how we’re doing is hard because I think we, as an organization, still have a ways to go. But it was encouraging because in every assessment we did I could say “we’re much better than we were a few years ago” or “yeah, I really messed that up back then, but we’ve grown out of it.”

Samaritan Ministries has been, for a few years running now, a Best Christian Workplace. But the first year or two we did that assessment we were anything but one of the best. We had a lot of growing to do, and we took the results seriously and grew. And every year we have to continue to take the results seriously because even though they’re good (better?) now it would be easy to drop back because we weren’t listening to team concerns. And as a leadership team, we’ve been deliberate about trying to continue to grow in our ability to lead and to serve the great men and women we get to work with, and I think God has blessed those efforts with success.

So I’m loving school still and enjoying the current module in particular. And in the funniest “homework”/application of learning so far: I’m wearing a T-shirt to work tomorrow. Feel free to ask why I’m doing that and why it’s significant…

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