Embracing a positive company environment requires real resolve.
By Fran Duskiewicz
In crafting this column, I made a list of the things I thought might be interesting and relevant to readers, based on their knowledge of my background within Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes and my various industry involvements.
I’ve made my way through the list fairly easily, but there is one item that remains and it stares back at me every time I think about how I can approach it: company culture.
I am of many minds when considering this topic. Obviously, a bad company culture is unacceptable and needs to be researched and remedied right away, with root causes identified and eliminated.
CULT OF PERSONALITY
But, I’m also aware that within the word culture is “cult” and I’m uncomfortable with any sort of rabid sentiment that is centered on a single personality or a feeling that ‘we’re great because we are who we are.’ Plug in any company name. I think these types of cultures can turn sour quickly because they’re not necessarily built upon firm foundations.
Better a neutral culture than a cult of personality. How can I say this when I worked for a company known for possessing outstanding personalities and a great company culture? Nice N Easy’s culture didn’t rely upon us simply being nice and decent people. And we never sat in a meeting room and strategized building a company culture. I’m not sure that’s even possible.
If you were to ask 10 different people within our company why they thought the culture was a good one, I believe you’d get 10 different answers, and that is the way I believe it should be if the culture is truly great.
Obviously, people work for paychecks, but they also need personal fulfilment beyond that. There should be something about the job that has meaning to them, which rewards something within them beyond their wallet. Companies with a neutral culture will be fair, will follow the rules and will be clear about job expectations and wages. There may not be anything more to that, and for some people that’s perfectly fine.
A great company culture will come from a carefully constructed executive staff who understands that our industry needs people with varied interests and motivations—people people, number crunchers, merchandisers, chefs, problem solvers, people who fix things, marketers and some who just like to make sure everything is sparkling clean. Recognizing what these variously talented people do to make the company successful and doing it publicly is part of what makes us great.
I remember being at one of our annual meetings and watching a store manager give an award to his overnight person. What did the overnight person do to deserve such recognition? In five years, he never called in or failed to show up on time. If you don’t think that’s important, then you’ve never managed a store and you’re missing my point.
Plenty of store owners and executives believe they have a great culture because they’ve designed some nice programs. That’s not enough. You need to be out there with your people and you need to listen.
We used to keep track of weekly store sales records. Breaking a sales record got your store a dinner out with the company big shots. It was a fun night for the store team and they enjoyed the special recognition, but at the end of the dinner, we received the real payoff for being with them.
Everyone there had to tell us how we could make the store better. We heard things sometimes that made us cringe. We often heard that we were doing stupid things and making the job more difficult. We learned how clever and committed and special these people, whom we might have otherwise never met, really were.
After these dinners the first priority was fixing what needed to be fixed and implementing good ideas we had heard. Imagine having dinner with the company president, telling him how you think the walk-in cooler in your store could be improved, and then seeing your idea become reality. That is the basis of a great company culture because they tell everyone they know.
Our great company culture came from a true understanding of people and what they needed from their jobs beyond a paycheck. The trick is determining what those needs are. There’s only one way to do it—get out of your office, get out among your people and listen to them.