Your Business Needs an Employee-First Company Culture

Culture affects a company’s bottom line and the longevity of its success, according to Russ Palmer, owner of Titan Restoration of Arizona. He says firms need to be deliberate about creating culture from the very beginning, even before the interview process. “At Titan, our big goal is to be able to build a company that can support 125 employees and their families. We want these 125 employees to be net promoters, people who love working at Titan and who believe in our mission,” Palmer says. “In order to create that many Net Promoters, our culture has to be the top priority. We focus on providing opportunity and development because we truly believe that when we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers.”

Make Culture the Heart of Everything You Do

Palmer says Titan’s job opportunities and advertisements are created to attract the right employees, and the company’s interview process centers on culture questions rather than technical proficiency. This is followed by a thorough, standardized onboarding process that ensure employees understand Titan’s core values and culture expectations. He stresses: “We talk about our core values every day. It is the focus of our meetings and all our reviews. When corrections or acknowledgements are needed, they are always based on Titan’s core values. Culture isn’t just a cherry on top of everything else; it is the heart of everything we do.”

Create an Employee-First Culture to Achieve Success

Titan’s theme for 2019 is “We invest in each other,” and Palmer says, “The great part about this is that when we invest in our team, then we see all the returns of that investment in the way our employees interact and serve our customers.”

The company’s philosophy is that if the executive team focuses on developing their people, growing them, giving them opportunity, continuing education and decision-making power, then they will take excellent care of customers. Every employee has a defined career path and a development plan, and the company also uses skill matrixes to expand responsibilities and capabilities. “All your work to build a productive company culture needs to be measurable in order to see if you are making improvements,” Palmer says.

Titan tracks progress in its employee-first culture by giving annual culture surveys to employees, which are anonymous to ensure they provide honest feedback. The company takes the responses seriously and pays close attention to employee Net Promoter Scores and retention rates. “When our retention rate is increasing, then we know we are succeeding in creating an employee-first culture. The labor market is such that employees have lots of choices available. If your people want to stay, you’re doing something right,” he says.

3 Must-Haves for Creating an Employee-First Culture

  1. Prioritize culture – Be deliberate in creating, encouraging and sustaining it. This involves talking about culture all the time and ensuring management teams understand the priority.
  2. Make it measurable – Use surveys, Net Promoter Scores, retention rates, or other systems to quantifiably and regularly measure your progress.
  3. Develop empathy – Successful leaders always work toward winning hearts and minds and creating real engagement so employees feel that their best interests are a priority.

Actionable Strategies and Other Advice

Employee benefits is one area where employers can increase their appeal to potential employees and improve employee retention, emphasizing that culture is important to them — and that they put their money where their mouth is, says Palmer. “At Titan, we offer unlimited vacation days, a 401K match, as well as cover 100% of employee benefits. We offer ongoing training and development opportunities, industry exposure and a career development plan for every employee. For example, we have 10 employees registered to attend the RIA conference. Any investment in our employees, is an investment in the continuing success of our company,” he says.

Among other things, Palmer says improving company culture sometimes means eliminating toxic employees, which can be difficult when the toxic employee is also a top producer. “However,” he says, “you need to recognize that culture is more important than short-term, bottom-line gains. You want to create a company that can grow and last. In order to do that, culture has to be the priority.”

Lastly, Palmer emphasizes that building a great company culture involves a lot of work in the beginning, and that it takes time see progress. “Culture is like a flywheel: difficult to get started, but then it picks up momentum and actually keeps the whole operation running smoother,” he says. “Don’t give up before you really get going. It just takes a little time to dislodge the inertia of ‘the way we’ve always done it’ and get your company moving in a different, more productive, employee-first direction. Once you get the right culture started, it will power itself and create an incredible source of ongoing success in your business.”

This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.

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