dont just stand there

Our Philosophy: Creating an Exceptional Company Culture

Most of you haven’t heard of Credera. It doesn’t have the brand recognition of a Google or Facebook. However, it does have brand recognition with our most important audience, our employees. I’m going to share some of the awards we have won together over the last couple of years to add a little bit of legitimacy to what we will be discussing in this article.

On Glassdoor our employees have rated Credera a 4.8 out of 5.0. We were one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in America (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and Texas Monthly Magazine’s Best Companies to Work for in Texas (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).  Personally, I am proud to be a part of Credera. More importantly, I am amazed at the people who I get to work with. When I see their lives in action it is inspirational. They are living lives of purpose; they are people of integrity, humility, and excellence. Their lives are integrated. They are the same people here and at home. This is what creates great culture.

Culture is what defines an organization and more importantly, provides an environment where employees either propel a company or diminish it.  As a leader, if you want to have an amazing company, it is imperative that you make a concerted effort to produce a great culture and attract great talent. It is important to actively remove dysfunction from your organization. But it is not enough to simply be a functional company. Become a company with purpose. Purposeful companies are making a difference in the world and top talent is lining up to join the adventure.

It’s a Journey

One of my business heroes, Peter Drucker, brilliantly declared that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He understood the significant impact of culture years before the corporate world was giving it much thought.

A great culture is not a destination; it is a never-ending pursuit.

With that said, I’d like to share a little bit about our company culture. To be clear, we have NOT arrived. However, we have learned a lot over the last 15 years. I love learning from the experience of others, so in that spirit, I hope our experience is valuable to you.

Rooted in Example

One of our guiding principles is to be “example driven, not theory oriented.” Examples, rooted in experience, are superior to opinions. Examples, supported by experience, are grounded in reality and fact, while opinions are available from nearly any source. Facts always inform better decision-making.

Culture of Experience

We are under no illusion that great culture can be created with a specific formula. Rather than offering hardnosed, prescriptive advice, we have simply tried to lift the veil to expose our own culture so that others might learn from our experience.

In the model below, you will see twelve attributes which, in our experience, support a great culture. The Credera core values are present in every one of these attributes.

At Credera, we are seeking to invest in leaders who share our commitment to leveraging the organization to care for its people while orienting the company and its people towards greater purpose.

Company Culture Hierarchy of Needs

Our goal is to be a purposeful company. As imperfect as it may look at times, we will never stop working towards consistently and genuinely representing these attributes in and through our organization.

Unfortunately, many leaders allow and even model dysfunction in their companies. It is difficult to be a purposeful company and have invested employees if dysfunction is consistently present. What happens to the belief in your company’s purpose if conflict is not handled well or the facts are only partially communicated? What happens if your CEO is unwilling to be open and transparent with you? What happens when you think your CEO or colleague is hiding something? Most people begin to lose trust. Employees become unwilling to take the risk and put in the work required to move up the Company Culture Hierarchy of Needs. Working to stay functional dramatically increases the likelihood of becoming a purpose driven company.

The Impact of Culture

Sean Culey, a business expert and consultant, draws this conclusion about culture based on extensive research in the experience of others:

“Leaders need to wake up to the power of culture. Often misunderstood and discounted as a soft, nice-to-have component of business, culture is neither intangible nor fluffy; it is one of the most important drivers to the creation of long-term, sustainable success. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture—it trumps strategy and leadership every time.”

Where people choose to spend half of their waking hours matters, and in most cases it comes down to culture. The best companies have the best culture and attract the best talent. We are drawn to winning teams and people we can place our trust and confidence in.

Great strategy without a great culture is a miserable experience. Strategy can be adjusted rather quickly. Culture is far more difficult to build and maintain. Adjusting strategy is like turning around a canoe. Adjusting culture is like turning around an aircraft carrier.

No More Hiding

We’ve entered a new era of cultural transparency and visibility. Companies can’t hide who they are anymore. A marketing campaign will not cover up what employees believe about an unhealthy organization, and public relations can’t shove their dirty laundry under the bed. Employees are exposing the true health of their companies. We are able to see the raw, unfiltered, firsthand employee perspective and many times it isn’t pretty.

Claire McCartney, from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), notes, Overall, trust in leaders is low, with 38% of employees saying that they did not trust their senior management team. With many organizations facing tough times, issues such as organizational culture and values often ‘take a back seat’.”

As an example, let’s look at a few public employee reviews and their corresponding stock histories. You decide if you would want to work at one these companies. Glassdoor.com asks employees to assess the company and culture. Employees are asked to answer a few simple questions:

  • What are the pros of working here?
  • What are the cons?
  • What advice do you have for senior management?
  • Do you approve of the CEO?
  • Would you recommend this company to a friend?

Costco vs Sams

Sams on GlassdoorCostco on Glassdoor

Sean Culey notes in a 2010 study ‘Supply Chain Strategy in the Boardroom’ that across all respondents 181 executives from different organizations listed their company culture as the top barrier to success. Costco (red line below) is known to pay their employees more than what they can make at Sam’s Club (yellow line below). With a 93% approval rating, Costco’s leader Criag Jelinek is clearly creating a culture that is helping their company win.

COST vs WMT

Southwest Airlines vs American Airlines

Southwest Airlines on GlassdoorAmerican Airlines on Glassdoor

If you have traveled much this shouldn’t be a surprise. Gary Kelly and Southwest Airlines (red line below) clearly influence an upbeat and engaging culture. This is evident by the friendly demeanor of their flight attendants, the helpful nature of their desk agents, and their “very satisfied” employee rating on Glassdoor. This is primarily influenced by culture. I choose to fly Southwest over American Airlines (yellow line below) every time I can.

SW vs AA

Google vs Microsoft

Google on Glassdoor

MSFT on Glassdoor 1

MSFT on Glassdoor 2

The image I have of Microsoft’s former CEO Steve Ballmer is when he stood on stage screaming at developers. I’m not sure how that is helpful. Microsoft’s (yellow line below) new CEO, Satya Nadella, has a better overall rating, so things may be looking up. Larry Page, with Google (red line below), appears to be doing a number of things right. Google’s employees are very supportive of the direction and of his leadership.

Google vs MSFT

The Bottom Line

Leaders who have created great company culture are being rewarded. Those leaders responsible for creating less than a stellar culture are losing when matched against their competitors.

Leaders Get the Companies They Deserve

It is the mirror effect (see Habitudes by Tim Elmore). Selfless leaders get selfless culture. Great leaders care more about serving others than they do about their own personal comfort or ego. These leaders are concerned with creating a great culture for the companies and the people they serve.

Great Talent Moves to Great Culture

I believe we are living in a unique time. It is going to be interesting to see what happens over the next five to seven years. The data seems to indicate that those with the healthiest culture are winning more quickly than they ever have before. Talent has access to data like never before, meaning they can make better and faster decisions about where they want to work. Great talent recognizes their contributions will be appropriately rewarded. Talent and culture are highly correlated. Great culture is required to attract great talent. But great talent is also required to create great culture. Companies with a mediocre culture will not only become less attractive to great talent, but they are also losing the talent required to improve their culture.

Decide Culture Matters

Companies with great culture have an enormous advantage over their competition. The transparency employees provide about where they work will continue to increase. CEOs who try to protect an outsider’s view of their company instead of dealing with the brutal facts will lose. Great CEOs are consistently working on improving the culture. Employees have the power to destroy or elevate the companies they work for. Talent and character find the best culture, and they are finding it faster than ever before. This is going to get ugly for bad companies. However, it is going to be very encouraging for companies doing it right.

If your company is in the middle, it is time to make a decision on what kind of company you want to be. Not deciding is still a decision.

Acquiring great talent and developing a great culture are the two most important strategic investments you can make in your company.

Talent follows talent. And talent is attracted to great culture.

If your employees told you exactly what they thought of your culture without fear of reprisal what would they say? This is exactly what they are telling their best and brightest friends who are considering where to invest their future.

Further Discussion

Company culture is one my favorite topics and something I love helping companies improve. Share your thoughts in the comments section below or contact me directly.

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