3 Steps to Analyzing Your Company Culture
Company culture is constantly changing and fluctuating, but when you are able stop and analyze its effectiveness, changes can be made to further improve your employee retention, efficiency, and overall attitude of the staff in your shop. As an owner or a manager, you have the ability to control the atmosphere in your shop, once the weaknesses have been identified.
“Culture always emanates from the top. It is perpetuated throughout the organization but it always is created at the highest levels and trickles in every direction from there,” leadership speaker Walt Rakowich says.
And Rakowich knows company culture. Before becoming a leadership speaker, he was the CEO of real estate company Prologis, where he led one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Wall Street history. When he took over, it was the third-worst performing company in the S&P 500, but by implementing a change in culture through transparency, he turned the company around and restored its position in the industry. After retiring from his position at Prologis, Rakowich now speaks on how next-generation leaders can continue to lead during turbulent times and how they can create great company cultures.
But how are shop owners able to evaluate the culture of their shop, and its effects on their employees’ attitudes and actions?
“If you don't ask and you don't listen, you'll never find out,” Rakowich says.
Below are his three steps for how shop owners can understand and analyze the culture they have created in their shops, as well as how the successful Borst Automotive owner, Jon Bradford, surveys the company culture at his two locations in Tucson, Ariz.
Step 1: Look out for the signs.
Rakowich defines company culture as what people believe to be true in an organization. Whether that individual’s truth is right or wrong, it ultimately influences the decisions that employee makes and how he or she acts, he says.
“Culture is not just about the beliefs in an organization, but how leaders positively influence the behaviors and lives of employees working in the organization,” he says.
Knowing what a good company culture looks like is vital to being able to recognize whether or not the climate that management has set in place is working. Rakowich says that great company culture is rooted in trust and transparency.
There are key signs to look out for when evaluating if you have culture issues. You’ll see a lack of collaboration between staff members, absenteeism, and a high turnover rate, Rakowich says. Another large sign of a failing company culture are closed office doors, which he says are a sign of lack of trust and communication.
Step 2: Ask yourself the tough questions.
The biggest way to know if the culture that is set by management is working, is by asking yourself and your staff questions.
“If you have a great culture, people passionately pursue their work. You should be able to recognize it as a manager. If you don’t see it, you need to ask yourself why,” Rakowich explains.
Asking yourself about the culture of your shop is crucial to identifying what’s working and what isn’t. Some questions to ask yourself:
Am I creating an atmosphere of trust?
“Trust is the single most important word in great culture,” Rakowich says.
If employees trust what you are doing, they also trust that the decisions being made have their best interests in mind. When creating an environment of transparency, everyone on the team is able to feel more at ease and comfortable.
Am I being intellectually honest with both good and bad news?
Rakowich says that sometimes issues can come from not what you say as a manger, but also what you don’t say. Letting your employees in on the good, the bad and the ugly can communicate to them that they are equally part of the team and further elevate trust.
Do I explain the rationale behind the decisions that I make?
Leaving your employees in the dark adds to distrust and uncertainty, Rakowich says. He explains that some businesses make decisions in a vacuum. This creates a space where employees are left wondering what is going on and can further cultivate a less-than-favorable company culture.
Step 3: Survey your employees.
To truly know how the state of your shop’s culture bleeds into how your employees operate and how they view their jobs, simply ask them, Rakowich says. You can do this by administering a formal survey through an online surveying website like Survey Monkey, or on pen and paper. Another option is to have your staff participate in an informal survey, by sitting down with your employees and having a discussion.
“The No. 1 question an owner should be asking their employees is, ‘What can I do to make your job better?’” says Ravowich.
Around four years ago, Jon Bradford began administering surveys to his employees. Bradford says this is a way to let his staff anonymously say what they truly think.
“We go over things that are important to people, and then try and implement them,” says Bradford.
The surveys have given Bradford a look into how Borst’s company culture is working, and, more importantly, what can be done to help make the culture better. Bradford says that tons of items suggested on the surveys have been implemented. For example, changes in their uniforms, time-off, personal time versus vacation time, and what days the shops are closed during the holidays.
“If you have a great culture, people come to work passionate. If you don’t, they don't; you can see that as a manager and you need to ask yourself why,” Rakowich explains.
These formal and informal surveys tend to boost company culture, he says.
“Understanding your culture takes a willingness to ask and listen to what others have to say about it. In other words, it requires that managers continuously check in and gauge the temperature of their organization. By doing so, it helps perpetuate a good culture because it shows everyone in the organization that management cares,” Rakowich says.