Callahan: How Real Culture is Created

May 20, 2024
Often, culture is defined by activities, perks, and an occasional free lunch, but that's not culture. True culture is about connection.

Last month, I discussed how to keep (pronounced pay) your staff and touched on the other component of retaining talent: culture. This term has become a popular buzzword, but what does it mean and how do we create a good one? 

 

What Does Company Culture Mean?  

Culture is how things get done in your business. This includes your standard operating procedures—written and non-written—and the behaviors and reactions of the entire staff, including leadership. Culture is something that everyone, including your clients, feels rather than sees.

Someone could describe a good company culture using the following words: transparent, collaborative, innovative, flexible, compassionate, independent, inclusive, informal, or inspirational. 

Alternatively, words like micromanage, hostile, snobby, strict, or chaotic describe a culture that doesn't exactly entice people to join or stay. 

Back in the dinosaur ages, people were primarily interested in how much money they could make, and they would stay with a company to make good money. Today, employees want to feel like they are part of something and that their contributions matter in the grand scheme. As my friend Shari Pheasant says, these people are not entitled; they are particular, and we made them that way! 

 

Creating Positive Culture

It isn't difficult to create a positive culture within your business. You need to take a long look at a few areas and how you or your leaders perform within them. Set some goals and start making the shifts immediately in these four areas: 

Accountability. We all make mistakes. Alexander Pope said, "To err is human; to forgive, divine." If we come down hard on someone for making a mistake, they will likely try to hide future errors and cost the company money. Alternatively, if a mistake happens and that staff member owns it, corrective action and potential retraining can happen right away. Leaders should watch for patterns in errors, but showing some grace when mistakes happen goes a long way when building a culture of trust. 

Communication. This is crucial in any organization because it helps create a place where people can freely exchange ideas, understand expectations, and build strong relationships. Good communication aligns everyone on goals, improves teamwork, boosts productivity, boosts profits, and keeps the company culture strong. 

Feedback. Creating an environment that values positive and corrective feedback is critical to having a good company culture. We cannot manage what we don't measure, and people must know how they perform. Employees also need to know they are free to share feedback about the company and their supervisors without fear of retribution. Regular feedback is also vital. A recent Gallup study showed that 80% of employees who have received meaningful input in the past week are fully engaged. The study also states that employees are 3.6 times more likely to strongly agree that they are motivated to do outstanding work when their manager provides daily (vs. annual) feedback. That means you can work toward consistently complimenting people when you see them doing a fantastic job or quickly mention a way to better execute something they are struggling with without planning a long and drawn-out meeting that stresses both you and your staff out. 

Inclusion. We hear a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but do we understand them? Diversity refers to the differences between people in a group. Equity means everyone in that diverse group is treated fairly and equally, and inclusion means that everyone feels comfortable being themselves without worry of being rejected or left out of the group. Having a culture of inclusion sparks creativity and innovation. We all have seen technicians perform the same job in multiple ways to create an efficient and accurate way to repair a vehicle. When they share those techniques with others, it increases productivity, efficiency, and confidence among the other members of your team. 

Tying all these together is what creates a great culture in your shop. When your staff has a good culture, guess what happens? Your clients feel that and tell all their friends about it. A good culture that spreads to your customer base is the least expensive form of marketing you can implement. 

Note: Company culture is not free lunches, taking people to dinner, or giving gift cards, although that does add to the perks. It is about value, trust, and personal and professional development. 

 

About the Author

Kathleen Callahan | Owner

Kathleen Callahan has owned Florida’s Xpertech Auto Repair for 20 years. In 2020, she joined Repair Shop of Tomorrow as a coach to pursue her passion for developing people and creating thriving shop cultures. Callahan is the 2018 Women in Auto Care Shop Owner of the Year, nationally recognized by AAA for three consecutive years, testified for Right to Repair on Capitol Hill, and is Vice Chair of Women in Auto Care.

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