Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Three Keys to a Winning Culture

Happy Business Team 3During the past year a great deal of my time has been spent teaching organizations around the world how to improve their culture, as many organizations (both large and small) are now realizing that Culture =Cash! They have finally accepted that if getting, growing and keeping top talent is a strategic objective (and it should be!!!), then having a superior culture is one of the main ways to attract that top talent. So to me, there are two sides to the culture coin… what employees look for, which is a Winning Culture, a place that’s fun to work at, with a family atmosphere, where they are treated fairly , have the freedom to do their without micro management and an organization that has created a culture of catching people doing things right!  However, there is also the other side of the culture coin that the employer looks for, which is highly engaged employees who have an Ownership Mentality…that is they show dedication, passion, creativity, pro-activity, a sense of urgency and high levels of both personal and mutual accountability .

These are all important factors, and there are several more key factors to creating a winning culture , but a few years ago I was talking to a good friend of mine who is a leading psychologist and he pointed out that a great deal of what I was talking about was exactly the same things that everyone looks for in the most important relationships in their lives … and when you think about it, your relationship to your job and the people there is absolutely one of the most important relationships in your life .  According to my friend, here are the three factors that everyone looks for in the key relationships in their life :


Safety: employees need to feel physically safe at their job, that they’re not going to get hurt by machinery or that it’s safe to walk out to the parking lot late in the evening.  They also need to feel emotionally safe, that no one is going to yell at them, embarrass them and their job will not be simply yanked out from underneath their feet with no reason.  Lastly, they need to feel psychologically safe, that they can express their opinion, share their ideas or disagree with a superior … without the fear of retribution, bullying or embarrassment.


Belongingness: people want to feel that they are part of the team, part of the group, part of the tribe.  They want to know that the people at work like them, like having them around and feel they are an important part of the organization. No one wants to feel like an outcast or that no one cares about them.


Appreciation: employees want to know that they are appreciated not only for the work they do, but also who they are as an individual, what they contribute to the team, and the ideas and diversity that they bring to the organization.


Safety            Belongingness          Appreciation


It is my strong belief that if you flood your organization with safety, belongingness and appreciation that you will build a framework for creating a truly a winning culture.  And, as with many of the other factors, these three are mostly what I call atmosphere issues…they cost no extra money to implement – it is simply the way you treat your people, the way you engage them, and the respect you show all of your employees that make them feel safe, that they belong and that they are genuinely appreciated.

So my question to you is: What can you do TODAY to create more safety, belongingness and appreciation across your entire organization?  

*** If you want more specifics on exactly how to build a great company culture, I have created a very concise and focused ebook that will give you all of my best ideas, tools and advice. It is only $2.99 on Amazon and I promise it will be VERY helpful.  Click HERE to take a look







The Cost of Disengaged Employees (and What You Can Do About It)

A guest blog from Sean Conrad

The Human Capital Institute lists some interesting financial consequences of employee engagement/disengagement:

  •  Fully engaged employees return 120% of their salary in value
  • Engaged employees return 100% of their salary in value
  • Somewhat disengaged employees return 80% of their salary in value
  • Disengaged employees return 60% of their salary in value
  • Gallup estimates that a disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary.
  • Disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion a year due to lost productivity.

You can find more about the dollars and sense of employee engagement in this blog post and infographic.

The point is, employee disengagement is costing your business money — every day. And it’s preventing your organization from achieving its potential.

So what can you do about it?

Hire the Right People

On some level, engagement is a character trait. People who are passionate about their work and about life in general, and who take pride in what they do will naturally be more engaged at work. People who can leverage their skills and experience and bring their “best selves” to work are more passionate and engaged. Those are character traits that you can’t “manufacture” or develop in your staff. They have to be there from the start. So make sure your recruiting and hiring processes screen for passion and fit with your organizational culture. You want people on your team who care about the same things you do. Look for a “spark” when candidates talk about their previous roles and the new opportunity.

Articulate and Communicate Your Organization’s Mission, Vision and Values

Of course, you can’t hire like-minded, passionate people if you haven’t yet figured out your organization’s mission, vision and values. And you can’t impassion your current staff if there’s nothing for them to rally to. So think about mission vision and values, agree on them, articulate them, and then communicate them to your employees over and over again. Make sure they’re reflected in your organization’s core competencies and strategic goals. Make your mission, vision and values part of your everyday work conversations. Make them visible and accessible to employees. And hold all employees accountable for supporting them.

Give Employees What They Need to be Engaged

Gallup and others give us fairly consistent lists of what employees need from their employers in order to be engaged in their work.

In essence, they need:

  • Clear expectations and direction for their work
  • Regular feedback on their performance
  •  The opportunity to use their knowledge, skills and experience, and “be their best”
  • The opportunity to develop further and advance their careers
  • Recognition and rewards for their contributions

These seem like such simple things, yet they can be hard for leaders and managers to provide. We often think we’re doing them, then find out that from our employees’ perspective, we’re not.

That’s why having a formalized performance management process that regularly prompts managers and employees to have conversations about goals, performance and development is so important. And doing employee reviews once a year certainly isn’t enough. Most experts now agree that quarterly reviews, especially for progress on goals are critical.

But you need to really build a management and workplace culture where discussions about expectations and performance are a weekly or even daily practice. And employee development needs to be actively encouraged and supported, both through informal, on-the-job training along with ongoing coaching and feedback, and through more formal development activities.

You also need to ensure that employees are recognized and rewarded for the contributions. Recognition can take many forms, from praise to public “thank yous” to company wide communication about team or group accomplishments, and even regular communication about organizational accomplishments that acknowledge team and individual contributions. It should also take the form of appropriate monetary rewards. It’s important to make a clear link between compensation and performance, whether that’s in the form of base pay increases, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing or some other scheme.

Make Engagement a Leadership Priority

Leaders need to not only endorse these management practices, they need to lead by example and charge HR and their management teams with engraining them in the organization’s culture, using formal and informal means.

While you can’t make your staff be engaged in their work – only they can do that — as a leader you can create a work environment and management culture that encourages and supports employee engagement. The research indicates that that is just good business.


Sean Conrad has helped countless organizations improve their employee engagement and talent management practices. He writes and speaks regularly on the topics and is a regular contributor to Halogen Software‘s Exploring talent management blog.

Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence