By Debra Punke
Culture is defined as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. Today, many people throw around the word “culture” without a real understanding of what it means or the impact of culture on their business. At the core of every truly successful company is a positive and genuinely derived culture. It is not one that can be designed by the marketing team or implemented by operations, but instead, it organically grows based on the visions, values and behaviors of the people in the organization.
The following practices could be considered critical to develop, maintain and embed a collaborative and thriving company culture:
Aligning Values and Defining Vision
What ties culture to success? In a word: alignment. When people are part of something they believe in, they act like owners and will strive for the optimal outcomes for that company, group or organization. When people understand what success looks like, they have a greater chance of achieving the results that define success. Additionally, we know that when a company genuinely cares about its teams, its community and the environment, people want to be part of that organization – they are loyal. Lastly and probably most importantly, if people feel safe and free to be authentic, they will bring their best selves to work and the business will achieve optimal performance as a result. Simply put, people want to feel good about what they do and who they do it with – a genuine and engaging culture propels people and businesses to achieve success.
In order to cultivate a collaborative company culture, it is essential to define your vision and the values associated with it and then communicate it consistently across the organization. At Concord Hospitality, for example, the CEO knew that the only way our company would be successful is if we hired the brightest, most passionate and innovative people, so he made our company mission: to be a great place to work for all. Vision and values lay the foundation for company culture, and actions and behaviors bring it to life.
My mother used to say, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” The same holds true in business – if values are not aligned, it will never be a successful partnership. You have to genuinely believe in your company’s values to feel like an owner, and when that happens, you become intentional and accountable for your actions and behaviors.
When it comes to our people, we at Concord believe that our biggest differences are our greatest strengths. Celebrating what is unique about our associates makes them feel accepted and empowers them to be authentic so they can focus on the work they are doing for the company rather than worrying about if they fit in or not. Whether it be a cultural difference or tattoos, each employee brings a gift to his or her company which makes it a rich and diverse work environment. Celebrating differences makes employees feel good about who they work for and with, which in turn motivates them to give the business their very best. A culture of inclusiveness breeds results.
Creating a culture of care
Caring for your team members must be part of your every day interactions. Do not underestimate the power of remembering a birthday, saying “thank you” or sending a sympathy card when a family member passes away. Being kind and compassionate when someone needs to be out for personal reasons will go a lot farther than badgering them about when they will return to work. Knowing and supporting your associates in their lives will build a culture of care which drives loyalty, and that, too, will contribute to success. The most valuable time is that which you invest in your people – be generous with it and you will be sure to see a significant return on investment.
These simple but powerful concepts will help companies find their core and use it to develop a thriving culture. But how do you sustain it? Some companies figure out their culture early on and strengthen it over time. But many, as they grow, lose it because they stop caring. They let little things go and they determine it is acceptable to make exceptions, or they become too busy to take time to listen to their people. A successful company does not allow cultural values to be compromised. They are relentless about doing what they say they will do and being who they say they are. They never let their guard down and are intentional about every interaction.
Culture must be genuinely reflective of who you are, what you do and how you do it. Otherwise, employees will see right through it. You will never earn their respect or, worse yet, they will never bring their best to your business – and the company will ultimately fail.
If your company is not as successful as you think it could be, ask your employees this question: Do you love what you do, who you do it with and who you do it for? If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” then get to work and make it right! If done well, culture can indeed be the catalyst for growth and success.
Debra Punke joined Concord Hospitality in 1994 and has made countless contributions to the company throughout her career. As Senior Vice President of Human Capital, Punke oversees the company’s culture and organizational growth strategies and champions human capital initiatives in the areas of technology, talent acquisition, training, benefits, risk, and compliance. Punke also leads the company’s public relations team as well as efforts around sustainability, charitable giving, and wellness. She sits on advisory boards for Marriott, Hyatt and AH&LA and leads peer companies in an annual benchmarking conference. Punke holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing from West Liberty University in West Virginia.