Culture…If You Build It They Will Come (And Stay)

We’ve been taught that making a profit is somehow evil—that businesses are unethical and greedy and that it’s only nonprofits that deliver any good in the world. It’s like someone has asked us to check our soul at the door anytime we show up for work. Giving back and making a positive difference in the world is just something you do on your own time after you’ve collected your paycheck.

But what if we believed that profit can be the fuel that empowers you to do some serious good in the world? What would happen if we intentionally tore down those walls that separate us from going to work and giving back—if everyone was given permission to do good while they did their work? Think about how that would even affect your customers; how do you think they’d react if they were given the chance to see the kind of positive impact the dollars they spend can have on the world?

Or, to put that another way, what do you think might happen if you found a way to rally your employees and your customers to a common cause where everybody, including your bottom line, wins? We could change the world in a profound way, right? That’s the promise of building what we call a Culture of Good inside your organization.

Consider conducting a little experiment inside your organization. What would happen if you asked every single person the following question: Why do you come to work every day?

What answers do you think you’d get? If you heard a lot of responses with keywords like “paycheck,” or “Ping-Pong tables,” or “casual dress code,” you might be in some big trouble. In case you haven’t noticed, today’s workers—especially millennials—seek out workplaces that embrace a cause that extends beyond the organization. They want to make a difference in what they do. That means if you want to attract, or even keep, your best employees, you might need to rethink the connections between doing work and doing good and how they can be directly related. As the famed business guru Peter Drucker said, your best workers have options, and you need to manage them as if they were volunteers.

How then can your organization expect to attract—and then retain—great talent, which is really most organizations’ true competitive advantage? The short answer is via your culture, which is the real secret sauce to making your organization “sticky” at keeping its best people and inspiring them to deeply engage in their work. Ping-Pong tables aren’t sticky (well, most aren’t, and if they are, gross).

Let’s first admit that culture has become one of those catchall phrases that everyone is talking about these days without perhaps knowing exactly what they are talking about, since it can mean different things to different people. For our purposes, let’s define culture as what most of your people are doing most of the time inside your organization as it relates to your norms, beliefs, and values. What makes a culture truly sticky, therefore, comes down to a couple of things:

  • Knowing why you are in business (your norms, beliefs, and values) and
  • Hiring talent that shares those same values.

When you can connect those dots, you greatly increase your chances of keeping great people over the long haul. Put simply, recruiting and retaining your top people is good for business—no matter what business you are in. By building a culture that gives your people permission to care and to do good through their work you will attract better talent, keep great employees, and create a customer experience that can all lead to good business.


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