Everyone knows that one of the key fundamentals of business growth is actually delivering what you promise. And, if your company is growing, that can be easier said than done. New business often requires additional employees and little time to train them about much beyond the healthcare policy and timekeeping software. However, with a documented approached to corporate culture and the way things are done at your company, you’ll take the first step toward integrating the new team members into your “way of thinking.”
Why Culture is Important
In the overly competitive construction market, culture is king. Your organization’s core values shape every decision you make. Values shape the way you define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They form the backbone of the message you intend to disseminate.
Not only does your culture help guide your everyday actions and delivery of goods and services, it helps you differentiate your business from the competition. If a strategic plan is the “blueprint” for an organization’s work, and the vision is the “artist’s rendering” of the achievement of that plan – the culture is the guiding-light and the thing that keeps you on track. It also tells you when you have derailed. For example, if one of your key messages to the marketplace highlights your commitment to environmental stewardship, make sure your culture embraces such a philosophy. When it comes to culture, your actions will speak louder than your words.
How to Get Started
Documenting a culture begins with a discussion held by key stakeholders in the organization about what is important. It is often as simple as asking participants the following: “What do we want to make sure new people understand about the way we do things around here and what do we value in terms of our service and our people?” Letting the discussion flow as a solid brainstorming session will ensure that a variety of ideas are documented. If at all possible, bring in an outside facilitator to help guide the session and keep it on-track.
After a healthy discussion has occurred, go back and prioritize the responses. What key themes show up over and over again? What concepts clearly represent the core and essence of your firm? Next, work your way through the list and figure out how best to capture these concepts in terms of teaching them to the next generation. A workshop for new employees? Maybe a letter summarizing the key tenets? Or, maybe ongoing training sessions lead by key leaders in the firm. Many have found it is actually best to create a handbook for new employees that can serve as a reference tool.
For example, one construction management firm was troubled with new employees, all of whom were technically competent engineers, who were missing key details when they reviewed drawings simply because they didn’t get “the way things are done.” Since this firm is known as being extremely detail-oriented – a valued part of their culture by the firm’s leadership and clients alike – they recognized they had to find a way to teach their culture to their growing team. As such, they developed an outline of tasks to guide the review efforts as well as provide discipline to tasks such as building a project schedule. A series of questions ensures that all new employees not only know what to look for, but also how to look at the project in front of them.
Another key example is developing a standard for CAD drawings or other deliverables. While all of your drawings may look alike right now because your two drafters have worked together seamlessly for a decade, throw two new hires and a plethora of new projects into the mix and you’ll likely have a new format spitting out of the plotter by week’s end.
But, passing down the corporate culture goes well beyond documenting the approach a firm takes to project development and delivery. In today’s hurried business world, it is also important to share corporate values with new members of your team. For example, if recycling is an important part of your culture, or partnering with community organizations is valued, make sure everyone knows it. Better yet, make sure they know why you value such activities and how it fits in with your cultural mindset. The clearer you are on defining the culture and explaining the reasoning behind the belief system, the more likely new employees are to embrace the same doctrine. Such buy-in not only ensures a solid corporate culture, but is likely to result in a profitable business as well.