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It’s no secret that culture can lead to the success or the demise of a company. Culture can be tricky and it certainly isn’t built overnight. It’s more than a list of values on the wall. It’s how your leaders and teams show up every day, how you work together, celebrate, and conduct meetings. It’s how you make people feel throughout their entire employment lifecycle — from the application process, to hire, promotions, and departure. Culture is an assembly of actions and behaviors that your collective team lives out and nurtures daily.
I am certainly not a culture expert, but I have learned a lot this past year about what a healthy culture looks like for our team and how important it is to help us achieve our goals. In fact, we know that internally, company culture impacts employee retention and satisfaction and is tied to productivity in the workplace. Externally, company culture can also influence customer satisfaction, retention, and more.
During my time at Pushpay, and the last year in particular as CEO, we’ve certainly faced our share of challenges with varying levels of employee engagement — especially amidst the pandemic, and now heading into the great resignation. Most of you can relate, right? Let’s be honest, these past two years have been tough. Really, really tough. They’ve challenged us in ways we never imagined, and as leaders, they’ve demanded more mental and emotional energy from us in order to lead well amidst quickly changing social and business needs.
Similar to many companies, we noticed a dip in morale and company culture. As an organization that previously thrived off the in-person connection, many of the traditions and rituals we had in place didn’t translate as well virtually. We had to re-discover ways to bring to life our vibrant culture so people felt connected to the heart of our business. Culture quickly became one of our top three initiatives for 2021.
As we started the journey to move the needle, it was really important that our executive team had clear alignment on the values and norms that impacted day-to-day operations. Employees thrive in companies where they share similar beliefs and can stand behind company values. We leveraged data from our employee feedback tool, Culture Amp, to identify where our time and action should be focused — and we went to work.
Here are just a few ways your executive team and leaders can move the needle on culture and create an environment where employees feel valued, fulfilled, and welcomed.
1. Offer transparency to your employees, customers, and key stakeholders
Workplace transparency creates an open door policy, helping to build trust between leadership and employees, stakeholders, and customers. Providing encourages clear communication and collaboration, allowing the whole team to be committed and invested in the goals of the organization. Transparency also falls under employee reviews and feedback. Creating regular cadences for reviews and feedback allows leaders the opportunity to highlight successes while also using the time to share “areas of opportunity” to discuss tactics to improve.
Transparency isn’t just about giving and being open to feedback though. It’s about having systems and rituals in place to be able to cascade information and provide support (and resources) for your leaders so they can have meaningful conversations with their teams about wins and pain points in the business.
2. Set clear goals for internal teams and regularly share results and progress
People feel engaged when they understand their role and feel like they fit into the broader picture. A foundational skill of leadership is helping individuals set and pursue goals through effective collaboration practices that align with corporate strategy. Setting clear goals for internal teams that align with organizational advancement will provide a clear path to success.
Again, this starts from the top down. As an executive team, have you clearly stated company goals and initiatives for the year? Are they measurable? Do you frequently revisit them and track progress as a company? Do business unit goals also ladder up to them well? We use our monthly all-hands to address goals within our three key initiatives this year — culture (as mentioned above), retention, and growth — and provide transparency to where we are and how we’re working to achieve our goals.
3. Improve external and internal communications
From a leadership perspective, we are doing our job well when everyone from the front desk associate to the VP of engineering knows where we’re heading and what we’re all working towards. In order to accomplish this, improving the measures of communication for internal and external stakeholders is key. At Pushpay, we’ve incorporated monthly newsletters, and leadership Q&As and created more visibility for our executives at the company level. This helps to minimize employee concerns, keeping everyone informed about upcoming events and goals. The keyboard ninja is a real thing, but giving a face to someone that has a question or concern is where and how you take on and improve culture.
4. Resource your ERGs
Our employee resource groups are an instrumental part of our culture. They give voice to our associates and allow people to gather and rally behind a common interest. They are self-governed but still critical to the success of our organization. I’ll admit, we weren’t resourcing them well. It’s important to work alongside your employee resource groups to better understand what they’re trying to achieve and how the company can support their success. We started giving them more air time during new hire orientation and in our monthly all-hands to highlight the impactful events and conversations they’re hosting. We assigned a budget so they had the freedom and opportunity to conduct planning retreats or bring in world-class speakers and thought leaders. Per their request, we also equipped each group with an executive sponsor so they had a dependable leader to help support the success of their program.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
Consistency is key. Culture isn’t a “set and forget” initiative. It takes intention, discipline, and daily buy-in at all levels to move the needle forward. Let data be your north star as you work to address pain points and opportunities in the business — and revisit it frequently. We’re still learning, but being honest during the process and allowing for new opportunities when things don’t align with corporate goals is the foundation of maintaining a culture where employees, stakeholders, and leadership thrive.