What it is and Why it’s important
The issue of business culture is seen by some farming enterprises as esoteric nonsense that belongs with big corporations and highly paid consultants! In actual fact, it applies to every business and can have a direct and profound impact on your bottom line.
I recently had the privilege of being shown around a highly professional banana plantation packing shed. The business used the latest techniques in business processing and they could demonstrate a well-run operation. The manager explained to me that their highest input cost was labour. Their workforce was a combination of people with different nationalities from the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and also some locals. They were proud of their stable workforce and their high work ethic. When I asked, ‘how did you achieve this,’ the manager replied, ‘it comes down to one thing – our business culture’. Their culture clearly had a significant impact on the effectiveness of their team and this in turn had substantially improved profits.
So, what is this elusive thing called ‘culture’?
Your business culture is the atmosphere you create for those working in the business and also those that you interact with outside of the business. Basically, it’s about a feeling – one that can be positive or negative. It should not be something that just happens. Just like in farming there must be the right conditions and nurturing to create a positive outcome.
Here are a dozen practices that assist in creating the right environment for growing an enjoyable and well-respected business culture;
Clarity of Purpose and Expectations
Employees and other stakeholders need to know what is expected of them. What does success really mean? What are they meant to achieve and how do they know if they are on the right path? It is important they feel that what they do matters, and their success should be celebrated.
Trust is the sustenance that feeds a good business culture. Have faith in your people and they will, in turn, believe in you. Job satisfaction thrives in trusting environment.
Share the Vision
Create a vision for the future and share it with your employees and other stakeholders. It doesn’t matter how menial someone’s task, their time is important to them as well. They like to know what their efforts achieve as part of the bigger picture. If you want to create a sense of urgency, this is how you go about it.
Communication and Engagement
Good communication is critical to a good culture and the environment should allow a free exchange of ideas and comments. This often provides important information about the business. There is an old and true saying- “if you want to know how to dig coal, ask the person with the black face!” The employees closest to the action often have the most knowledge.
Create a Learning Environment
People like to feel they are developing their knowledge and skills. Provide the right learning tools and feedback mechanisms to enable at least some degree of growth and development within roles and structures.
Be aware of the etiquette expected by people from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. Be polite and understanding.
Establish Corporate Values
Establish and espouse your corporate values. Your business culture will encompass your organisation’s values, visions, working style, beliefs and habits. Your business values should be documented and shared. They will become your guidepost for how people are treated both within the business and with external stakeholders.
Try and Stay positive
Positivity should be a large part of any business culture. Positivism is infectious and a positive workforce is a happy workforce.
Create a team environment
People enjoy working as a team and they will accomplish a much greater level of productivity than a group of individuals. Create team goals and celebrate the team’s accomplishments.
Find the time
Ensure that your organisation is one where people are given the time they deserve. We are all time poor, however an investment in the time it takes to explain, listen and give feedback will pay dividends over and over again.
Agree on deliverables
A good culture does not mean a lack of accountability. If fact, it is quite the opposite. In a collaborative manner you should agree on what you expect from each of your employees. Once consensus has been genuinely achieved, you will be able to respond to any failure to meet your expected standards without losing respect as a leader.
Understand the qualities that make a good leader. Respect does not come through fear, it comes from admiration. Share your vison, listen, establish accountability through mutual commitment, respect others’ opinions and be polite.
Finally, it is important to remember that these elements must be implemented in a best practice management environment. Documented policies and procedures, an organizational chart, clearly defined job descriptions with KPI’s and a good communication structure are just some of the essentials that need to be in place.
Your culture is like the fabric through which is woven all the interactions that make up the day to day workings of the business. It affects employees, family members, suppliers, buyers and others. Invest the time and effort to build a positive culture and be proud of the way your business is perceived by others.