Have you ever walked into an office where the company culture is obvious? That’s actually a trick question, because your company culture oozes out of every interaction in your office – in everybody’s office. What you tend to notice most is when the culture is particularly positive or negative, but it’s always there. Business management experts and other consultants currently rank “culture” as one of the most important trends in business success. It impacts your customer or patient experiences, helps prospective employees decide if they want to work for you, and influences your place within your surrounding community. Industry expert Jay Binkowitz actually lists the practice culture as one of the critical Ten Habits of Healthy, Profitable Practices. Clearly, this isn’t something we can ignore.
Great Culture Stands Out
I had a memorable experience several years ago visiting one of our corporate partners, ClearVision Optical. While I was at the facility, I could not help but notice the office environment, which was littered with positive notes and affirmations. Their walls were papered with giant, upbeat artwork and materials from their marketing campaigns. Even some of the rocks in the landscaping were engraved with positive concepts like “Creativity.” Most telling of all, every single person I encountered seemed genuinely happy to be at work. I mentioned this pervasive positivity to President David Friedfeld, who said something that really stuck with me: “We take great care with our corporate culture. It’s one of the most important things we do.”
That was the first time I stumbled across this concept of business culture and the idea that it’s not only important, but something that can be deliberately and carefully shaped to support a company’s ideals. What an impact! ClearVision enjoys a unique reputation, not just in the optical industry, but within its surrounding economy. Named one of the Best Companies to Work for in NY State several times, this company lives its values in the workplace, and it shows in happy employees, lower turnover, ease of hiring, and productivity.
What is Corporate Culture?
So, what exactly is corporate or business culture? Basically, it’s the beliefs and behaviors that control how a company’s people interact with each other, and how they handle business transactions. Even if it’s not a well-defined or deliberate culture, it still exists. This is something that evolves with or without your direct involvement. A culture that is implied rather than expressly defined is still valid and will impact your business. It is expressed in dress code, business hours, office flow, turnover, hiring decisions, patient satisfaction, and every single aspect of operations.
Culture Counts – a Lot
In decades past, business managers were often of the mindset that operations come first, and people second, a “work-hard founder’s mentality.” With today’s emphases on social responsibility, sensitivity, and ethics, that traditional formula doesn’t work as well. Couple that societal priority with a shortage in hiring supply, and the importance of positive culture starts to come into focus. A global staffing firm recently found that more than one-third of candidates will turn down an employment offer if the corporate culture doesn’t match their preferences. In our recent webinar series, staffing expert Dr. Brett Kestenbaum of CovalentCareers listed culture as one of the top requirements for new optometrists seeking employment. With more job openings than job seekers, prospective candidates are looking for a good culture fit; they place a high priority on finding employment where they believe they will enjoy going to work every day.
Creating Your Own Business Culture
There are many ways to consider and craft business culture; the key factor seems to be deliberate choices. You can either let your culture develop on its own, and take whatever arises, or you can make thoughtful, proactive choices that shape your culture to suit your needs and priorities. The types of training, feedback, guidance, rewards, language, and extra-curricular activities you select communicate your business values to your staff, and they will generally respond in the same spirit.
Successful culture instills engagement in the team. It empowers them to be their best selves, and encourages them to participate in the larger goals of the business. Employees who trust their work environments to be pleasant and productive tend to be pleasant and productive themselves. They feel valued and are prone to reward their employers with better efforts and higher quality work.
Decide Who You Want to Be
Question One is deciding what kind of practice owner or manager you want to be. What are your priorities? What will help your business flourish? You need to create a culture that aligns with your core values. Take time to reflect on who you are, as the business owner or manager, the vibe you want to radiate, and, ultimately, the kind of culture that fits both you and your brand.
Here are some examples of positive culture choices that you may consider:
A Learning Culture
Changes are happening in our industry at a record-setting pace. Is it really adequate to train employees only once during onboarding, or when adopting a new technology? Why not consider a continuous-learning model that equips your team to face new challenges and step out in new directions? Help them to enhance their skills and think of their positions as careers, rather than “just a job.” This also allows you to expand your staffing options and pull from a broader talent pool. If you have a robust learning environment, you may be able to afford to take some risks on less-qualified candidates, and set aside some entry-level barriers.
A Culture that Celebrates
Rewarding your team for taking judicious risks, even when they’re not successful, can return big rewards to you. Out-of-the-box thinking, and high engagement levels are the return for management that recognizes and incentivizes creative problem-solving. Celebrating your team helps them to recognize their own value to the business, and engenders deep loyalty.
A Culture of Respect and Trust
What happens in workplaces that are respectful and trustworthy? Communication and listening become healthy habits. Employees believe that you care for them. Team members tend to be more willing to help each other, and people feel more comfortable being themselves. There is greater authenticity in our interactions between each other, and also between our team and our patients.
A Culture of Constant Improvement
When your team is on board with finding ways to constantly improve your business, then you’ve got a recipe for business growth. You know the old saw, “there’s always room for improvement.” It’s true. Incentivize your team to help find those innovative solutions, to be always seeking to be better. We believe in incremental goals as an effective means of constant improvement so much that it’s built in as a core feature in our EDGEPro platform.
A Transparent Culture
Involving your team in your business planning and initiatives and being open to feedback gives your employees a voice. Help them stay connected to the business and to each other by sharing consistent, transparent views of your practice. Communicate your priorities, progress, development efforts, and embrace their responses. Be ready to put a plan in place to act on common themes and trends that emerge from their suggestions.
As you seek to build your business culture, make sure that you remain true to your vision. Build an office where you would personally like to work and invite everyone else to get on board. Your culture needs to be something that matters to you before you can expect it to be important to your team. If you create a culture where people love coming to work and are all moving in the same direction, your practice, your patients, your team, and you yourself will enjoy amazing benefits.