I’m in the process of hiring a slew of new employees and figured that now was a good time to review ways to keep my culture strong and vibrant in the midst of change. Boy, did I not know how it would affect my company in the following week!
It took me just a few days to read the book. I loved it, of course, and was inspired to initiate a culture-oriented project for my staff. The timing was perfect with all our new hires and our 29th anniversary in business. At our April team meeting, I told my staff about a project they needed to complete in four days, in order to present to the entire company. The project? In one page or less, describe the Visual Changes culture.
The three must-haves:
- What does it mean to you?
- How would you describe it to a stranger?
- Why is it important to you?
I don’t know about your team, but mine is filled with procrastinators. The night before it was due, most of my team was texting me about their assignment, some with questions, some with complaints, some with tears and others with fears about if they were doing it right.
On Saturday, we got to work early for our annual Easter egg hunt and our weekly team meeting, during which we would share our homework. We hunted for 110 eggs first, ate the breakfast that my mom and I made for the team, and then got down to sharing our thoughts around our culture.
Some staffers wrote bullet points: “We are fun to be around.” “It’s not really work at Visual Changes.” Others wrote about our core values and how we exemplify them every day. Some talked about how our culture is one-of-a-kind or how it changed their lives.
One of my long-time employees had texted me that she had done the homework but would not be able to present it. Two days earlier, she had given me her notice. She sat in tears, telling me that she had been given an opportunity to go into an accounting job that would give her the ability to utilize her degree and to be home with her children after school.
As she sat there crying, she kept telling me how she felt that she was letting her team down. I started to cry too. While this was a sad moment, if it was best for her and her family, I would respect that.
I asked that we wait until the following Tuesday to tell the team, because of the homework and the Easter egg hunt. She agreed.
So, she texted me that Saturday morning, saying that she was afraid she’d cry too hard if she had to make the presentation, so I agreed to read it. There were a few tears but I made it. As I read it, I knew that her decision earlier in the week had to be one of the hardest she’d ever made. She described a culture of true loyalty and trust, a family that made you feel like you belonged, people who had your back and always looked out for your best interests.
That night I got a phone call. Her husband had read her homework on the computer. He approached her after work and asked her if this was truly how she felt about our company. She cried and said it was. He said, “We will sacrifice as a family. You cannot leave something that makes you feel this way.”
We discussed at length ways to make her staying with the company work for her and for the business, and I’m excited that she’s staying with us.
While we talk about the culture of our company constantly, it’s easy to get bogged down and negative. But when you get down to the nuts and bolts of things, what is it that keeps our employees coming back day after day? Whatever it is that is so important and vital, we need to protect it.
Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and write out what it is that makes our culture so vibrant and amazing. If we didn’t do that team project, I’m not sure that the end result would have been the same. So, I’ve recommitted myself to preserving our culture and making every team member feel cherished. It’s not just about “delivering happiness” to our clients. It’s about making sure that our team feels that too. That’s why they choose to work with us.