Building The Right Culture to Build The Right Team

Three strategies for middle and upper management to put in place to build a team that's happy, engaged, and producing quality work.

Danielle Riha
October 7, 2021

In our interview with Greg Cleary, we asked him what kind of challenges a company can expect to face as a result of a bad company culture and a precarious employee journey. His answer was simple, clear, and direct: high turnover.

It’s common knowledge that it costs more to hire a new employee than it does to retain an existing one. Why, then, do so many employers not make it a priority to check in regularly with employees? Why isn’t there a more concentrated effort on what will make the employees happy and engaged with their place of work so that they stick around as long as possible?

It’s understandable that leadership can get tunnel vision, focusing on production and value-add activities that impact the bottom line. But according to Greg, no matter how great a company’s product or service is, its employees are its number one competitive advantage.

Greg explored several different strategies for middle and upper management to put in place so that they can build a team that’s happy, engaged, and producing quality work.

Know the difference between good turnover and bad turnover.

Given his emphasis on company culture, it should come as no surprise that Greg defines good turnover as a bad culture fit. If an employee isn’t interacting with colleagues, participating in company activities, or producing at the same level as their teammates, they’re detracting from company culture. When these employees leave (voluntarily or otherwise) that’s “good” turnover because it positively impacts company morale.

Bad turnover, on the other hand, is when these types of employees don’t leave the organization. The company’s A-players observe these sub-par colleagues doing just enough to get by and experiencing no discipline for it, which is demotivating. If it continues for too long, or too many employees are underperforming, the A-player employees will eventually reach their breaking point and leave to work somewhere that values their high performance.

According to Greg, it’s a lack of clear expectations that leads to unengaged employees. Regular check-ins with employees is a quick and easy way to fix this problem. By talking with the A-players, you’ll give them the chance to express frustrations and yourself the chance to course correct before you lose them. And in chatting with the under-performers, you’ll systematically review expectations together and give them time to course correct before you have to let them go.

Stop tripping over dimes to pick up nickels.

When asked how blue-collar organizations can replicate the success that tech companies have had with cultivating extraordinary company culture, Greg responded by pointing out that those companies “got it” that their people are their competitive advantage. And to hold on to that competitive advantage, they need to make sure employees enjoy the time they spend at work and feel appreciated for the work they do.

He’s not suggesting that all companies, especially those in blue-collar industries, rush out to get ping pong tables and video game consoles for the break room. What he is saying, however, is to ask your employees what they want, to listen to their replies, and do what you can to make it a reality—even if it costs you money.

Citing the example of a company charging employees $1 for a bottle of water in the break room fridge, Greg said to “stop treating expenses like they’re manhole covers.” The cost of that case of water pales in comparison to the cost of recruiting and hiring a new employee, so go the extra mile for the employees you already have.

Hire for culture fit, not for skillset.

We’ve said before that you should hire for potential, not experience, which has the same essence as Greg’s advice here. He points out that you can’t train a person to fit a company’s culture; they either do, or they don’t. But you can teach them to run machinery or to adhere to standard operating procedures. In fact, offering education and training opportunities can help set a company apart from its competition by offering complimentary assistance in closing any skills gaps. If this type of growth opportunity is appealing to a candidate, chances are good they’re going to be the right fit for your culture.

Business leaders are faced with a myriad of challenges every single day, but Greg says the one that matters the most—the one that impacts all other internal challenges in some way—is the people inside the organization. His parting advice from the webinar was to get laser focused on putting the right people in the right seats. “Train them up, kill them with kindness, get to know them, capture their hearts and minds,” he said. “They will do amazing things, not let you down, and go places.”

Subscribe to the Team Engine newsletter

Want our latest and greatest delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter and get regular deliveries in one click.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.