When we think about workplace culture we often picture the motivational poster on the wall or the annual holiday party, but culture that actually motivates employees to stay longer goes far beyond these things, and isn’t as ‘fluffy’ as you may imagine.
Being restaurant owners in these times has put us on the ‘small business frontlines’ of the pandemic and what we know is this: Businesses are navigating brand new waters in a brand new social landscape, and key team members who have the energy and stamina to keep up and stay positive are essential to keep business running.
The challenge then becomes, how do we keep those people, without begging, bribing or bullying them, and how do we find more of them?
What we’ve found, and what research shows is that company culture is the way.
Culture, as defined by Merriam Webster is: The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.
The key word that we as leaders often miss is: Shared.
Our personal attitude, values, goals and practices make up our own character, but designing a company character, aka company culture, means that these things are shared by the individuals within the organization.
So how do we do that–especially with a younger workforce that cares less about bottom line results and more about social impact?
With systems of culture that promote: Empowerment, character development, communication, safety and trust.
In other words, we create an environment that tells them: we want more FOR you than FROM you.
We can do this in a variety of ways, from personal and professional growth investments to recognizing significant personal milestones, but if you’re on a tight budget and want to start steering your culture in a new direction, consider shifting something that doesn’t cost any money, won’t require any additional time, and will help you achieve your desired results without a motivational poster.
Intentional language shifts.
It’s so simple it doesn’t seem like it would have that much impact, but small language shifts are the little hinges that swing open the big doors of employee engagement and retention.
Here’s our top 3 language shifts you can start using right away:
- But vs and. Consider the following two sentences: I like that idea, but I don’t think it will work. I like that idea, and I think it’s worth considering.
- Problem vs opportunity. Do you have a problem with a young employee’s email etiquette or an opportunity to grow professionally?
- Help me understand. One of the best phrases you can use when you need to give reprimands or feedback. “Help me understand why you responded the way you did” “Help me understand why this continues to be an issue for you”
These language shifts indicate to an employee that you’re on their side, that you are assuming they have good intent, and that you want to help them succeed.
As you begin to communicate like this, you’ll see employees start to be more engaged and empowered. They’ll feel more emotionally safe and better understood, and with that comes more trust, and with trust comes loyalty.
Intentional communication is the first step in building the company culture that goes beyond parties and perks and creates that loyalty and engagement that will help us not only keep our employees but keep them happy.
Learn about Cracking the Culture Code at NCET’s Biz Cafe Online on August 19th. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More info at www.NCETcafe.org
Kay Salerno and Shila Morris are the sister co-owners of the Squeeze In restaurants (squeezein.com) and are Northern Nevada natives who are energized by adding value to other entrepreneurs and family businesses.