Creating a sustainable culture for your business
By Wally Adamchik, president FireStarter Speaking and Consulting
A few years ago I was working with a large client to help plan their annual meeting. There would be over 1,000 attendees with mostly internal speakers who had worked to create the content.
One of the groups was assigned the topic of sustainability. After several months of planning and development, the steering committee met for a dry run. We were all caught off guard when the sustainability group presented sustainability in the context of people. They argued that if the company didn’t work hard to create a great culture that attracted and retained the best people it would not endure. It was hard to disagree. And here we are looking at sustainability in this issue so let’s take a closer look at sustainability from a people perspective.
In construction, sustainability starts with design. That’s no different with the people side of your business. Your firm has a distinct culture. Does that culture stem from a dedicated and deliberate effort or is it the result of inattention and lack of effort? Either option is a choice. Best-in-class firms make the choice to invest in their culture and make it a place people want to work.
With culture established, we now look to people. To create a sustainable culture where people stay for the long term you must be very intentional and disciplined in selection. The U.S. Marines are known for creating Marines from civilians. The better-kept secret is their ability in the selection process – during recruiting – to select people who actually want to be Marines. It is far easier to make a Marine from someone who wants to be a Marine than from someone who doesn’t want to be one.
We know construction is not a glamour industry, but that doesn’t mean we have to hire anyone who can fog a mirror. It’s not easy to find top-tier people, but it’s worth the effort. Maybe you find people in the second tier and work to make them top tier. Do you know the characteristics of the people who succeed in your company? Identify those traits and then find candidates who have them. What about referrals? Internal referrals from current employees are the best way to find qualified employees. Do you have a real, robust, and not cheap referral program?
Creating top-tier talent requires training and leadership. You cannot expect people to perform if they have not been trained correctly. In fact, inadequate training contributes to high turnover as people leave because they don’t feel like they can do the job correctly. All the training in the world though will not create great employees. It is a foundation to build on, but leadership is required to give people a reason to lean in and engage with their heart, as well as with their hands.
Another facet of sustainability is disposal. I hate to say it but sometimes we do need to get people off our team. Do you do this with dignity and respect or with an email on Friday afternoon? I know what you think you do but we have all gotten this wrong at least once in our life. The important part here is not that a former employee feels treated fairly and respectfully after being dismissed. The important part is that current employees see how you treat people and will not have the “they are going to wrong me like that someday too” feeling. There are many examples of firms that have downsized and morale increased because of the process they used and the way they involved people along the way. What is your process for insuring people walk out the door with their dignity?
In ecology, sustainability is about how biological systems remain healthy and productive. Achieving sustainability will enable the Earth to continue supporting human life. In business, a bigger view of sustainability, beyond products and processes, is to include people who will enable your firm to continue supporting profitable operations.
NTCA has partnered with Wally Adamchik to bring his interactive virtual training system at www.firestartervt.com to NTCA members. Contact him at [email protected] to learn more about how the NTCA/FireStarterVT partnership can save you training dollars while improving your leaders at all levels.