The high fives are flying, the milestone celebrations are flowing, and the energy is palpable.
Business is good, and team members collectively are productive and engaged.
Now comes the hard part: Sustaining such a high level of engagement.
How do we keep lifting the bar while at the same time ensuring things don't lose momentum?
A clear and exciting long-term goal is one of the foundations for building a sustainably strong business culture.
It takes a clear vision, consistent effort and lots of discipline to keep up the excitement, engagement and energy.
But only when the goal is communicable, measurable and trackable does it become compelling.
The vision and steps to get there need to be documented, shared and referred to daily throughout the organisation.
If everybody understands the vision, and the progress we're making together, they can take more ownership.
Bringing the vision to life
With the whole team on board, people can obsess over bringing the goal to life, with every decision made aligned to those goals.
Every team member, client, story and party needs to be aligned with bringing that vision to life.
Growing a values-based business is about attracting more and more people you can trust to live the core values.
If every team member can recite the core purpose of the business, live its 3-5 core values, and there is a clear roadmap (vision) for everybody to refer to if they become stuck, then we have the foundations in place.
But it’s not easy recruiting top talent aligned with a culture created by design. Even before a new team member steps through the door, at The Physio Co, they have been through a rigorous selection process and we are as close we can be to 100 percent confident they can relentlessly execute the culture we've created.
High retention of team members is one sign of a strong culture.
When retention is high, confidence is high. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a buzzing culture with high retention and excited team members asking how you’ll help bring their vision to life?
Many people think high staff turnover or low retention is not a problem faced by a business ranked as one of the best places to work in Australia. For the most part, that is true, but retention ebbs and flows, and there will always be lean times. We've certainly have experienced this at The Physio Co.
The lean times
In mid-2012, The Physio Co went through a tough 6 months. We'd just achieved some big goals, including reaching a milestone 50 team members, but, we had lost focus on some of the smaller details of our culture that had got us to this point. Our retention dropped and we found ourselves in a stressful time of more work than we could handle without enough team members.
Show more love
Trying to keep up the same output with fewer people was tough for all of us. It didn't take long until fatigue set in and morale dropped even further. Recruiting new team members into our stressed team with low morale was close to impossible.
So, instead of recruiting the wrong people through desperation, we focussed our attention on retention. We did everything we could to show more love to our existing team by:
- Re-focussing on the basics of caring for the personal and professional lives of every team member
- Reorganising teams to provide more support
- Promoting more team leaders
- Acknowledging the (extra) great work everybody has been doing in regular, all-company updates.
It took time, but, things started to change. Stress went down, engagement went up, retention returned to our usual high levels and we started to attract some great new team members. Phew! Painful lesson learned: stick to the basics.
Only when you give, will you get
The logic is that if the culture asks more of its team, the culture needs to deliver more in return. That's what we'd be missing. We'd mistakenly focused too much on achieving our bigger picture and lost sight of the important smaller details.
Years on from that particularly tough time for The Physio Co in 2012, our team is now almost three times the size and has a stronger culture and higher retention.
This strong workplace culture is created when people share a common purpose and support each other to bring the vision to life.
Leading by consistently doing the right thing, in my experience, is a sure-fire way to achieve long-term success, with loyal clients and long-term team members.
Despite a systemised approach using best practices from all over the world, leading The Physio Co to long-term success is something we continuously have to work on. I make mistakes and so should you. Like everything in business, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn!
If you’ve ever wondered how to build and sustain a thriving company culture, you might like my book Culture is Everything: The story and system of a start-up that became Australia's best place to work.