Doing Culture Right Takes Intention and Attention

culture reflections

The articles and expertise found here on Culture University and ConstructiveCulture.com provide a fantastic foundation for a leader to learn how a purposeful, positive, productive culture operates. From making values as important as results to creating an organizational constitution to evaluating climate and relationships—that critical information is readily available.

The tough part isn’t gaining the knowledge about creating a healthy work culture. The tough part is implementing these practices and maintaining that healthy culture, every interaction, every day.

My “big three” – the three primary metrics I use to assess cultural health – are employee engagement, customer service, and results (including profits in for-profit organizations). Creating a work environment that inspires those three requires that leaders define, align, and refine their desired culture. It won’t happen by default—a healthy culture happens only by design.

Let’s look at one organization that’s doing culture right: Assurance, an insurance brokerage in Chicago, IL.

They’ve won over 100 awards as a top workplace. Recent awards include the Fortune’s “2016 Great Place to Work,” Chicago Tribune “2016 Top Workplaces List,” and Business Insurance magazine’s “2016 Best Places to Work,” their eighth straight year of winning that honor.

That’s impressive. This video, produced in 2015 by Chicago Creative Space, offers a terrific overview of Assurance’s carefully crafted work culture.

On Purpose. With Passion.
Employee engagement across their 400 team members is excellent. As part of the “best company to work for” process, Assurance employees are surveyed regularly. Assurance’s Chief Marketing Officer, Steven Handmaker, said,“Peter Burke, president of Best Companies Group, noted that only 41 percent of employees nationwide have any emotional attachment to their employer. According to the group’s most recent survey, 96 percent of Assurance employees are very satisfied with our company. We use benchmarks like these to compare ourselves with others in the industry.”

Steven said, “In addition, our own HR team sends out routine pulse surveys to all employees that ask a series of questions on areas such as benefits, culture, and job satisfaction.” Pulse surveys—weekly surveys that require less than 3 minutes for employees to complete—are an especially effective means of staying in touch with employee perceptions about the company.

I asked Steven about the company’s present-day purpose statement—what they’re trying to accomplish (besides making money) for customers and how they’re improving customers’ quality of life. Steven explained that Assurance doesn’t simply have a purpose statement—they have a passion statement: “‘Minimizing risk. Maximizing health.’ Those four simple words are what we live by at Assurance.”

He said, “As an independent insurance brokerage, we look for unique ways to minimize the risk that, in turn, impacts the health and safety of our clients and their workforce. Every day, our employees live out this passion by:

  • Helping workers avoid injury,
  • Providing families access to needed medical care,
  • Improving the quality and longevity of people’s lives by promoting a healthy lifestyle,
  • Helping businesses grow by improving their performance so they can add jobs and grow our economy, and
  • Increasing happiness in the workplace which translates to happiness at home.”

It won’t happen by default—a healthy culture happens only by design. ~S. Chris Edmonds

Rather than traditional “core values,” Assurance boasts eleven “best & brightest” characteristics that guide their actions and hiring decisions. Handmaker says, “Our company and its employees must be ‘caring, understanding, participative, positive, and proactive,’ among other traits. These attributes are used to improve our clients, business partners, community, employees and the world. As Assurance continues to grow, we seek employees that embody those eleven same characteristics. Our eleven best & brightest characteristics are embedded in each job descriptions and adorn the walls of Assurance.”

I asked, why “11”? Steven laughed and said, “Well, it’s a tribute to the movie Spinal Tap and adds to our culture of fun.” In addition, Assurance has also taken the time to quantifying their “DNA.” The Assurance DNA stands for “Dominate. Navigate. Appreciate.” These three concepts are the purest reflection of their office culture.

I asked Steven how Assurance stays in tune with customer expectations. He replied, “We send out regular client surveys that measure our customer satisfaction. Based on the responses, we have formalized next steps to keep the relationship strong or find ways to improve it. The most recent survey indicated that our satisfaction ratio is 97%.”

Workplace Culture: Be Intentional
Assurance’s employees are engaged and customers are literally “wowed.” Only one item is left from my “big three.” I asked Steven, “How does your organization’s performance compare to others in your industry?”

Steven said, “In August 2016, Assurance was selected as a ‘Best Practices Agency.’ Our team qualified for this status by ranking among the top performers in the annual Best Practices Study conducted by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) and Reagan Consulting. The purpose of the Best Practices Study is to compile the operating statistics of the country’s leading agents and brokers. We submit detailed financial and operational information which is analyzed, scored, and ranked objectively for inclusion in the study on the basis of operational excellence including growth, profitability, productivity and financial stability.”

He continued, “Over 1,800 agencies from around the country were nominated in six revenue categories. However, only 254 agencies scored high enough to qualify for inclusion. Participation in the Best Practices Study has become a prestigious recognition of the superior accomplishments of the top insurance agencies in each of the revenue size categories studied. Our inclusion with these other outstanding agents and brokers clearly recognizes us as an industry leader.”

Most leaders focus exclusively on results and profits—yet workplace culture drives everything that happens in your organization, for better or worse. Assurance has a purposeful, positive, productive work culture—because their leaders see culture as a competitive advantage. And, they see that it’s the right thing to do to attract and retain talented, engaged team members.

Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance. Be intentional. Set clear standards for performance and values, and religiously measure them frequently. The payoff? Way more fun. Way more engagement. Way happier customers—and way more desired results.

Questions to ponder: What are your company’s ratings on my “big three” – employee engagement, customer service, and results and profits? Where do your company’s leaders spend the most time and energy today?

Please share your ideas and comments below.

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S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year career leading and managing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Since 1995, Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Chris provides high-impact keynotes, executive briefings, and executive consulting. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn how to craft workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution in Chris’ latest book, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace. His blog, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos can be found at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.