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Company culture, values key to weathering storms

Find out the three steps workplace leaders can take to ensure they are fostering a strong culture among employees.

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3 steps to building a strong workforce that reinforces positive behaviors

How can companies build a culture and values that can weather storms as they come?

It’s a three-step system, according to Kristen Ireland and Erin Mies of People Spark Consulting, which works with companies in agriculture, animal health and nutrition, and manufacturing. Ireland and Mies spoke at the American Feed Industry Association’s Liquid Feed Symposium on September 8 in New Orleans.

Step 1: Know where you are taking on water by evaluating your current practices.

“Know where your pain points are now. Once we identify them, we can move forward and address them,” Ireland said.

Some questions to ask to identify those pain points include:

  • What goals or targets are we not achieving?
  • What patterns have I been seeing – good or bad?
  • What have I been avoiding and why?
  • When was the last time I sought out my team’s opinions and feedback?

Step 2: Clearly define what you want to see and reinforce this in your daily choices.

“When we talk about finding what you want to see, this is what do you want your future to be? What do you ultimately want your business to look like? Think about this in terms of your culture and your goals. What is the culture of your organization and what are the goals do you want to achieve? And be really intentional about that,” Ireland said.

She defined culture as “a set of behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a specific group” and added that values are the connection point between culture and behavior.

If a company does not define its culture and values, its employees cannot behave in a way that supports that culture, Ireland said.

“If we’re not clear on the behaviors, well-intentioned employees, well-intentioned leaders are doing what they think is best. They’re working hard. They’re working long hours. They’re walking in circles, because we haven’t given them a guide to follow. So let your values, to the level of specificity of behaviors, become your guide because your culture is your lighthouse,” Ireland said. “And once you have your stable structure of your culture in place – the storms are still going to come – you’ll have a better way to respond to them because you will have your culture in place to do that.”

Step 3: Know the route ahead and course correct when needed by providing clear and helpful feedback.

Workplace leaders should give employees positive and negative feedback; no feedback at all is not effective and negative feedback (course correction) is even more effective than positive feedback, Mies said.

Clear and helpful feedback should identify a behavior, its impact and what the employee should continue to do in the future.

“Clear feedback helps them see how the work they do every day impacts the business, impacts the industry, impacts your community, every day,” Mies said.

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