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Building a world class culture

May 4, 2022 Article 3 min read
Jim Proppe
What are the key ingredients of a world-class culture? A solid foundation built on principles and values, a challenging and supportive environment, training, communication, recognition, and respect.
Image of two people working

Many believe culture is synonymous with the policies and procedures developed by an organization, but it’s not. Instead, it’s the values and behaviors epitomized from the top down. It’s the way people behave and how they treat one another, at work and outside of work. It’s the camaraderie enjoyed by a group of people who genuinely enjoy what they do and who they do it with.

A welcome environment, focused on staff development, communication, and recognition will make a major difference in the culture of any organization.

When we think about what sets a great culture — including our culture — apart, it boils down to a few key ingredients:

  1. A foundation of principles and values
    Every organization has its own icons or symbols that reflect its beliefs. When done right, they’re more than words on a page or a framed mission statement hanging in the lobby. They become the foundation for organizational culture.

    At Plante Moran, we’re inspired by a people-focused environment that places quality, integrity, and service first, believing that “money doesn’t lead — it follows.” We’re well aware that our staff is directly responsible for our success. We believe that hiring good staff who do good work result in good clients that pay good fees, which enables us to pay good wages, which then allows us to retain good staff. We call this our “Wheel of Progress.” It’s time-tested, and it works.
  2. A challenging, yet supportive, environment that allows staff to live up to their potential
    People are more likely to prosper if they’re mentored. Immediately upon arriving at Plante Moran, each new staff member is assigned a “buddy” and a team partner. Buddies typically have three to five years of experience and function as big brothers or big sisters to help the new staffer become acclimated. They’re always available to answer questions, serve as a sounding board for ideas, or offer advice.

    The team partner takes the mentor role. Team partners are responsible for career coaching and planning and performance evaluations. In short, all new staff members automatically have two people assigned to their care and career development, which helps to build staff loyalty and morale from day one.
  3. The training necessary for continuous growth and development
    We do a variety of things to continue to develop our staff, from bringing in experts to conduct workshops, to sending staff outside the firm to acclaimed leadership development workshops, to holding our annual leadership development conference for female partners. The list goes on and on, and we do it across the firm at all staff levels.
  4. Constant, candid communication
    Nothing kills culture quite like failure to communicate effectively. It’s crucial that senior management communicate the direction of the firm to all staff members –– if they don’t, staff can be left feeling confused when decisions are made.

    It’s important to make yourself available with no agenda to staff and ask, simply, “What would you like to talk about? What can I share with you?” Leadership must start at the top; anything less will lead to, at best, limited success.
  5. Recognition of a job well done
    Recognition is key when it comes to staff morale, and there are myriad ways to show appreciation and recognition of good work and extra effort. Some of them are monetary; others involve gifts or a simple “thank you.

    When a staff member succeeds admirably, tell them. You might also consider sending notes home to a spouse or to parents and taking the staff member to lunch for no reason other than the fact that you care. Be sincere, and be timely. These personal touches are invaluable, as no one can be appreciated too much.
  6. Respect
    At Plante Moran, we avoid the word “employee” because it implies staff work for each other rather than with each other. Instead, we prefer the term “staff member,” which connotes the respect we have for one another. It may seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference to our staff.

Maintaining a supportive culture is challenging, but it’s the single biggest driving force when it comes to staff retention. It trumps benefits, opportunity, and even pay. Creating a welcoming environment, focusing on staff development, communicating, and recognizing accomplishments will make a major difference in any organization. Moreover, failure to create that culture will also make a difference — maybe to the very staff members you want to retain the most.

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