You started your business, probably on your own then gathered a small group of like-minded…
Culture Matters. Create the Business Culture You Want Right From the Start
As your Small Business grows and hits your goals and satisfies your customers, you will grow and will reach a point where you need to bring more people into the business.
This can be one of the most challenging times for a Small Business owner. Not only is the industrial relations framework complex to understand and the process of interviewing time-consuming, there are risks in regard to what tasks you trust the new hires to do instead of you doing them.
Recruitment is vital and yet for you as a business owner the real impact starts when the new employee starts in your business. The skills and experience they bring with them are not as important to you as, how they behave once inside your business.
It has been written that culture is the effect over time of the behaviours that are encouraged (or not discouraged). What that means for you as a Small Business owner is that you need to understand three key things about what new people in your business will seek out.
1. Behaviours that are encouraged, tolerated and ignored.
Human beings will seek out a role model as the best way to fit in. When you bring in the first handful of people to your business, it is likely that they will learn and be working closely and directly with you.
They will pick up all of your habits including the ones that you may be unaware of. As the business grows further though, they will role model behaviours of other people, and you need to be sure that they are copying the behaviours that you want in your business.
2. Symbols like pictures speak volumes.
When people have no behaviours to directly observe, they will look for signs and symbols to draw meaning from.
For instance, if you have demonstrated that all customers are equal yet certain customer files are kept separately to others, then it is likely that staff will behave differently with the customers in the ‘special’ file area.
3. Systems are strong reinforcement for behaviour.
Whatever it is that you have embedded in your systems will either support or undermine the behaviours that you have been role modelling. That is why systems are incredibly important as your business grows.
So, the question now is …. What can you do?
Here are two easy and powerful ways:
- Create a structured program to buddy or pair up new staff with you or someone like you. In this way, you give people a long exposure to the type of behaviour that you encourage and want to promote throughout your business. Be very choosy about who your new staff spend their time with and keep that program in place on an ongoing basis until you are certain that they have adopted and embraced the behaviours that you require within your business.
- Write a ‘House Rules’ or ‘Our Way of Working’ document. In one page, you can capture the core elements or ways of working that define and differentiate your business. This typically is a series of one paragraph statements on core areas such as teamwork, customer service, and communication and does so in a way that gives guidance about how to behave.
Many Small Business owners think that culture is something that only big business can work on and that addressing a culture is something that can wait. It cannot and must not.
Your business will gain a mood and culture during the early growth stages, and as we all know, it is not easy to change a culture. Follow the guidelines in this article and set some sound foundations of culture in your business.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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