[My Biggest Mistake] Neglecting Company Culture? Morale and Performance Will Suffer

Departments - My Biggest Mistake

As our company grew, we lost focus on parts of the culture that are absolutely vital for success.

May 28, 2013
Kevin Pass

Sometimes you see things in others that inspire you to take a good hard look at home. Last year I witnessed the transformation of a company that went from a top-down, morale-defeating culture to a happy, healthy environment where employees began to thrive. Small adjustments to the process and behaviors in this company led to its complete revitalization in terms of both HR and bottom-line success.

I decided to take the pulse of our culture here at Action Pest, turning to a tool we have used since 1993: Gallup’s Q-2 employee engagement survey. Gallup developed this survey more than three decades ago, and although it has evolved over the years, its core objectives remain the same.

In short, the survey measures employees’ opinions in a number of areas, offering insights into the strength of the company’s culture and helping predict job performance.

Gallup emphasizes the critical importance of a few things: finding the right employees and keeping them engaged; measuring and rewarding employee and group success; communicating openly and honestly; and providing opportunities for employee development and advancement.

In short, you want employees to express the following:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the past six months, someone at worked has talked to me about my progress.
  • This past year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Losing Focus.
Unfortunately, our 2012 survey revealed a decrease from past years in our success in several of these areas. One that I found particularly disturbing was, “In the past seven days, I have received recognition for doing good work.” Recognition is something we believe in wholeheartedly at Action Pest — something we have always valued as a corporation — yet we had let it slip. We realized that we needed to stop and refocus on our culture before we started losing employees.

How had we allowed this cultural negligence to happen? In the two years since we had last conducted the Gallup survey, Action Pest had grown considerably. Now with more than 100 employees in seven branches serving Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, we aren’t the small business we used to be. When you’re growing aggressively, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your success.

You have to watch out for the negatives as well — in our case, compromising our relationship with the very people who have been so pivotal to our growth. Suddenly, looking at the Gallup results, we asked ourselves if we had allowed people to get lost in the shuffle, as we saw our team members questioning whether their company had gotten so big it no longer cared about them.

Renewed Commitment. We didn’t waste another minute. We called a company-wide meeting to share the survey results and let everyone know that we, the management team of the organization, were disappointed in our own performance. We discussed steps we would take to restore the cultural integrity of our business, starting with making the time for company picnics and breakfasts, which had been a long-held tradition here, but which we had simply not made time for in the past year. We committed to making communication, development and recognition priorities once again. And we laid out a plan for improving manager training to ensure that each one of us provides ongoing support, encouragement and leadership.

My advice to anyone who owns or runs a business is to always be aware of how your employees are feeling. Remember that they are your partners in business and the face of your organization. No one who walks out of your office angry or dissatisfied will go out and provide great customer service. Happy employees make happy customers.

Remember, too, that a good part of why we all do this — choose to lead businesses — is that we want to provide opportunities for meaningful employment and career development. Don’t lose sight of that goal. Keep culture top of mind and make sure that you consistently provide your team with a great place to work and thrive.


As told to PCT contributor Donna DeFranco.