Your New Year’s Resolution | Building A Thriving Company Culture

Article contributed by Allison Ebner

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

-Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx

I read an article recently about Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. If you’re unfamiliar with what Spanx is (you might be living under a rock for the past 20 years!) here’s a glimpse into their brand: SPANX by Sara Blakely | Leggings, Denim, Shapewear, Bras, Lingerie – Spanx

After starting the business with about $5,000, the recent acquisition of Spanx by Blackstone now positions the company’s value at about $1.2 billion. That is a staggering transformation. And to reward her employees for helping her create this amazing company, Blakely gave each of her 500 employees 2 first-class airline tickets to a destination of their choice AND $10,000 in spending money for their trip. So how did a woman with barely any means accomplish this phenomenal business venture? There are quite a few strategies and decisions that contributed to her success but one of the biggest things that stood out to me was the message that I saw on the careers page on their website. Here it is, in part:

‘We are a high-growth, digital company with an iconic brand that earned its reputation for over 20 years by delivering amazing products, and staying true to our greater mission of supporting and elevating women. We don’t believe “pain is beauty” and we don’t believe “business is war.” We run our business with kindness, empathy, intuition, creativity, integrity… and fun. We don’t believe you have to act serious to be taken seriously. We dream big, think forward and give back. We challenge the status quo, aim high and celebrate our “oops” moments. We test and learn and we aren’t afraid of failure. We think like entrepreneurs in everything we do and we look for people who are self-starters, kind, creative and out-of-the box-thinkers. If this sounds like you, join us! And help us make the world a better place… one butt at a time.’

They go on to talk about their purpose…Elevating Women. Pretty awesome. They have an excellent track record of being an employer of choice with great retention numbers and pathways for advancement across the organization. So what helps them drive a robust and engaging company culture? They follow some of the same principles that many other successful organizations employ to create a great employee experience:

  • Build trust – Start with trust and go from there. Don’t make new employees EARN trust. Start from a place where they HAVE your trust and manage the relationship from there.
  • Empower your employees to make decisions – Don’t create a culture of micromanaging. Allow team members to make decisions, collaborate and generate new ideas.
  • Set clear, transparent goals – Your employees need to know the ‘big picture’ and their role in that path to success. Work with them to set clear goals and expectations. Train your managers to have coaching conversations regularly, not just once a year at their annual performance review. Set goals, coach, redirect and repeat.
  • Show appreciation – Especially now. If your company has successfully navigated this pandemic, at least some of that success is due to the work and dedication of your staff. Be sure to say thank you celebrate ‘the wins’ with your entire team.
  • Invest in their wellbeing – A paycheck is great, but you have to do more. Take a genuine interest in your people. Offer wellness resources and train managers and leaders to show empathy with accountability.
  • Allow freedom to make mistakes – Don’t punish the team for failures. Bold moves lead to big successes. If your team is afraid of making mistakes, you’ll miss the big moments of greatness.

Not sure where your company stands on the journey to create a thriving company culture? That’s OK. Grab your leadership team and review the key elements of a successful strategy listed above. You may also want to consider asking your employees for their feedback through an employee engagement survey. Whether your company is trying to improve communication between individuals and teams, gauge morale after a merger or downsizing, or obtain feedback on programs and policies, a customized employee engagement survey gathers employee feedback via a core set of questions, options for narrative responses and special areas of focus. Results typically come with a detailed analysis of results, management debriefs and a clear action plan that will help you address some of your biggest areas for improvement.

The team at EANE is happy to talk with you about ways we can collaborate with your leadership team to help you successfully navigate the journey towards a better company culture with a more engaged workforce. Feel free to contact me to set up a conversation.