Do you know what your company culture is? Janice Hall, founder and principal consultant at Kinderhill Consulting, focuses on driving strategies and results that create enhanced employee engagement and stakeholder value. She says it all starts with a people-first culture.
Why Listen to Hall?
Hall spent 28 years as a senior global HR leader and sales leader at Estée Lauder Companies. Drawing on this experience, she now uses her passion for leading and developing sales executives to deliver results.
Hall has remained dedicated and passionate about developing and mentoring talent, especially at the executive and sales leader level.
What Does it Mean to Have a People-First Culture?
Culture really needs to start at the top with the CEO and executive team and then trickle down to the team, says Hall. It’s not just telling employees what the culture is; execs must live and breathe it. If a CEO is sharing a message that the company has a culture of great customer service, but then leaders are not treating their team members with respect and dignity and listening to them, then the executives cannot expect employees to treat customers that way. The behavior and culture must be modeled at every level.
Adapt to Cultural Changes
In much of Hall’s comments, she speaks about cultural change and why organizations should change fluidly. Hall says “Change is vital. If your organization doesn’t change and grow with how the world and the industry is moving, then you’re left behind.”
Take COVID-19 for example. Companies had to adapt. Some companies said “we’ll just wait until COVID is over before making changes.” Those companies went belly-up. The companies that adapted their culture and rolled with the punches are the ones flourishing today.
Hall uses the additional example of organizations that decided — back when online shopping was in its infancy — that their businesses weren’t going to convert customers to online shopping since it wasn’t “ideal.” Those who chalked up online shopping to a fad and decided not to change with the industry are the companies that don’t exist anymore. Those that do exist are the ones that dipped their toe in early, started building structures around the online experience, and then were agile enough as those capabilities changed. You can’t wear blinders.
Change drives sustainability. If your organization doesn’t change and grow with how the world and your industry is moving, then you’re left behind.
You have to change leadership techniques, education and the structures in place to lead people. Hall says, be sure to communicate about the changes, too. You don’t want employees surprised, and you should be soliciting their feedback in the process.
Give Your Leaders Independence
Part of creating a people-first culture is letting your leaders be independent and giving them the opportunity to both thrive and fail. Mistakes are part of growth. One of the most important things a leader can do is empower their team to make decisions, to take action, to be a part of the goal-setting and strategic planning process. Hall says employees are more aligned to what you want to happen when they’ve been a part of it from day one.
It takes an extraordinary leader to be both intellectually and emotionally ready to give employees independence and to let go in a way that empowers them. Leaders should base whether they do this on results — “Don’t give someone the key to the store on their second day,” Hall says. Give them stretch assignments until they prove they can do it. Then take off the training wheels.
Let your team rise to the opportunity.