Arguably one of the most influencial Culture Creators in modern history, Herb Kelleher understood the fact that competitive advantage and successful results are due, in large part, to intentional cultures and the people who bring them to life.
Those people are your Culture Consumers. They are the ones who choose each day to invest their talents, treasure, tools, and trust into your organization. And it’s only through these investments that your organization can grow and achieve the purpose it was originally created for in the first place.
Today we’ll take a quick look the four Culture Consumers every organization has and the currency they use when they choose to engage with your organization.
CULTURE CONSUMER #1 - EMPLOYEES / TALENT
For any organization, your first and most important Culture Consumer is your Employee and the currency they give is their Talent. Your employees, especially your front-line contributors, are the people who transition your organization’s internal culture into its external brand. The customer experience you provide lives and dies with your employees. So it is critical that you attract and retain employees who resonate with, and exemplify your internal culture.
There are two steps to getting this right. First, you need to attract the right talent. Notice I said the right talent, not the best talent. You’re not just looking for the most skilled or qualified people for your organization. You must find the most skilled and qualified people who also align with your Culture Print™, remember…your Purpose, Principles, and Pay-Off. If your talent recruitment tactics focus solely on skills and qualifications, you will struggle to have an intentional culture that fuels your success.
Second, you need to retain the right talent. Talent retention requires that your employee experience matches the picture you painted throughout the employee’s recruitment process. This comes down to five key elements of employee experience: clarity of expectations, availability of the tools required to succeed, frequency of coaching and performance feedback, consistency of appreciation and recognition, and opportunity for development and advancement. All of these elements must align and reinforce your Culture Print.
CULTURE CONSUMER #2 - CUSTOMERS / TREASURE
Your next Culture Consumer is your Customer, or end-user, and the currency they give is their Treasure. You might wonder why I include your external customer as a culture consumer. What do they know about your organization’s internal culture anyway? The truth is, dysfunctional cultures lead to weak and confusing brands. And if you have a weak or confusing brand, you will struggle to convince customers to choose you when they need your product or service.
I love what brand and culture expert, Denise Lee Yohn says about this. She says “Great brands are built from the inside out.”
Her experience with some of the greatest brands in the world show that in order to have an exceptional customer experience, you first must have an exceptional employee experience. So, if your brand is an extension of your culture, then your customer is a key Culture Consumer that you must understand.
Today’s customer desires to do business with people and organizations who are authentic and committed to delivering on the promises they make. They want a quality product for a fair price and, if the need arises, someone they can trust to resolve any problems they might have with the product or service provided. Shep Hyken speaks to these desires in his Forbes article “How To Turn Satisfied Customers Into Loyal Customers”.
Organizations who create intentional cultures are best equipped to deliver authentic brands that will create loyal customers and strong performance.
CULTURE CONSUMER #3 - PARTNERS / TOOLS
Probably the least recognized Culture Consumers for an organization are the Partners required to help produce or deliver the products and services of the organization. The currency partner give are the Tools they provide the organization. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to understand that the vendors your organization use are not required to work with you. Just because you are their “customer” doesn’t mean you hold all the cards.
While you pay your vendors for the right to use their tools or services, it’s important you build a strong relationship with your vendors and seek to find ways to serve them so they can be as successful as possible. They experience your culture by how you negotiate with them, how you communicate with them when you have a problem, and how you pay them for the services and products they provide.
The goal with your vendors is to convert them to partners. Vendors simply provide services or products for a price and could easily walk away tomorrow for a higher bidder. Partners are invested in your success and will go above and beyond to see their products ensure your success today and tomorrow.
What type of relationships do you have with the organizations you need to be successful? Do you simply have vendors? Or do you work with partners who you trust and can rely on to help you grow?
CULTURE CONSUMER #4 - COMMUNITY / TRUST
The final Culture Consumer for your organization is the Community you live and work in and the currency they give is Trust. The communities you live and operate in are key to your success. They have the potential to be your greatest advocates and supporters. If you take them for granted, however, especially in today’s social media world, they can ensure your failure.
Connecting with, and adding value to your community is an effective and efficient growth strategy for your organization. Benefits to serving your community are far reaching and include improving your public image, increasing employee engagement, and creating opportunities for new partnerships and innovation.
The key here is staying true to your unique Culture Print. There are limitless opportunities to engage with your community. But to make the most impact, both for the community and your organization, you need to serve in the areas where you are uniquely gifted to make a difference.
For example, if you are a technology company who’s purpose is “Connecting Ideas to Opportunity”, you might look to serve the underserved population of your community with technology grants and education. Or perhaps you’re a financial institution who’s purpose is “Bringing Inspiration to Life” so you support a local non-profit who is helping artists feature their talents and work in monthly art displays across the community.
The stronger the relationship you build with your community, the more they will trust you. That trust will result in committed employees to your organization, customer loyalty from your local customers, and brand advocates who will take pride in and celebrate your growth as it represents the best of their community.
BRINGING IT TOGETHER…
So, there they are. Four different Culture Consumers that will either fuel or stifle your success: your Employees who commit their Talents to further your cause; your Customers who invest their Treasure for your product or service; your Partners who provide the Tools you need to succeed; and your Community who gives it’s Trust so you can operate and grow.
Authentically connecting with all four Culture Consumers in the right way will help you maximize your organization’s potential and deliver the impact and results you seek. And the key to making that connection is creating and living an intentional culture inside your organization.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about the concept of culture influencers and why intentional culture matters. Leave your comments below and join the conversation.
Till next time…
By Dan Shurtz, Founder of The Culture Print