An effective workplace culture doesn't mean having Ping-Pong tables and kegerators in your break room. It's more of having a transparent environment where all your employees trust and are engaged in your company's mission and goals.
Developing an environment of transparency and trust was the point of discussion at the Corporate Culture forum hosted by the Daily Herald Business Ledger and HR Source. Suburban business executives and entrepreneurs gathered at Meridian Banquets and Events in Rolling Meadows Thursday to hear from a panel of experts about the qualities of what constitutes positive workplaces.
Sirmara Campbell, chief human relations officer for staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network in Chicago, stressed that there is a distinct difference between culture and perks, noting that culture focuses on your employees' perception of how valued they are -- personally and professionally -- in contributing to your company's mission.
"Culture is how people feel the intangible feelings," Campbell said. "Having transparent conversations -- tough conversations -- with your employees, that's culture, not the Ping-Pong table."
Being transparent and living your company's mission is vital in developing good culture, but more important is making sure your employees know they are also part of that mission. Tom Walter, co-founder and chief of Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, spoke of his experience of reaching out to his younger employees in order to shift his company's culture.
"Organizational behavior is an ABC, antecedents lead to behavior lead to consequences," Walter said. "If you have that culture clearly stated and your organization follows those behaviors, the outcome will be tremendous.
"All too often businesses just focus on outcomes, and that's just idiotic," he added.
All the panelists agreed that good leadership in positive cultures no longer comes from the "command and control" model, but one where leaders and staff "learn and grow together."
Jacki Davidoff, principal and senior consultant of Davidoff Mission-Driven Business Strategy in Chicago, stressed that part of that means creating a climate of personal responsibility, where everyone is clear in the goals and feels they have effectively shared their thoughts and ideas with the team.
"This is about you and your leadership," she said. "In an environment where people gossip or blame each other for not doing a job, personal responsibility really shakes that out of an organization."
Moderator Mary Lynn Fayoumi, president and CEO of HR Source in Downers Grove, pointed out that a strong workplace culture is even more important as competition for quality employees has increased in the past few years. Keeping your employees actively engaged in your company will help keep them from leaving, she said.
"Partially engaged employees are potentially looking out at the marketplace at what other jobs might be available," Fayoumi said. "All of our team members these days are at risk of leaving our organization, given how easy it is for our competitors to figure out who works for us, who our optimal employees are and how to get a hold of them."
And maintaining a good culture in your company translates into a good customer experience with your company, the panelists agreed.
"How are we providing customer service for each other as a team?" Davidoff said. "That will lead to better customer service for your clients or your customers."
Tasty Catering's Walter added: "Food is our commodity, but our cultural differentiation is our people. That's the greatest brand identity that we have."
The event was the first of three panel series on corporate culture presented by HR Source and the Daily Herald Business Ledger. The second session, "Attracting and Retaining Great Employees," will be held Oct. 3, and the third, 'Tales From the Front," will be Dec. 5. All sessions will begin at 7:30 a.m. at Meridian Banquet & Conference Center in Rolling Meadows. Registration for the sessions can be found at https://events.dhbusinessledger.com/.