Do You Have An Inclusive Business Environment?

Originally printed in the February 2020 issue of Produce Business.

How do you enhance your company culture? I think developing a culture is the most significant effort a business leader can do to grow his or her business. A sales executive, an operations manager or a financial mind may have differing answers.

The conclusion each would have is that nothing can happen — and customers can’t be well served — without a committed and included base of workers. And, those workers need to feel engaged, satisfied and part of a successful team that has a shared vision and a set of short-term goals workers understand, so they can clearly see how they contribute to their company’s success.

The purpose of this article is to challenge you to establish and communicate a living culture where employees want to work, thrive and stay employed for a long time. Some of you may ask: how do I do it, where do I start?

Let’s start by talking about the fundamentals of what makes a successful culture. Here are five questions to address:

1. Can you articulate your company’s vision and strategy?

2. Do your employees understand their role in your company’s success?

3. Are they trained to properly execute on what is expected of them?

4. What is the personal development program for them? Do they agree with it?

5. Do they feel included and part of the team?

Let’s explore each.

Vision and strategy start with the leader’s perspective on a mission that has a competitive advantage, which is hard to duplicate and creates barriers to entry for competitors to copy. What is your competitive advantage? Once framed, carefully defined and simply articulated, it’s time to bring in a broader team of managers and employees to generate “buy-in,” improve the message and begin execution.

After the mission is accomplished, employees need to know what they do each day to allow your company to win. When your company wins, they win too.

After the mission is accomplished, employees need to know what they do each day to allow your company to win. When your company wins, they win too. Then the entire organization “sells” the idea to all stakeholders with an explanation of what they personally get from this successful relationship. Not everyone can be the “boss,” but everyone must understand his or her role to have a successful business venture. The better this is accomplished, the greater chance of success for all.

After the mission is accomplished, employees need to know what they do each day to allow your company to win. When your company wins, they win too.

While knowing how to do your job is imperative, how you work within the system is what separates good companies from others. If I perform my role inaccurately or behind schedule, the rest of the system breaks down. Think of an assembly line. Things that happen before you and after you bog down if you don’t perform what is expected. Not only do the processes slow down, but also customers get disappointed and potentially look for a new source of supply. Training goes beyond the task at hand. It needs to include all aspects of the business and the entire system.

When hired, employees want to know what is in store for them as they progress through their careers. If they work hard, what are their chances for advancement, personally, professionally and financially? What skills do they need to succeed? Employee retention starts with the right culture, the right development for growth and proper performance-management discussions between employees and managers so that both can communicate, track and document the quality of employee performance. These discussions should take place often — through daily feedback and at least semi-annually for more in-depth analysis and formal tracking to goals.

LinkedIn defines “Inclusiveness”: “An inclusive workplace is a working environment that values the individual and group differences within its workforce. It enables a company to embrace the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of its employees, which, in turn, increases their talent, innovation, creativity and contributions.” An inclusive environment is one that is welcoming to conversation; debate and sharing of information so all employees feel included and in the know.

This concept is widely accepted by company cultures that want to empower their employees and allow them to achieve greater heights at work and at home. Is that the type of company that you want to build and be proud of? It all starts with you and your management team. At a time in the business cycle when good employees are hard to recruit, retention and job satisfaction are critical. Companies need to do all they can to increase productivity and develop a culture where employees thrive, succeed and have fun in their business lives. I encourage you to make your business a place where employees can achieve their dreams.

Article reprinted from Chairman’s Column, July 15, 2019

George Pattee is the Immediate Past Chairman of the Board at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), which is composed of wholesaler-distributors and a federation of international, national, regional, state and local associations and their member firms. He began his professional career at the Batavia, IL-based construction-products company, Parksite, in 1972, starting in a warehouse loading and unloading trucks. He now leads the company’s Board of Directors as Chairman.