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Culture Over Coffee Podcast | MYTH: Company Culture is “Nice to Have” with Pamela McGee, SHRM-CP, PHR, MBA.

Culture over Coffee podcast - ep. 10 - Myth: Company Culture is 'Nice to Have'
Culture over Coffee podcast - ep. 10 - Myth: Company Culture is 'Nice to Have'

Culture over Coffee Podcast - Ep. 10 - MYTH: Company Culture is 'Nice to Have'

In this episode, we’re taking time to debunk the all too prevalent myth that good company culture is simply “nice to have.” Just like our guest today says, “What made you successful won’t necessarily keep you there.” 

Joining Beth to help break down why company culture is key to long-term success, is the President of the Greater Orlando Society of Human Resources (GOSHRM), Pamela McGee, SHRM-CP, PHR, MBA.

Pamela makes so many amazing points like: 

  • How a strong company culture makes it that much easier for your organization to put out fires 
  • Why focusing on your culture is instrumental in retaining your top performers 
  • And, lastly, how good culture can help transform your company into an employer of choice 


People Want Professional Development, and Company Culture is More Than Merely “Fun Activities” 

“So as a certified professional in human resources,” Beth says, “you're an expert in building strong internal relationships within organizations. You're the perfect person to ask. How would you describe why a strong company culture  is important?” 

“You can't do anything without employees,” Pamela says. “You have individuals and employees these days that are looking for opportunities. They want a permanent position. They don't want to jump around. That's not their goal. They're looking for a career, and they're looking for an opportunity for professional development."

New call-to-action“A lot of individuals in the past have, especially with Covid, jumped from position to position, seeking that perfect fit that's going to be the perfect work/life balance. So, a company that understands that culture is important to its employees benefits from engagement, and they [build] a  collaborative culture. It helps the brand. Those individuals, when they're going out for coffee with their friends, they're going to talk about their organization and how they're happy about that brand they work for.” 

“Thinking about what employees are looking for,” Beth says, “what I have found in working with companies on the topic of culture, a lot of times people confuse what I would consider fun activities (pizza parties, ice cream socials, ping pong in the break room, etc.) with strong company culture. So, I want to explore that a little bit with you. How would you describe the difference between a fun place to work and a workplace where people are deeply engaged in what they're doing?” 

“You hear stories about some of the top 500 companies. They do have those aspects of ping pong and the rest, but you go back to find out, ‘Is the core job being done?’"

“You know, it's great to be able to take a break and the fun activities make it easier to come to work... but an engaged culture is one that is not only participating in those fun things, but also when you take that time with your peers, you go into a project meeting, and you're able to collaborate in a manner that's both professional, but still personal. It makes the work environment more cohesive."

“An engaged workforce is going to be a workforce that  understands the culture, understands the mission, appreciates those fun times at work, but understands there's an ultimate goal that we still have to achieve.” 

For Your Company to Grow, Company Culture is Essential 

Beth says, “I think it's hard for many business leaders to maintain a strong  focus on their company culture even though they know it's important. Any business leader today really does understand, I believe, that company culture is important, but there are so many other priorities that seem more urgent. And it seems to me that company culture is always the thing that you think, ‘Well, we'll worry about that tomorrow. We'll focus on that later.’ So, a few questions for you related to that."

“My first one is, especially during a downturn in the economy like we're experiencing right now, how would you explain why a company culture, a strong culture, is more than just 'a nice thing to have?’” 

“I believe it's more than ‘a nice thing to have’ because if you have that strong company culture, you can effectively put out those fires in a better way that supports the ultimate goal,” Pamela says. “You have individuals that remain and stay on track to get the job done because they understand the mission."  

“So, for example, you may be trying to build widgets, but what can those widgets do to support the ultimate goals of the company, you know? [To say], ‘it is a nice thing,’ is not enough anymore if you want to stay around as an organization and continue to grow. It's more than a nice thing from the employee perspective.” 


“For sure,” Beth says. “Listening to you talk reminded me of an Oprah Winfrey quote, and I wish I had the quote in front of me because I'm going to totally bungle it, but, essentially, she said something like, 'Everyone wants to ride with me in the limo, but an engaged employee is the one who's going to ride with me when the limo breaks down and I have to take the bus.’" 

"And that's kind of what I'm hearing you say. In tough times, when it's not so easy, when things aren't smooth sailing, when people are engaged, they're willing to go that tougher route with you because they feel invested in it too."

“Commitment,” Pamela says. “They're willing to commit because they believe in the goal, they believe in the mission. And that's why our company, as leaders... actions speak louder than words, you know?" 

 “So, it's more than, ‘Okay, we've got this project, I did a great job.’ But then what about that project I didn't accomplish where there were hiccups along the way? Did you see and support me during that time? You know, are you committed to me? And then I'll commit to you.” 

Beth says, “I love that. Commitment. That's, sort of the bottom line of everything that we're talking about.” 

With a Solid Company Culture, Employee Retention Increases 

Beth asks, “What are some of the most tangible effects or outcomes that you've seen as a result of a good company culture throughout your career? What are the rewards for taking the time and putting the effort into a culture?” 

New call-to-action“Retention,” Pamela says. “The job numbers are much better now, but for the most part [the job market] is employee-oriented right now. But if you've got a culture that employees don't want to leave, they feel that you're listening to them. They feel that they're being heard and supported. They feel that their work has value and they see the accomplishments and the things they’re trying to do to support the brand.” 

Retention's a biggie,” Beth says. “I don't want to put you on the spot asking you for numbers, so I won't, but I imagine, as a SHRM expert, you're going to know some numbers related to the cost of attrition. It's expensive, isn't it?” 

Pamela says, “It's extremely expensive. And what is not always taken into account, it's not just the cost of advertisement for a posting. It's about the time on that one individual that has to do double duty. Or when you have multiple roles, and the burden that accompanies those employees that have to take on not only their work, but that of other roles to keep the organization going. That can be taxing.” 

“No kidding,” Beth says. “And then I guess there's also the opportunity cost. If somebody wasn't handling two job roles or spending their time trying to fill a position, what could they be doing to advance the company or to help a client? It's mind-boggling to me.” 

Hold Townhall-Style Meetings for Open, Two-Way Communication 

“For those managers who mean well, they know it matters, but they consistently let it slip lower and lower on their priority list,” Beth says. “What's the one piece of advice that you would give them to get them started?” 

Pamela answers, “Be intentional about what your goal is... what are you seeking, what are you trying to achieve? When you talk about what you believe is the company culture or how it should be, are your employees thinking the same thing?" 

“Maybe you need to do some town halls, do some round table meetings to find out from their perspective what makes them stay. You know, completing ‘stay interviews.’ These are interviews where you're talking to individuals that are performing well, and doing the job, but what makes them come back every day and what can we improve on? It's about having conversations, and being open to discussing concerns, opportunities, etc."

“And let's talk about what's good! What's good that we can enhance? You know, it's not always the negative that companies have to concentrate on. What can we make better that we already got going for us?" 

“Maybe you take one person from each department to be that point of contact or spokesman to provide some ideas and they can do the groundwork for you ahead of time. [You’d tell them], ‘Hey, this is the topic, ask your team, talk to your department. You know, bring the ideas to the round table and work on some ideas or possibilities to enhance, improve, or make changes to our culture.” 

Now Available! ENGAGE 2023: The Company Culture Report

“That's great,” Beth says. “So, it's an open, honest conversation where we talk a lot about the importance of psychological safety, where people feel like they can voice their honest opinions or voice what they're hearing from their people, get it all out on that round table, and then start thinking about what could be improved. I love the thinking there.” 

“And, you think about it,” Pamela says. “Most organizations would love to be that employer of choice. When you look at the articles that come out about the best companies to work for from the employee's perspective, you know, what are they doing to make the employees feel that this is the place they want to be?"

“Money and compensation are always important, but people spend more time at work than they do with their families. So, they want to be in an environment that makes them feel whole, that makes them feel that they have value added to that organization, that they are trusted.” 

To wrap up the conversation, Beth asks, “If you could wave a magic wand and improve one thing related to how business leaders view company culture, how they create a strong company culture, what would your wish be?” 

“I would ask them to have an open mind,” Pamela says. “What got you to your success  won't necessarily keep you there if you're not open to changes and adjustments. These last three years with Covid made us change the way we treat people in remote work. Some companies never had that on the table. It was not an option. Now a lot of organizations see that it's a viable byproduct of how they're getting things done." 

“Be open to changes and adjustment and, if you can't do the change, be willing to explain the reasons why. You'll get more positive feedback and understanding from your employees if you just explain the ‘whys.’"

LISTEN NOW: The Culture over Coffee Podcast with Beth Sunshine

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Brent Tripp
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