November 27, 2023 I Next-Gen Retailing I by Jonathan Hendrix

Instilling Company Culture

So, you’ve made culture a top priority during your hiring process and now everyone has bought in and all is well, right? We wish. Unfortunately, culture isn’t a “set-it-and-forget-it” concept. It’s a “reap-what-you-sow” type of concept.

Think of it like planting a garden. You can sow as many seeds as you want, but if you don’t consistently take care of and nurture the garden with water and sunlight, you’ll never reap any of the benefits from planting those seeds in the first place. Culture is the exact same way. Once planted within your team, culture must be cultivated and demonstrated consistently in order to reap the benefits and see any growth occur. Naturally, the question then becomes: How do I do this? I wish I had some concrete, foolproof answers for you, but every business and team is different and therefore the methods of ensuring that culture sticks will be different. However, I can share what has worked for me and hope that it translates to you and your team.

Steps to Instilling Culture
A well-integrated and engrained culture starts at the top and works its way down. If the leader at the top of your business, and that might be you, doesn’t live by and exhibit the culture you set, you cannot expect anyone else to. Like I said, culture is top down, so those employees in leadership positions must lead by example and be the role models of culture if you want any chance of the rest of your team buying in.

The next step is showing your team the value of culture. It’s important to highlight to them the ways that it benefits your business and your customers as that’s the primary reason for having a company culture in the first place. However, when you’re trying to get buy-in from your employees, you have to also demonstrate why it’s valuable to them. What does embodying your culture do for them? Maybe that sounds like a selfish mindset, but I believe it’s a fairly natural thought process for the average person to go through if we’re being honest with ourselves. So, to be clear, the question we’re asking is: How do your employees benefit from culture?

At Spicer’s Music, we have an inter-staff communication platform that consists of a variety of different channels. One of those channels is titled “praise reports.” It’s a channel solely dedicated to positively reinforcing our employees when they exhibit exceptional displays of our culture. Typically, I’m the one acknowledging these employees in the channel, but it’s open and encouraged for employees to shout each other out to form an even tighter team and reinforce the concept of “no good deed goes unnoticed.” I also try my best to both individually and collectively reward our team members for exceptional displays of culture with a bonus or a gift card, a favorite snack or something along those lines. Some individuals will want to uphold your culture with no coercion necessary. Some will need to be incentivized. And that’s OK. Not everyone is wired to inherently value culture to the extent of others, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get there. With the right attitude and a proper positive reinforcement system, you can begin to show them the value of your business’ culture.

On the flip side of positive reinforcement, there’s accountability. We must hold ourselves and our employees accountable for embodying culture. If there’s an instance where you witness an employee doing anything that goes against your culture, they need to be made aware and held accountable immediately. If I reference back to the garden analogy, you could look at this like weeds. First, you see one. If you don’t address that first weed immediately, the next thing you know, there will be five more. If there’s no accountability in place, that employee will continue exhibiting the behavior you don’t want, and it’ll spread to other team members. That’s why positive reinforcement is so important. We shouldn’t only be pointing out the ways our team’s not meeting standards, but we should be rewarding and acknowledging them for when they do meet those standards just as much, if not more.

I’m not perfect at this by any means. Instilling and maintaining culture is always an ongoing battle, but it’s one of the most important battles that you’ll face, and you and your business will come out better for it on the other side. MI

Jonathan Hendrix is the general manager of Spicer’s Music in Auburn, Alabama. When he’s not running the day-to-day operations of the store, he’s usually behind his grill or his P bass.

More Ideas

See all