This past summer, I read a statistic that made me think about how many companies struggle with employee satisfaction and workplace cultures: according to a Wall Street Journal article, 51% of American workers reported being satisfied with their jobs. But what surprised me the most about this statistic was that it was being celebrated. This number was touted as being the highest since 2005, an indicator of “rising job contentment.” Rather than be excited by this development, I couldn’t help but think that 51% is not nearly high enough.
Companies – including those in the fleet industry – simply cannot afford to accept 51% as an acceptable employee satisfaction rate. It is well known that increased employee happiness results in increased productivity and profitability. If half of your workforce is not satisfied and unengaged, you’re leaving money on the table. When employees are connected to their company’s strategic direction and can see how their goals contribute to that vision, their job satisfaction increases. And it is only with engaged employees that fleet companies can deliver better solutions and service for their clients.
Creating strong employee engagement and connection to the company starts by building an easily understood and supported culture. Here are five ways to get there.
- Define your culture: Whether or not you set it, your culture will define itself. The question is, did you unconsciously or consciously define it?If you discover your culture has been more unconscious than deliberate, take it as a timely opportunity to review your culture in depth. Start by identifying core values that make your company great and the attributes that have developed over time that need to be amplified. Once you have clearly defined the values and attributes that make up your culture, you must articulate it in a way that all employees can understand and rally around. It is important to distill your culture into something that can be easily described by anyone who works for you, so your employees are as equipped as possible to be brand ambassadors and advocates.
- Hire to your culture: If you have defined your culture as collaborative, high-integrity, service-oriented, and innovative, as you look at candidates you should be asking, “Is this a collaborative, innovative, service-oriented person who has integrity?” Whatever your culture is, you need to be hiring the right employees for that culture. A part of what supports this process is also having a well-defined and outlined strategic direction that makes it a priority to hire the best in the industry.
- Make sure your culture is part of the performance management process: Are you measuring and reinforcing the attributes of your culture? If you say collaboration is important to your culture, but if at no point during a performance review you talk about collaboration, then you’re sending the message it’s actually not important. In order to show your culture is important, you need to be measuring it and talking about it.Make sure you talk to your employees about important competencies and discuss how these competencies are specifically aligned to the company’s strategic direction. It’s important for every person’s goals to be directly connected to that strategic direction so they can see how their performance impacts the goals of the entire organization.
- Promote the right attributes of culture: Part of building and sustaining a company culture is looking ahead to identify who on your team can carry that culture forward as leaders. If you say your culture is hard working, innovative, and collaborative, as you look for the next leaders in the company, hopefully those people fit that profile. If, all of a sudden, you promote someone who isn’t as innovative or hard working or a good team player, people in the organization are going to notice, and it impacts your culture negatively. If someone who is a leader is not aligned to the culture you have defined for your company, it can lead to challenges within teams and the company itself.
- Separate yourself from the people who don’t fit your culture: It’s tough to build a culture – but it’s very easy to take away from your culture. It just takes a few people. Companies need to recognize if someone is not right for their culture and work with that employee to explore options.Organizations often find this hard to do, but sometimes it’s as simple as having a difficult conversation with that team member. When someone is struggling in their role, they often can see that they have challenges, and more often than not they are aware of their own misalignment to the culture. Sometimes just having this difficult conversation brings awareness to the individual that they should look for a different position (whether that is inside the company or elsewhere) or take active steps to improve their performance, and the situation resolves.Some people view that as conflict – but challenge yourself to view that not as a conflict, but as having a conversation. If you’re not willing to have that conversation, then you’re not willing to help that person, and if you let that person continue their sub-optimal performance, not only does it further harm that person’s performance – it also means your culture is just a poster on the wall.
Proactively building a company culture can be challenging, but it is the primary way fleet companies can move the needle not just on employee engagement and satisfaction, but client retention and satisfaction as well. Defining your culture, then using it as your guidepost for hiring, performance management and promotion, can lead to significant gains in productivity and profitability. As each company takes action, we gradually begin to shift the workplace culture so that 51% satisfaction is no longer a success – rather, it is just a starting point to make our work lives better.