LAS VEGAS—Companies can argue all they want that they are unique in their business. But the truth is, everyone has a competitor.
“Other people do what you do,” Randy Pennington, founder of Pennington Performance Group and author, told a room of benefits and HR professionals during a session Monday at the Society for Human Resource Management annual conference. “You aren’t the only one who does what you do.”
But there is one important differentiator in the workforce that could make or break your business: Culture.
“The culture becomes the difference,” he said. “People want something with a higher purpose. What is it about [a company] that is so important that you would hang your hat on? You have to think about what you are trying to build and then drive that into your company.”
Companies need to work to define what they want their culture to be and represent, push for enacting it, and demonstrate it by behaving like it.
And one important thing is to remember it’s more than just about lip service.
“Every company I’ve seen basically has the same words around their vision or mission statement or values... you have to be able to define them but you have to have them really come to life.”
That’s where HR comes in.
“HR is not the keeper of the culture but are certainly the conscience of the culture,” he said.
Pennington encouraged HR professionals to embrace culture in everything that they do: from hiring and initiating new employees to managing grievances and interpersonal problems in the office.
One easy example is to “actively assimilate employees” by sending a new employee an email days before their first day in the office walking them through what their first day would look like. “You can tell them you are taking them to lunch; ask them what their favorite kind of food is. You can also give them information they might need or want—like restaurants around the area, the closest dry cleaners, the nearest grocery store. They will appreciate that and it also lets them know there is a good work-life balance.”
It’s important, Pennington said, to remember that employees “are choosing you just as much as you are choosing them.”
“The truth is, given an opportunity, wouldn’t you want to work a place where people are engaged, and happy? You’re going to spend 8 hours a day at your workplace. You want to work at a place where it’s not like filling out a tax form.”
“Performance and behavior changes precedes culture change,” he said. “Keep that front and center. The importance of culture never goes away. it's a way of thinking and acting that drives everything forever.”