In her recent webinar, Catching Culture, Vice President of Talent Kelsey Ruwe discussed 8 statistics you should know regarding company culture. During this presentation, she briefly touched on the four lenses through which Carson Group views culture. Read more about each lens below for helpful tips on how to nurture a stronger culture in your firm.

Client Experience | Advisor – Focused | Business Efficiency | Stakeholder Engagement

Lens #1: Client Experience

Ask Yourself: What does our internal culture say to the external world?

Often, we define culture as something shared between the various employees of a company. The perception is that culture is confined to those within the organizational structure, affecting only the people who collect a paycheck and perhaps the families those stakeholders return to each night. This view on who culture impacts fails to address its ripple effect to the public at large.

The culture present in any company is felt by all those who interact with its employees. It can be as direct as a client showing up for a meeting and witnessing a workplace where people go out of their way to support one another. It can be as indirect as a casual acquaintance asking, “What do you do for a living?” over beers at a BBQ. Each time a team member has the opportunity to engage with someone from outside of the business they become an ambassador of your culture. So, what would a new prospect observe upon entering your practice for the first time, or what would a fellow partygoer take away from a poolside chat? Ideally, they would see and hear signs of a healthy culture. Stakeholders who are happy and who love their company are like magnets attracting others – be it clients or potential job applicants – who also want to be a part of something special.

On the other hand, when culture is toxic the reputation of a company suffers greatly. Consider Uber’s tumultuous 2017, which was marked by numerous cultural infractions, including but not limited to wide-ranging sexual harassment claims, an environment in which workers were pitted against one another and a damaging video of the CEO losing his temper with a driver. Every time Uber appeared unfavorably in the media, it resulted in a large loss of subscribers and revenue. The lesson here is that your culture is a major factor in determining if prospects will choose you as their advisor or clients will remain with your firm.

The values you preach and, more importantly, practice are passed on to the client experience.  Innovative, proactive and go-getting offices are places where clients feel like a priority, whereas a culture of hypercompetition, micromanagement and gossip means clients take a backseat to everyday drama. Take a hard look at the underlying message you are sending with your culture and, if needed, adjust. Your relationship with those you serve depends on it.

Lens #2: Advisor-Focused

Ask Yourself: Would my culture appeal to other advisors?

At Carson Group and Carson Wealth, we are always looking to add amazing advisors to our ranks. On the retail side we seek out those who will enhance our team and bring value to the lives of clients. Our coaching and partnership programs are geared towards creating a community of advisors who are growth-oriented and who want to positively influence our profession. While there is a wealth of substance behind both offerings, we believe our culture is the first thing that makes advisors stop and take notice. You, too, may be looking to bring on additional advisors.

Whether you realize it or not, your culture affects every part of acquiring or hiring, from publishing a job posting and searching for candidates to interviewing and acceptance of your offer. Like with clients, perception is reality. The culture these advisors come in contact with as part of this process is the culture they expect to become a part of. That’s great news if your culture is perceived as upholding qualities like transparency, integrity and respect, but it’s very bad news if your culture is perceived as negative, inconsiderate of work/life balance or subscribing to an us vs. them mentality.

Envision working alongside someone who wanted to be a part of the latter culture. It would be a disaster. Even if you are nearing the end of your career and don’t anticipate onboarding new advisors, contemplate what your culture would say to someone who wants to buy your book/business. Is the advisor who would be attracted to your current culture the advisor you’d trust to take good care of your clients and stakeholders? If the answer is no, you have a problem.

Ultimately, the way to appeal to the kind of advisors who will not only fit your culture but also improve upon that culture is to be consistent and clear. Everyone in your office should be able to articulate your culture without hesitation and exercise it in their daily work. Actions may speak louder than words, but the combination of the two makes a powerful statement about who belongs on your team.

Lens #3: Business Efficiency

Ask Yourself: Is our culture conducive to GSD?

The ping pong tables, free snacks and weekly happy hours you hear about from cutting-edge startups are awesome employee perks, but a culture can’t revolve around the superficial. At its core, company culture should be about the meat and potatoes of successfully running a business. This means GETTING STUFF DONE (GSD). By no means is this post advocating the removal of all enjoyment from the lives of your stakeholders. You’re their leader, not their jailer. Instead, create a culture which makes it possible to balance work and play. You want to provide an environment where laughter is just as abundant as completed items on your 6 Most, where people feel as comfortable coming to their manager with problems/solutions as they do having a conversation around the coffee pot and where passions from outside of the office are just as celebrated as the contributions made between 8 and 5.

Some signs you are on the right track to GSD and have fun while doing it are:

  • All team members buy into the company’s mission and are moving in the same direction
  • People are happy to work with one another to overcome challenges or tackle new initiatives
  • All levels of stakeholders feel equally in-the-know, responsible for outcomes and appreciated after a job well done
  • Innovation is present and originates organically
  • Lines of communication are open and exchanges are affirmative in nature
  • People seem energized by the work they are doing each day

You’ll know if your culture fails the efficiency test if it seems like everyone is “in it” for themselves. Is a supervisor more than willing to throw their subordinate under the bus? Is credit shared between all members of a team or is there a single spotlight? Are eye rolls abound when different departments are asked to partner on a project? A culture where each person puts themselves first leads to rivalry, not cooperation.

Imagine a world where everyone is stepping on each other’s fingers while climbing up the ladder, rather than reaching back to lend a helping hand to the next person scaling the rungs. In that scenario, no one makes it to the top unscathed, including the organization.

Lens #4: Stakeholder Engagement

Ask Yourself: Does our team seem genuinely engaged and involved?

Think back to the last time you were the active member in a completely one-sided conversation. Maybe you were in the middle of a story and your friend started browsing their phone, occasionally feigning a “yeah” or “sure” between likes on social media. Maybe your child was ignoring your pleas to head to bed while concentrating fully on their video game. No matter how animated you were, their disinterest was impenetrable.

Now, picture a whole staff full of apathetic parties. Coming to work each morning would be torture if every coworker was the equivalent of your tech-obsessed friend or bedtime-avoiding child. Your passion would soon wain if constantly met by indifference, a fate worse than hate. One way to avoid a lack of interest is to front load culture. Half of our hiring process at Carson Group and Carson Wealth focuses on company culture in order to ensure those who take a seat on our bus are long-term, committed riders. We have several interviews, multiple pre-assessments and good, old-fashioned observation on our side when deciding who is a cultural fit. And, it doesn’t stop there.

Once you’ve joined our team we encourage you to really dive into our culture. Our Associate Engagement Committee plans monthly all-team events, our departments are given $25 per stakeholder per quarter to have an outing/show appreciation and our individual policies, such as one paid day of service per year or stipends for employee development, make it possible for stakeholders to take part in something “bigger”. We also send out Gallup’s Q12 survey to collect valuable feedback on how culture could improve.

Results from 2017’s Q12 indicated stakeholders wanted more communication, thus we instituted a series specifically aimed at this area. To increase your employee engagement, listen and follow through. Find a way to bring everyone into the conversation (hint: anonymity helps) and then do what is possible to implement positive change. You shouldn’t need to break your budget or compromise company beliefs to show people you acknowledge their desires and concerns. The more you respond – even if it is a carefully crafted “No” – the more your stakeholders will feel a part of your community. The way to turn that one-sided exchange into a true dialogue, effectively transforming apathy into buy-in, is to give people the opportunity to be heard/recognized.

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