It can simply take small steps to improve your workplace culture
As a business owner or manager, there’s often outside noise telling you to improve your workplace culture.
This can come from a range of sources, many of whom haven’t walked in your shoes.
You may remember that my wife Georgie has been in the café and catering business for almost 20 years, with me as a (mostly) silent partner.
Having a people-based business has taught us a lot about how to improve your workplace culture. Going to other cafes was an insightful way to experience it from another perspective – and learn from it.
So picture us on a sunny Perth Saturday morning. We have the day off and are looking forward to having coffee and breakfast made for us – it was a nice change!
We get to a groovy, new, industrial themed café. We wait for 30 minutes for a table, which is OK, it’s a busy place and we didn’t have a booking. We get a table and wait 10 minutes to get our order taken and another 25 minutes for coffee. Then there is breakfast. It had actually been cooked pretty quickly, but we could see it sitting there under the heat light on the pass, slowly dying. My toast getting drier and drier, eggs getting harder, mushrooms shrinking. Finally a staff member sauntering by thinks to liberate these lonely dishes and unite them with their owners. Sadly, it became a joyless moment, our tastebuds were ‘devoed’.
We took unusual action and asked a staff member over to give them some feedback. Yep, it was the dreaded complaint! We were nice, friendly and objective, but the poor soul just didn’t know what to do. In fact that was her response, “Um what do you want me to do?”
Ah – a learning moment. She had neither been trained nor empowered on how to deal with this situation. It was not part of their workplace culture.
Empowerment enables a positive culture
The following Monday we held a staff meeting and stepped our team through this scenario. Then we outlined the process we wanted our team to take when faced with this. We wanted to make it clear that complaints are OK, because when they’re made you have the chance to address them. Staff were asked to use this approach:
- Listen to understand the reason for the complaint
- Make an offer – if a customer didn’t like their brekky, replace it and offer a free coffee to cover the inconvenience
- Report – let the kitchen know asap what’s wrong and that a replacement is high priority
- Check –get back to the customer to find out if the problem had been remedied
- Refund – if the customer was still unhappy
Our staff members were relieved to hear that they were ‘allowed’ to do this. Other employers had treated complaining customers as ‘whingers’ or people just seeking freebies. Our culture had to be one of customers feeling comfortable, enjoying their experience and leaving satisfied. This was what set us apart.
Culture is about you, your attitudes and habits.
To have a strong workplace culture, you first need to have a strong individual culture. I’ve found that this extends well beyond my former café life. There I knew that I had to model how I wanted our staff to act in a variety of situations. Nowadays I’m thinking more about my own approach to challenges and how I respond to them.
An ‘a-ha’ moment for me was reading a news article about the chair of a much troubled corporation. Their share price had taken a hammering and they’d lost a heap in value.
Their chairman responded by saying, “I know it’s tough. My role is to keep moving, no matter what. I just need to take the first step and keep moving. Right now that’s the best I can do.”
Wow – that really hit me. So honest and raw and it really resonated with me. Many times I’ve been in tough situations and just become overwhelmed, thinking “where do I start?”
Yep, even after facilitating over 1300 workshops, this still happens.
Now I just take a first step and keep moving. Before too long I get some momentum up and am on track again. So this is now my attitude – take the first steps and keep moving. It shapes my habits and has become part of my culture.
Outside of work this approach has been a winner. I’ve just completed the HBF 12km Run for a Reason. The first step was a 2.0km jog combined with a 2.5km walk.
Each training session had its pain, but keeping moving is what it’s all about – that’s what kept getting me through.
Just keep breaking down the tough tasks into manageable chunks, find a starting point and take the first step. Get good support along the way and you’ll be able to develop, model and live a vibrant workplace and individual culture.
Need a hand with building your workplace culture? Get in touch to book a session.