What does it take to create a workplace where people want to do their best – and stick around to keep doing it?
Intention. Five Nashville entrepreneurs who run companies known for their innovative, pro-employee and positive cultures have built organizations considered employers of destination because they set out to do it.
The companies – ISTS, LetterLogic, cj Advertising, Emma and Bernard Health – were the focus of a panel discussion Friday sponsored by Bytes of Knowledge, or b:ok. Their leaders define “culture” a bit differently but agree that culture makes their company more successful.
The five – Becky Sharpe, Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, Arnie Malham, Clint Smith and Alex Tolbert, respectively – run their companies with a clear sense of purpose and reinforce their culture deliberately. Transparency and recognition were two of the biggest themes that emerged, which delights our team at Callibrain.
We believe organizations and those who work for them perform best in a culture that is open and transparent, where people know why they do what they do, why it is important and how they fit into the bigger picture.
So seeing examples of companies in our own backyard that take workplace culture seriously was inspirational. “Seriously,” however, does not mean somber.
cj Advertising is a full-service advertising and marketing agency for personal injury lawyers and law firms. That is all it does. And every day someone “ROCKS.” Shouted by all, the daily event helps keep things lively.
Arnie described culture as “anything we can do to help person do job better and be engaged…and make the time they spend at work as good or the best part of their whole day.”
Emma taps into team members’ creativity, holding talent shows, sponsoring themed space redecorating and ditching its employee handbook for the Emma “Style Guide.”
Culture, Clint said, “is how we act on our values everyday.”
Putting employees first is the key to LetterLogic’s success, Sherry says. Even ahead of clients – which is something that the company tells its clients and prospects. And new, big clients often cite LetterLogic’s culture as the most compelling differentiator.
Transparency is part of the culture at all five companies. cj Advertising keeps a book, literally, of every comment – good, bad and ugly – made about the company and opens it to the world. LetterLogic and ISTS, which administers corporate scholarship programs and handles about 1 million applications a year, share discussions of profitability with employees. At Bernard Health, which provides health insurance advice to individuals, families and companies, salaries are an open book – which allows employees to see where they can get as their skills grow, Alex says.
The company is built on candor. “We are going to be pretty blunt with each other and establish a time and environment where those conversations happen naturally, not randomly,” he says. “It allows more freedom.”
Joe Calloway, business consultant and author of Be the Best at What Matters Most, moderated the panel, “Developing a Corporate Culture to Attract and Retain the Best Employees.”
Some other insights from panel members:
From Sherry: “Culture is like a character of a person, how you behave when everyone is watching you.”
From Alex: “Culture is all the things that a business allows and doesn’t allow.”
From Becky: “Culture is what happens when the going gets tough and the real culture reveals itself. That is why you practice how to behave in bad times.”
From Clint: “We are not laid back about culture,” he said. “People, especially millennials, want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Separately, Callibrain is attending Engagement University at Gaylord Opryland, organized by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, through Tuesday.