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Above The Line: How to create a company culture that engages employees, delights customers and delivers results

The people and culture in a company have a significant influence on its overall performance.  A company that wants an above the line culture needs to first know where they are today and recognize that culture is more than a buzzword.  It is something that impacts the employees and bottom line performance of the company.

Culture is defined by values and beliefs and should align with the business’s objectives.  A culture that forms on its own is necessarily beneficially to the business’s bottom line, which is why the creation of it must be intentional.  Unfortunately, many companies accept the party line of ‘that’s the way we do things’ without bothering to ask the why behind the way things are done.  It isn’t until employees understand the why that they are willing to give 100%.  This helps them understand what they are working towards and allows them to define their role in it.

Values have a direct impact on a person’s performance.  When values are defined and match those of the company, everyone is focused on the same goals. The added benefit is that employees can work together better to reach these goals.

Companies cannot just claim to have a certain type of culture. They need to make sure their culture delivers on what the brand promises. Only then will leaders be in a good position to reach business goals. They can also evaluate whether their culture is moving them in the right direction.

An above the line culture is easy to spot.  These are the companies where people want to work and likely receive a significant number of applications for every opening. Employees enjoy working with customers; believe in what they do, and are inspired to perform at their best.  They have camaraderie and work in a team environment.  When change is needed to stay in alignment with strategy, it is likely to happen quickly because employees are empowered by the company’s leaders.

Below the line cultures are the ones where there’s a revolving door.  Employees are stressed out and unproductive.  They are burned out and look to take more than give which results in high levels of absenteeism and brand erosion. So for those organizations below the line, the question is how can they shift towards moving above the line?

There are three significant areas that can help shift an organization into a positive direction.

  1.  Leaders worth following: Leaders employees want to follow are credible and approachable. They lead people toward an above the line culture because they understand its impact and are able to easily explain to employees why their role matters.  They empower employees to do the right thing.
  2. Work worth doing: Employees give 100% when they see their work as something worth doing and can see the big picture beyond the paycheck.   When the leaders worth following are in place, they can help create intrinsic reasons for the work by connecting it to a greater purpose.
  3.  Cultures worth contributing to: Employees become proactive when feel being part of the culture is worth it.  They have ownership and proactively help move it in the right direction. They take responsibility for their own behavior that may have contributed to creation of a below the line culture and adopt a new attitude to move above the line.

An above the line culture doesn’t happen overnight and requires some planning. This process will guide leaders towards the steps needed to bring their company culture above the line.  Starting with purpose, leaders need to have a clear grasp of why their company exists before this can be communicated effectively to their employees.  Values need to be ones that define the culture and are not just phrases that sound good.  They need to genuinely motivate employees.  When an above the line culture is developed, staff need to be empowered to maintain it.

Above The Line teaches businesses how to create an empowering work environment and maintain an existing positive culture.  The author’s conclusions are based on participant observations and additional resources are available at http://www.culturesatwork.com.

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