Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Culture of Criticism

“We like and respect our employees here,” the CEO told me. “We want them to grow with the company, develop their skills, broaden their horizons and be with us for the long haul. We provide them with regular feedback, and not just at annual reviews. Our managers are constantly talking with our employees, working on overcoming any performance challenges. Whenever possible, we try and promote from within so that we can create career paths for our key employees. We are VERY employee focused.”

Of course, these words were music to my ears. Creating a growth oriented environment that provides regular feedback is a great way to engage your employees. And engaged employees are happy and productive employees. Happy and productive employees lead to happy customers, increased profits, and a growing, thriving business.

It made me wonder what I was doing here. Why call in a consultant who specializes in creating an engaged workforce when everything sounded so good?

“Our employee turnover has been on the rise for the last couple of years and it seems to be getting worse, not better,” she told me. “At first the people leaving seemed to have good reasons for going elsewhere, but I’m a numbers kind of gal and the increase in the turnover rate means that I have to wonder what is going on.”

As it turns out, she was right to be asking questions. While she had worked hard to build a positive, growth oriented culture in the organization, she had turned her attention elsewhere in the last couple of years and had let her management team run things. Then there had been a drop-off in revenues and she had focused her efforts on some new products and systems that she hoped would help turn things around. What she hadn’t done was relate a drop-off in revenues, and a corresponding drop-off in customer satisfaction, to a changing culture in her organization.

“This used to be a great place to work,” one long time employee told me. “And I have hopes that it will be again. But things have changed the last couple of years. We used to talk with our managers all the time. In fact, we looked forward to it. But now we avoid telling the managers anything. It seems like every time one of the managers talks to you now it’s to criticize you for something you did, or didn’t do. I don’t like it here now. I do what I have to, and then I go home and forget about this place.”

I heard similar stories from other employees but often without the “this used to be a great place to work” preface. For employees hired in the last couple of years, they had never viewed the organization as employee friendly or a great place to work but, instead, as a place where creative ideas were discouraged and management seemed focused on finding fault with everything that was done.

What happened here? How did this workplace change from one that seemed to work so well to one that barely functioned at all? And why was the CEO seemingly so out of the loop?

We’ll explore these questions in part II of our story next week.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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