Creating culture within our organization involved a willingness to change. We needed to change the way we think, the way we act, the way we manage and the way we lead.

Not only are there tangible benefits from building culture within your business, but there are clear signs construction may be well underway within your operations.

The key to understanding culture in our organization required us to go back to our vision, values and mission. This is where everything starts and ends. It’s our hill to die on. Your vision leads you. Your values guide you. Your mission is where these principles converge.

We have done many things over the years for our staff – BBQ’s, summer picnics, large family parties, years-of-service awards, bonuses, Christmas lunches and dinners. These things are great, but if you do not have a positive culture of connection within your organization, these things will not produce the positive results that reflect the financial investment you are making. This was the scenario we found ourselves in and here’s why.

We were not living our values every day. We were not talking about them or integrating them into our routines. Most importantly, we were not leading by them. As a result, all of our recruiting, hiring, people development/career coaching, and special events we did that were “special” (or so we thought) for our staff, was weak in impact, because it lacked significant intentionality on the front-end. Our company was full of ambiguity – the easiest way to start and lead relationships, and the fastest way to kill them. We needed to establish a clear vision and strategy for our team. Ultimately, it started by clearly defining our values, begin leading with integrity and building trust with our people. We needed a reboot that included a redevelopment of our recruiting and on boarding programs, employee management and training systems, and our recognition programs. We brought clarity to our measurables and deliverables of the day-to-day field work, gave our team tools to be able to identify and report on their own work and our customer properties, created a scorecard system so everyone has clarity surrounding daily expectations, mapped out career development and management training programs and bundled this into Garden Grove University!

We praise hard work. We recognized employees who demonstrate our values in the daily activities they do. We are recruiting new team members because of our referral program. This spring nearly 50 percent of our new team development came from within our own team. People like to work with other people who are just as excited as they are about coming to work each day.

Creating culture within our organization requires real effort. However, there’s a hidden gem. Not only will we create a great place people want to work, we are also weeding out the people who shouldn’t be here. When you tighten up, define and refine who you are and bring clarity to where you are going – including training to the values – the people who want to be there will stay. The ones who don’t leave. We saw a this in the first six months after we launched the first phase of our new cultural initiatives. We saw a second wave at 12 months when the rest of the “culture killers” moved on. As a result, we have witnessed a huge turn-around in morale. Our team spirit is at an all-time high. Productivity and efficiency is on the rise. We are now promoting from within more than ever before.

The key to understanding culture requires you to revisit your vision, values and mission. This is where everything starts and ends. It’s your hill to die on. Your vision leads you. Your values guide you. Your mission is where these principles come together.

Employee empowerment is linked to this. As we spend the time and effort on training and building culture, the result is increased employee engagement. We are sharing more information with our staff, developing them, having regular leader and team huddles, showing them how to lead with autonomy, and most importantly communicating with them about what’s happening, what’s coming up, and why we do what we do. Then give them the opportunity to show you how it is done, or how it can be done. They’ll probably show you a better way.

Creating culture within our organization involved a willingness to change. We needed to change the way we think, the way we act, the way we manage and the way we lead. It requires commitment. Following through on our promise to act on our promises. Action that backs up words builds trust. The key to a strong culture is to have trust. You can further establish trust by simply allowing your team members to share their thoughts and ideas on things.

Want longevity and reduce employee turnover? Positive cultures produce loyal employees, which will result in stability and bring consistency to your organization. It has for ours. Your customers will also notice the change as your staff take a greater interest in their work, your client’s properties, and your customer relationships. We now see our staff caring for each other and for their work. There’s a genuine desire to develop healthy work relationships, the resulting bond creating a sense of connection, community and unity. Our team is now energized, rising to new heights of productivity, planning their work smarter, and showing innovation in new ideas, new thinking, new and better ways of doing things.

Talk with your staff. Get to know them. Ask them how they’re doing. Show them you care and are interested in their success and overall well-being. It’s important we invest the time in our relationships with them. After-all, they are the faces of our companies.

David Lammers is the president of Garden Grove Landscaping in Toronto.