How Staffing Firms Can Create Better Internal Culture

workers teamFree snacks in the break room? Dog-friendly workplaces? On-site laundry?

These are a few of the perks employers like Google and Warby Parker offer to improve corporate culture. Admittedly, they are pretty cool ideas (who doesn’t like free food?), but building a sustainable, high-performance culture is about more than just adding fringe benefits.

The stakes are pretty high:

  • According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey of more than 7,000 human resources and business leaders, 82% of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage.
  • Deloitte’s survey results also indicate that culture can ultimately determine an organization’s success or failure during times of change, including mergers, growth, and launching new products/services.
  • Furthermore, this Columbia University study shows that the likelihood of turnover at an organization with a rich company culture is a mere 13.9%, compared to 48.4% in companies with poor internal cultures.
  • Finally, research cited in this article show a clear link between culture and profit. Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by a whopping 20% -earning 1.2% to 1.7% more than peer organizations.

As a fellow staffing professional, I know that I don’t need to belabor the fundamental reasons behind why culture matters. We all know that unhappy people won’t typically do more than is required to stay employed, great employees quit when they don’t feel appreciated, and managers who are disengaged won’t work to improve their teams’ productivity and overall impact.

The question is, what can your staffing firm do about it? While I’d love to be able to explain a “magic formula” for building an amazing work environment, the truth is that there is no single “right” culture for staffing agencies. What drives success in one firm won’t necessarily produce identical results in another. Still, your organization can build an internal culture that enhances everything from top-line revenue to employee retention by:

Building cultural leadership at all levels within your organization. Companies with high engagement share a common mission and purpose from top to bottom. Make sure that all leaders (regardless of “rank” or job title) understand their role in:

  • inspiring employees with what they say and do;
  • connecting employees’ daily work with where your business is heading;
  • providing a unified message that shows employees how to live out your mission;
  • engendering trust, respect, and loyalty throughout your organization.

Eliminating micromanagement. You have capable, smart employees – so give them as much freedom as possible to accomplish their work (just make sure you’re on the same page in terms of goals, expectations, and accountability).

Being transparent. If your employees have no idea what you’re trying to achieve, you can’t expect them to help you get there! Communicate honestly and openly about:

  • your staffing firm’s mission and vision – and how employees’ daily efforts support them;
  • how your company is performing, including key business metrics;
  • the cultural improvements you’re striving for and the reasoning behind it – doing so makes your employees feel like trusted members of the team.

Talking about cultural problems. It’s easy to be transparent about the “good stuff”; it’s much more challenging to talk about tough work environment issues. When you sense stress or discord, though, don’t sweep it under the rug – bring it out in the open. The more comfort you show with addressing challenging human issues, the more open your team members will be to discussing and resolving them. Over time, an organization that consistently works toward resolving cultural problems will achieve greater, lasting improvements.

Allowing employees to completely disconnect. Nobody can come in early every day, leave late, and take work home with them – and not experience some level of burnout. To guard against chronic work overload and the cultural problems it creates, formalize policies that support work/life satisfaction and set healthy boundaries.

  • Teach employees how and when to selectively say “no” – and how to effectively communicate with management about job stress and burnout.
  • Set limits on employees’ after-hours accessibility. Obviously, ours is not a 9 to 5 industry. But with the right technology and shared responsibility, more team members can spend more hours truly disconnected.
  • Remember to take your own good advice. As a leader, you set the example for your culture (regardless of what your policies state).

Adding a human touch. Do whatever you can to make your organization a friendlier place to work. One way to do this is by skipping tedious “corporate speak” in written communications whenever appropriate, opting for simpler language that conveys the same message.

Making performance management processes practical. The right management processes increase equity and feeling of inclusiveness, while dramatically enhancing organizational culture. Create processes that:

  • incorporate merit-based systems and have transparent rewards;
  • clearly define standards and expectations for both individuals and teams/departments;
  • align with your firm’s shared goals and objectives.

The Ripple Effect of a High-Performance Culture.

When you create a strong internal culture, you do more than just boost organizational performance or foster great work experiences for your internal team. The positivity you build is contagious – extending beyond the walls of your staffing firm to impact clients, vendors, and (perhaps most importantly) field associates on assignment.


Tammi Heaton

Tammi Heaton
Tammi Heaton is COO of PrideStaff. She can be reached at theaton (at) pridestaff (dot) com.

Tammi Heaton

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