For our first episode, not only do we highlight the various reasons why company culture and employee engagement should be top of mind for every organization, but we also consult the results from our own ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report to get a feel for the current culture climate as we head into the new year.
Joining Beth are Matt Sunshine, Managing Partner at The Center for Sales Strategy, and Deborah Fulghum, Employee Engagement Specialist and Culture Coach here at Up Your Culture.
Together, they bring so many awesome insights to the table. Such as:
About Up Your Culture:
Up Your Culture, an employee engagement and company culture firm, was designed by The Center for Sales Strategy which has almost 40 years of experience improving business performance.
ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report:
Up Your Culture:
(04:44) Culture is more than ice cream socials.
(06:41) Disengagement is rising
(11:01) Company culture isn't a fad diet
(13:31) Don't confuse my kindness for weakness
(18:24) Core values have to be more than words on a wall
(20:51) How to live your core values
(23:29) ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report
(25:35) People want to develop
(27:04) Inside secret advice
Beth Sunshine: (00:15)
Hello and welcome to Culture Over Coffee, a podcast focused on improving company culture and fostering employee engagement. Every week we chat with experts and thought leaders about the latest information and proven practices you can use to reduce regrettable turnover, increase productivity on your team, and retain key customers. So, pour a cup of your favorite brew and join us. I'm your host, Beth Sunshine, SVP at Up Your Culture and the Center for Sales Strategy.
Beth Sunshine: (00:50)
For our first episode, not only are we highlighting the various reasons why company culture and employee engagement should be top of mind for every organization, but we also consult the results from our own ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report, to get a feel for the current culture climate as we head into the new year. Joining us today are Matt Sunshine, managing partner at the Center for Sales Strategy Endeavor, Fulghum, employee Engagement Specialist and culture coach here at Up Your Culture. Together they bring so many awesome insights to the table, such as how improving your company culture and employee engagement can help with one of the most common pain points. Recruitment, why company culture must be more than merely words on a wall, and how living by the platinum rule, not the Golden Rule, might be a boon to your employee engagement efforts. All right, so Matt and Deb, thank you for joining our first ever Culture Over Coffee podcast. Everybody's got their mugs. Enjoy a little...
Matt Sunshine: (01:53)
Beth Sunshine: (01:55)
Talk a little, a little culture. And, uh, I'm excited cuz you both have a unique perspective, I think, on company culture and employee engagement. That's why we pulled you together today. I'm excited to dig into these topics. I've got a bunch of questions for you. We'll see how far we get. Um, but let's start with this. You, you guys know me. You know how important company culture is, how important employee engagement is to me, and I know you both share a passion for this too, which is another reason why I'm so glad you're our first guests. Um, but a strong culture really improves everything at a company from, from company performance to customer loyalty and satisfaction. It may be hard for you to pinpoint exactly why company culture is so important to you, but I'd love for you to try. So, based on your experiences, why do you think culture and engagement deserves our time and attention today and every day? Matt, I'll start with you.
Matt Sunshine: (02:53)
Yeah. So I'm a, you know, I'm a improved sales performance, improve revenue performance, um, focus type of person. I mean, everything that, that I look at when I look at business is what can we do to improve the revenue performance, right? So when I think about culture, here's where, here's where my mind goes and why I think it's so important. Every company has a culture. I mean, they do, whether you pay attention to or not is your choice. But every company or your culture could just be that it's a terrible culture and you pay no attention to it, right? That would be your culture. So I think every company has a culture, but if you pay attention to it and you constantly, you have a mindset of constantly improving the culture, constantly improving the, the, the work experience for, um, the people, your team that works for you as well as the customer experience, that's your culture.
Matt Sunshine: (03:52)
Well then a lot of really special things happen. So to what I see happen when it's done right, is you see improvement in, you become a destination place to work and do business with mm-hmm. . And when and when that happens, your recruitment gets better, your selection gets better, your retention gets better. And when your recruitment selection and retention get better, well then your customer retention gets better. It, it kind of, it kind of rises, it kind of makes everything else in the organization rise when you're getting this piece right. I, I think it's such an important piece, um, that businesses are crazy if they're not paying attention to it.
Beth Sunshine: (04:35)
Yeah, well said. I agree. And there's a good visual of everything rising when that rises. I, I think that's a, a great way to say it. Deb, how about you? Any thoughts on this?
Deborah Fulghum: (04:44)
Yeah, to add something to what Matt just said, you know, so many companies think of culture as ice cream socials, and it's more than that. It's really about how to engage your employees and wanting them to wrap their hands around what we do as a company. You know, in this current climate of quiet, quitting and people looking for jobs and not being happy, we're seeing so much of employee engagement dropping. So employee engagement is more important now than it ever has been. Um, you know, knowing what that employees are engaged leads to, reduced turnover, increased productivity and revenue. As Matt said, it retains key customers, which leads to improvement in companies and growth in companies. So, I, I wonder why companies wouldn't pay attention to culture and engagement of their employees. To me, it should be at the top of their must-do list. It should be at the top of their priority list. You know, when we have companies that do this, we do see great improvements. We see great things happen. And, um, when employees are engaged, what we do know is they bring their best to work, they utilize their talents, and they wanna be a part of something that's bigger and greater than themselves. So they come, come willing to give their all and in return great things happen within the company. So again, it makes me wonder why would we put this front and center?
Beth Sunshine: (06:05)
Yeah, I agree. And you know, I, I think probably every business leader would say culture's important, it matters. But the question is, where do they rank it as far as priorities when they're looking at budgeting, are they thinking about the connection that culture has on the actual performance? So thank you both for, for bringing that up. I, I, I agree. Um, it's a lot more than fluff and it's something that should be a priority. So there's a lot of good data out there. Deb, were kind of talking about employee engagement and how culture and engagement are connected a bit. There's a lot of data out there related to employee engagement. We pay a lot of attention to it. Mm-hmm. , um, we paid especially close attention to the year over year decline in engagement numbers. Earlier this year, the Gallup Workplace Survey showed that only 31% of employees are now engaged and 17%, I'm just like choking on that number.
Beth Sunshine: (07:05)
17% of employees are actively disengaged working against the good of the company. Both of those numbers are going in the wrong direction. And go, engagement is going down, disengagement is going up. That's really why we felt the need to get to the bottom of all of this. And as you know, we launched our own large scale engagement study mm-hmm. . So I wanna just kind of with that study in mind, I wanna start with a very broad question for each of you. Knowing that employee engagement is dropping, we ask people about their perception of the future. And most of them were optimistic. They, they believed that their cultures were improving, but almost 31% disclose their fear that their cultures are instead getting worse. So what are you seeing out there? What are you hearing from clients or the people that you're interacting with or working with? What, what do you, what are they saying they see when they look ahead when it comes to company culture? And what are you seeing? Deb, let's start with you.
Deborah Fulghum: (08:06)
So it's really interesting. We've actually seen this happen with some current clients. Um, at the beginning of the year with the survey, everything looked great and they, they put all their efforts into it. And when we look at their end of year surveys, the numbers are either staying the same or going down. We are celebrating if they're staying the same, because based on the data you just shared, anything that, even if it goes down a few points, we're really happy with. Because if they hadn't been paying attention to their culture, we don't want them to be that 32 or 31%. We want them to be much higher than that. Right? So even though they may feel like it's flatter, they all the work they did was for nothing. It's not true. If they hadn't been paying attention to their culture and the engagement of their people, those numbers could be really bad.
Deborah Fulghum: (08:55)
We're seeing those, even though they feel they're bad, we're seeing results in the 70 and 80 percentiles. We are really happy with that. So, you know, this is so much stronger than we're seeing globally or even in the United States. It's a big deal. So if they hadn't been intentional with their culture and paying attention to their shared mission, their people development, valuing the voice of their people and earning their trust, yeah, they'd be in trouble. So they're way ahead of other companies, and those are reasons to celebrate, right? Yeah. So imagine if they hadn't been actively participating and working on their culture. You know, we're really glad that they've been focusing on this. And the most important part of all this is they're focusing on their people. Because when they are, they're way ahead of everybody else.
Beth Sunshine: (09:42)
I like that. So while engagement overall is dropping, you're finding that if you're intentional and even getting survey results that show staying the same or maybe rising a point, dropping a point, that's something to celebrate. Good point. Absolutely.
Deborah Fulghum: (09:58)
Beth Sunshine: (09:58)
Matt, how about you? What do you think?
Matt Sunshine: (10:00)
I'll take a little different, different approach. Uh, this a question. So almost every client that we work with, and every business owner or or sales leader that I speak to these days will share with me that their, um, biggest frustration or biggest pain point is with recruitment. They can't find really good people. It's not that they can't find people, they can't find really good people, qualified people, people that are both talented and skilled and experienced in, in, in what they need. Second thing is, almost every client that we work with has suffered from some sort of turnover. Whether it's people deciding that they just want to go into retirement, whether it's people taking different jobs, whether it's people that want hybrid or whatever, there's a lot of turnover. The, the great resignation is real, right? And that really happened. So you have business leaders and, and, and business owners and clients that I'm talking to that are all saying the same thing.
Matt Sunshine: (11:01)
We have a recruitment problem, we have a a retention problem, we need help there. But what they, what also say, and I know it's because we don't have a strong culture as we need, or they'll say it this way, they'll say, you know, Matt, I will tell you culture is the most important thing, right? I hear that culture is the most important thing that we have to work on here. And they'll even in a conversation, make the jump to say, oh, and I can, I understand how really good engagement of of current folks would help me with retention and make me be an employer of choice that people want to come to. I get that. But here's the rub. Fixing your culture and improving your engagement, engagement is a, it's not a fad diet. It's not a, it's not a, um, it's not a cleanse that you do for, for 14 days and then you look great.
Matt Sunshine: (12:02)
Um, it's not, it's a long term commitment to changing the way and, and making it your, your mo making it the way you do things. And because it isn't a quick fix, what I see truthfully is executives just giving culture lip service. Mm-hmm. . And, and, and what I mean by that, and they're sincere about it, and they, it's so important. We know it's important. We have to make sure that our, we have good culture, we and engaged employees, but I don't have time to do that right now because I have to go sit in this meeting, or I have to go do this, or I have to go do that. And by doing that, it impacts your culture. So I think culture and engagement has never been a bigger topic, unfortunately though, because people want the quick fix, and this isn't a quick fix. The companies that get ahead will be the ones that say, you know what? Best time to plant a tree 20 years ago. Second best time to plant a tree today, we're gonna get after it. It's gonna take a while, but by second quarter next year, it's gonna start making a difference.
Beth Sunshine: (13:16)
So who do you think, just following up on that a little bit, Matt is responsible for culture, who, you talked about the executives giving it lip service, but maybe not taking action. Like who listening to this or who in an organization is ultimately responsible for
Matt Sunshine: (13:31)
The, to me, it starts with the ceo. I'm okay. To me, it starts at leadership. Uh, you, I mean, you're, if you're a middle manager and, and you, and you and you, this is your passion, you know, great. The six, eight people that report to you, you guys will have a great culture and, and you guys will be engaged and that'll be enough to get you through a lot of tough, a lot of ups and downs. But if the organization as a whole isn't bought in, then, then at some point, it, it, it, it's in, it's in conflict with each other. Um, and by the way, having a good culture and having engaged employees doesn't mean that as a good, as a, a leader in, in, uh, in one of our best clients and long-term clients, don't confuse my, uh, my kindness,
Beth Sunshine: (14:27)
Matt Sunshine: (14:28)
Don't confuse my kindness with weakness.
Beth Sunshine: (14:30)
Weakness, right? I don't
Matt Sunshine: (14:31)
Confuse my, with weakness. One of my favorite expressions, I can't believe I forgot it there for a second, but don't confuse my kindness with weakness. In other words, we're gonna have a really good culture. We're gonna have highly engaged people, and we're gonna have high expectations. And by the way, our culture is that we have high expectations and that we're accountable to each other and that we do the right thing. Cuz that's our culture. And we all buy into that. Sometimes I think when people hear culture, they think it means we're gonna be soft on people. It doesn't mean that we're gonna be soft and not hold people accountable. It means that we're gonna have a culture where people feel like they have a voice and they, they can participate, and that there's transparency and that they're part of something that they wanna be a part of. I think not paying attention to this, I, I think that because it's not a quick fix, it doesn't get the attention it needs or deserves. Yeah.
Beth Sunshine: (15:27)
Well said. I'll be stealing the fad diet and the cleanse analogy, because I think it says it beautifully. And I agree with you that it starts at the top, at the C level. However, I'll even take it a step further and say, I think everyone in the organization is ultimately responsible for culture. Sure. Because one manager not willing to jump on board can have a very toxic effect. But you're right, it starts at the top. And thank you for clarifying on that. All right. Changing gears a bit to talk about a couple of things that companies do to strengthen their cultures to improve engagement. And you kind of touched on this I think a little bit by talking about high standards and how, you know, don't, don't mistake my kindness for weakness. Mm-hmm. , let's talk about the concept of core values. I think we can all agree that core values are extremely important.
Beth Sunshine: (16:22)
They certainly are to our company. I've noticed that a lot of companies have core values, or at least they have words. They're either on their website or on their lobby walls that sound like core values. But what I'm noticing is they don't seem to actually use them to elevate engagement like they could. Mm-hmm. , they often miss the boat on that. So Deb, I wanna start with you. I'd like you, well first, you're an engagement specialist would up your culture. Um, so first, what do you think, or I should say, why would you say core values are so important to an organization? Ours or anyone else's?
Deborah Fulghum: (16:56)
Yeah. You know, based on what Matt just shared and what you just shared, but that conversation of we feel weak. I think that, or, you know, I'm not weak. I, I think it's really important to think, you know, where are we going? How do we get there? And core values for me are in our star. They tell us how we're gonna treat each other, how we share information, how we work together, how we communicate. Um, I think it's really important because it, it's our how, and they have to be more than just words on the wall like you just shared. Yeah. Um, they have to be part of something bigger so that I feel I'm part of that. Do those words speak to me? Is that who I am? And going back to what Matt was sharing about recruitment. If this is who a company is and this is who I am, then that's where I wanna work.
Deborah Fulghum: (17:46)
So I think it's really important to think about those core values and it, it kind of defines us. It gives us our personality as a company and helps us stand out from everybody else. You know, it's important to give people rules to work by going to that accountability that we were just talking about. It sets expectations of what we expect when you work here. Um, if our core values speak to you as a person, then you may be a perfect fit for us. And if they don't align, we may not be your people. It's okay. We want you to work where you fit and we want people who are gonna help us move forward, not move backwards. So I think that's a really important thing. You know, we talk about this often, you know, like you just said, are they words on the wall? And they had to be more than that.
Deborah Fulghum: (18:31)
If you think of a company like Enron who had the word integrity on their lobby wall, that CEO walked by that every single day. And we know how that ended. So it was just a word that he didn't live by, but he felt like we need to have a fancy word on the wall. Yeah. And I even think about, you know, recently, um, with Starbucks, you know, going on that listening tour from Howard Schultz, he came outta retirement for the third time. You know, he listened to people and on that tour he heard someone say what we say we are and what we do right now are two different things. So he realized that we weren't living by our core values and he needed to align everybody back to that. So they're more than just words. They are who we are, which I think is a really important thing. Yeah. And if you think about that, you need to hire people in your company who have those core values and maybe even that they're their personal core values. I knew that with one of the things that drew me to our company was that's who I was. That's who I was as a person. And I thought, these are my people and I wanted to feel like I belonged. And that really helped engage me because that's who I am.
Beth Sunshine: (19:40)
Yeah. Love that. And you make an a good point that they're the rules to live by. So as an employee, I know what's expected of me at our company. It is expected that I produce quality work, I behave with integrity and I'm responsive. But it's also important for our company to reflect back and make sure that they're holding people to those standards so that we all share those values. Well said. Now, Matt, our survey findings showed that only 43% of employees, now this is going back to the survey we conducted, only 43% of employees knew that their company even had core values. And then less than half of that small group of 43% even knew what those core values were. So that means that 57% of the people that we surveyed were either unaware of their company's values or maybe their company doesn't even have any that they've identified yet. You do a lot in our company to bring our core values to life. Could you just take a moment to share a bit about our core values, some best practices that people can use to even up their culture using core values of their own?
Matt Sunshine: (20:51)
Yeah. Um, one thing. So our, our core values quality, integrity, and responsiveness. Um, and, and, and they're important. They're important enough that if someone is not showing quality, integrity, and responsiveness, they're not gonna work here. Um, and that's one of the tests that we give to our core values is that it has to be important enough that if it's not being done, then you do not work here. Like, and we talked about this on a, on a, something that you and I were doing, um, the other day, but like, being innovative is, is a really cool thing. But if someone isn't innovative, we're not gonna say, you can't work here. Right? I mean, we want you to be innovative, that's great. We're gonna hire people that are like, like that. But we quality, integrity, and responsiveness. So one thing that we did several years ago when we all got together in person, cause we're a virtual company, we all got together in person.
Matt Sunshine: (21:45)
We tried, we, what we say is we're going to define what each one of those words means to us. And the way we chose to define it is by giving lots of examples of what is quality, what is examples of, we didn't wanna just limit it to just a definition. We wanted just to show a lot of examples of this is what is, um, each of those core values. And so we recognize that every single week we do high five Fridays, um, on our, on our Facebook page where we give shout outs to different people in the company that you've interacted with that have, um, lived the core values. I do a Monday morning video email that I send out to the entire company where I try to highlight our core values or something that someone has done that really exemplifies those core values. Um, we, uh, we, we set our, we have employee of the month, an employee of the, uh, year. And all of that is all tied back to are you living the core values? I heard Beth, I I don't know if you made this up or you stole it from someone else while I giving you credit, I heard you say you have to live it, not just laminate it and we try to live it.
Beth Sunshine: (22:58)
Yeah. Well said. I don't know if I made it up or not, but, uh, I may have stolen it. I'll take credit for it. . Um, yeah, so, so thanks for for sharing on that. We've really been focused on shared mission. You know, there are four engagement elevators that we use to elevate engagement, to improve culture. Everything about core values really lives in that shared mission elevator. Um, but I wanna move on to another of our four engagement elevators, which is people development and the concept of effective feedback. So starting with you, Matt, we'll just stick with you for a minute. I know you saw the data related to the culture report. Did it surprise you first of all, and just in general, what were your thoughts?
Matt Sunshine: (23:39)
Yeah, so I love the that culture report. I thought that you all did an amazing job with that. And if, if someone has not had the chance to download it, um, they should, they should absolutely download it and spend some time with it. One of the things that jumped out at me, and I knew that we were gonna get to this in this conversation, so I pulled it up, uh, prior my prep work is I wanna, nearly half of the people said they received feedback within the last week. Well, that's pretty good. Nearly half received feedback. And so I was like, that's good until I read the rest of the stat. 21% have not received feedback in the last six months. And 15 have not received feedback in more than a year. So 36% more than one third of the people have not received any sort of feedback in the last six months.
Matt Sunshine: (24:34)
If you're, if you're really focused on growing and developing the people that work that you work with, that work for you and getting the most out of them, and you're not regularly giving them feedback, you're missing out. I mean, you, and you know what you have, you have a culture of, um, we're just gonna, you're, you're just, you're just a cog in the wheel. You're just gonna get the work done until you don't get the work done. You don't mean anything to me. And when you're, you can't do it anymore, I'll just replace you with someone else that can. And if that's your culture, you're not gonna be a destination of choice. You're just not.
Beth Sunshine: (25:13)
Yeah, that's exactly right. Now Deb, you help companies all the time improve in this area. We're gonna be a little short on time. So can you think of one or maybe two strategies you'd recommend to people listening that can help them get better at giving good feedback and ultimately elevating engagement?
Deborah Fulghum: (25:31)
Yeah, I, you know, I come through articles every day and one thing is clear. People wanna develop. It's not that they want a job title change. They wanna develop, they don't just wanna do a job. They wanna grow. And I think that we need to spend more time with that. You know, one tool that we have, well lemme just say this first. You know, it's so easy as managers and leaders to live by the Golden rule, how do we wanna be treated? I'm gonna treat that person like I wanna be treated. We feel so differently. We live by the platinum rule. How do they wanna be treated? And there's one way to find that out, to ask them. We have a tool that we use called a growth guide. It's all about that individual. It's because everybody's different. Everybody needs something different. Everybody wants to grow in different ways. You know, we need to uncover what's important to them, what motivates them, where they wanna grow, what their goals are. You know, if we use a guide like that, we can really develop people a lot faster than just guessing what they need. Yeah,
Beth Sunshine: (26:28)
Yeah. You're exactly right. And if you know those things, you can give feedback in a more meaningful way. Some people like it public, some people don't. Um, you know, and what you're giving feedback on can be so much more tailored to them. Really good point. Love the Growth Guide. I'm a big fan as well. So that's really all the time we have for today, but I don't wanna let you go yet. I'm having too much fun. So let's do a quick speed round. So Justin, maybe one short sentence, what would be the one piece of advice you would give your very closest friend to improve culture and engagement at their company right now? What would that, that inside secret advice be? Deb will start with you.
Deborah Fulghum: (27:09)
Everyone wants to feel important. So, you know, allow each person to feel that by listening to them, not to solve their problems, but to listen to what their needs are and how they wanna grow.
Beth Sunshine: (27:19)
I love that. Matt, how about you?
Matt Sunshine: (27:22)
I would, um, depending on the job of the person who was my best friend that I was talking to, but for this example, I'll assume that the job of the person that I'm talking to is that they're the owner or someone in the C-suite. Okay. I'd say make culture and engagement a top priority, um, today meeting that you're gonna invest time, money, resources into improving the culture in, in your, in your company.
Beth Sunshine: (27:51)
Mm. Great advice. Great advice from both of you. I could keep going all day, but we're gonna, we're gonna call it quits for now. Thank you Matt and Deb for joining us. Um, I'm walking away with so many new thoughts on this topic. I'm sure our listeners are as well. So for those listening, um, I'm gonna drop Matt and, and Deb's contact information in the show notes. You may wanna reach out to them anytime. I'm sure they'd enjoy that as well. I'm also gonna drop in the link to the engaged 2022 report that we were talking about. You may wanna dive into any of the additional details that we didn't con uh, cover today that may interest you. So feel free and thanks everyone.
Matt Sunshine: (28:30)
Deborah Fulghum: (28:32)
Beth Sunshine: (28:36)
Thanks so much for spending time with us on Culture Over Coffee. If you've enjoyed the conversation, be sure to subscribe. Join us for every episode. For more helpful information on the topics of company culture and employee engagement, visit email@example.com. Enjoy the journey as you increase engagement and up your culture.