Thought Leadership

Why I Understand the Value of Cultural Alignment: Once a Client, Now Culture Partners’ Senior Consultant Betsy Thomas

(Note: When you witness how you can improve results by unleashing the power of culture, it stays with you. And often it provides a compelling reason for people who once were clients of Culture Partners to come on board as one of us. This blogs series shares what they learned firsthand in their culture change experience and how others can similarly benefit.)

With a 20-year background in HR and other management positions, Betsy Thomas, senior consultant at Culture Partners, knows what it’s like to face daily challenges in workplace culture. And perhaps none of these concerns was as pronounced as during the pandemic.

“I worked in an organization where turnover issues were common,” explains Betsy. “Add to that worries about safety and exposure to the virus, and retaining, let alone replacing, employees became a major struggle.”

Consider how difficult that is when you’re staffing 24/7 operations. According to Betsy, some roles saw vacancy rates as high as 80%. In this situation, negative impacts built up quickly:

  • Every employee—from front-line workers to supervisors—experienced higher levels of stress.
  • With people simply trying to cope, undesirable behaviors—like being late—became more acceptable.
  • A skeleton staff left remaining employees taking on more responsibilities, so both communication and practices to keep people in sync with what was happening between shifts were inconsistent.

Efforts to attract more employees through increased recruiting events and in-house recruiting staff failed to bring in the number of employees needed. And attempts to develop current staff so they could move up to address gaps in higher-level positions also fell short.

Tackling Turnover By Improving Workplace Culture

With everyone working so hard to solve the problem, why wasn’t it enough? According to Betsy, “Everyone wasn’t aligned in the same direction to get results, and there were trust issues among front-line, second-level, and third-level staffers because they just didn’t know what was going on.”

Tasked with addressing the situation, the organization’s chief of staff reached out to an existing partner, who recommended they contact Culture Partners. The leadership team began its culture journey by engaging in a Culture Equation® workshop to align its purpose, strategy, and culture. After that exercise, Betsy says even naysayers changed their outlook about what was possible to achieve through a better aligned culture. An Accountability Workshop for Leaders followed, providing a new, more positive approach to changing behaviors and encouraging ownership of problems.

With the highest-level leaders now equipped with culture management and accountability tools, the organization undertook a plan to roll out similar training to every employee at each of its 50+ facilities.

Seeing Signs of Improvement

It didn’t take long before management and employees began to see a shift in workplace culture. “Soon after training, supervisors began focused storytelling in weekly meetings to relay how actions employees were taking aligned with new cultural beliefs established as part of the organization’s unique Culture Equation,” says Betsy. “They also made sure that core methodologies related to accountability training, like the Steps to Accountability®, were visible everywhere—even painting them on walls in places.”

Reinforcement like this was essential to making initial and ongoing progress. But Betsy says that demonstrating commitment to change was even more important. “The fact that employees at every facility saw their management go through the training sessions really made a difference. Their leaders modeled the new desired behaviors and were open to feedback, themselves.”

Sustaining Success

Steps like these are what have contributed to greater employee engagement and satisfaction, which has begun to reduce turnover, and in turn, make the organization more attractive to potential new hires.

“Previous ways we had tried to introduce change weren’t as hands-on. Plus, they never got to the root of what was needed to change the employee experience for the better,” says Betsy. She credits this approach, combined with Culture Partner tools and methodologies, for successful change management. In the end, being part of an effective culture shift herself motivated Betsy to share what she’s learned to help other organizations. “So many organizations are facing adversity, regardless of industry,” explains Betsy. “But with the right approach, they can get everyone focused and aligned around the results they need to achieve.”

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