By Ryan M. Hartman, President and CEO
I recently had the opportunity to participate in an executive summit focused on workplace culture. It was inspiring to participate with leaders from a variety of industries, including the president and owner of the Portland Timbers, a professional soccer team. I was fascinated to see that despite the contrast in industries represented at this summit, the fundamentals of building company culture remained consistent, regardless of our differences in products. For me, the summit not only confirmed the importance of actively managing culture, it also clarified the role that the chief executive of an organization must play in building and actively managing culture. Today, I would like to reflect on the importance of actively managing an organization’s culture, and provide my own insight on how to do so.
My role as the CEO of Insitu is, first and foremost, to protect our vibrant culture. I have seen firsthand that day-to-day decisions can either strengthen a company’s culture, or erode it. Therefore it is critical to make decisions that uphold the culture of an organization. It is almost equally as important to communicate that you are doing this, as it will establish an organization-wide environment of making culturally-driven decisions. At Insitu, our culture is defined by four pillars: 1. Pioneer fresh and fearless ideas. 2. Perform to the highest standard. 3. Unite with purpose, action and integrity. 4. Care for one another and our customers. When making any decision that will impact our team or our customers, I allow the pillars to inform my decision.
As a company grows, it’s crucial to protect the core of the culture. One way to do this is by ensuring that new teammates are properly assimilated during their onboarding experience. Assimilating new employees is an incredibly important task, because it determines the success of both the employee and the company. For new Insitu team members, assimilation begins on the first day at new employee orientation, where either I or another senior leader will attend and introduce the company to them, focusing the discussion on Insitu’s culture, history and heritage. In this discussion, we highlight key elements of our culture by identifying our four Pillars. Once new team members have received an understanding of our foundation, we then transition to a discussion about the future of the company and our strategy for growth over the coming decade. Finally, we tie the Pillars, which stemmed from our history, to this strategy for the future. We help new team members to understand the importance of our culture and our past in mapping out a successful future for the company.
All of that said, I also recognize the importance of allowing a culture to evolve over time, especially as it relates to generational trends. A company that successfully integrates their values into their culture provides for a more innovative, challenging, and engaged employment experience. What I have seen, which I consider a generational trend, is a shift in the values of individual employees. What I mean by this, is that new generations of employees currently streaming into our workforce tend to find values that directly impact them to be more relatable and easier to live by, in comparison to the values more traditionally put forth by corporations. For example, an employee today knows that they should act with integrity, but will be more likely to embrace that concept if it is presented in such a way that puts their interests at the forefront. Traditional values that many employees still hold include strong leadership, collaborative work environments, performance recognition, and open and honest communication; however they are also now increasingly in search of a fun and flexible work environment, the company’s leadership position within a market, and a sense of purpose in the work the company does. Creating a culture and values that accomplishes these things will result in employees who are not only happier and more productive, but also more loyal to their company.
At Insitu, we recognize this shift in employee values, and are actively managing our culture to ensure that employees feel appreciated (Care Pillar), have opportunities for advancement (Care and Perform Pillars), feel a part of something new and exciting that contributes to protecting or growing our market position (Pioneer and Unite Pillars), and feel respected through a sense of two-way loyalty and balance (Pioneer, Perform, Unite and Care Pillars).
Communicating culture and values to your team is one thing, but investing in the culture through tangible programs that allow the employees to live those values each day is what ultimately makes a company’s culture genuine. To accomplish these objectives at Insitu, we have implemented several new programs that embody our evolving culture and support our four pillars: Pioneer, Perform, Care and Unite.
One of the new programs in place to support our Pioneer and Perform pillars is called the Innovators Workshop. This program provides employees with a forum to share ideas that will improve our business or solve a specific problem. Those who have ideas that are approved by our Innovators Workshop committee are then given funding through the program, to further their idea and put it into action.
Another new program that upholds our Unite and Care pillars is the “Active Off-Friday” program. Being that our work schedule affords us every other Friday off at Insitu, once a month we have a company sponsored event that introduces employees to activities within our communities. This has so far included a variety of activities in our various locations, from show-shoeing to waterfalls and learning how to kiteboard and windsurf in the Columbia River Gorge, to sailing America’s Cup racing yachts in San Francisco. These activities not only introduce employees to the great activities that our communities have to offer, but also serve to introduce employees to one another and share meaningful experiences together outside of the office. By showing that we care about employees and their lives outside of work, we are reinforcing our culture. By introducing them to fellow employees with whom they don’t interact on a day-to-day basis, we’re creating connections that enable them to unite in the future.
Culture is a vital element of our team’s success. It requires active leadership – not only from those with the titles, but from all team members. The results of investing in culture are incredibly rewarding; an engaged and excited team and the ability to execute on complex strategies. A vibrant culture requires asking, listening and evolving. We have learned that our current generation of employees expect to experience much more than having a job when they are a member of the Insitu team. Our employee-focused programs and our Pillars serve to create an environment where employees are deeply connected to the company and taken care of both in and out of the office.