Developing the right culture is a vital ingredient in the success or failure of any business – but where do you start?
What exactly is ‘culture’? Culture is short for ‘the way we do things around here’.
The way we do things around here is based on the norms and habits that accumulate over time and get repeated because we have always done them that way.
For example, you can either understand that the customer always comes first, or you can allow practice administration to take priority. You either know that quality is paramount or you accept that it can be compromised for lowest cost, etc.
Changing workplace culture may sound simple, but as anyone with experience knows, it’s an enormous challenge…
Why Change a Culture?
A poor company culture will lead to decreased sales, the loss of loyal customers, increased staff turnover and higher costs as you re-hire, re-train and try to win new business.
That poor business culture might come in the form of widespread negativity, a lack of effort, abrupt and rude approaches to clients or even a blatant disregard of company rules. Just one person is enough to shift practice culture from one of optimism and opportunity to negativity and even disaster.
As a practice owner or manager, it’s up to you to identify and assess the problem, initiate strategies to address the problem, then implement them for a speedy recovery.
Changing workplace culture may sound simple, but as anyone with experience knows, it’s an enormous challenge, and it takes time and patience to achieve.
Yet that didn’t stop the team at ProVision from taking the challenge on. Led by CEO Steven Johnston, they decided that it is entirely possible to change culture and earlier this year set about doing it.
Three full day workshops were held in nine different locations across Australia from February to August, providing almost 200 practice owners and their key staff with the tools and methodology to change their business culture.
The program was based on the transformation process ProVision initiated five years ago at its own head office. This initially saw half of the support team change in 18 months but subsequently resulted in substantial membership growth as well as significant growth in purchases and member sales. Impressively, more than three years on, there has been zero staff turnover.
Facilitated by Mr. Johnston, National Retail Operations Manager Rob Ellis and HR & Education Manager Reny Frighetto, “Developing a Positive Practice Culture” was delivered in three sections:
- Establishing the Game Plan: The vision for the practice, the mission to deliver on the vision, the core values to determine behavioural standards, organisational structure and position descriptions to clearly document expectations.
- Getting the Players Right: the importance of getting the right people on your proverbial bus, how to recruit the best team members, developing high performance, and the lawful way to get the wrong people off your bus.
- Creating a Scoreboard: Identifying your strategic priorities, implementing your plan using the balanced scorecard methodology, engaging your practice team and then bringing it all together by changing bad habits and installing new ones.
Getting the Ball Rolling
Of course when you’re implementing significant cultural change you run the risk of making your good staff feel ill at ease. Mr. Johnston said avoiding this came down to strong staff engagement. “During the program we strongly advocated that the vision for the practice be articulated by the practice owner and the development of the mission and core values be a collaborative effort with the team. Engaging the team in the process gives them some ownership instead of the program being imposed on staff.
“A team meeting to explore the sorts of things the practice has to do well is a great starting point,” said Mr. Johnston. “For example, if the practice owner has decided that their vision is to be known as the best practice for children’s eye care in suburb ABC, then the whole team should work through the mission to achieve that. The core values will help to determine the right behaviours eg. an appropriate core value for this practice might be ‘family values’. We provide participants with a list of values for the team to distil down to the ones that resonate the most and then define exactly what that core value looks like.”
Inevitably there will be some staff who just don’t want to make the shift. “Our catch cry is ‘better an empty house than a bad tenant’. If a team member is causing disruption through non-adherence to core values then the whole practice can be affected in a negative way. In our collective experience, when we get the wrong person off the bus, the right people breathe a sigh of relief and step up to the plate until you fill the breach.”
Mr. Johnston said the response from participants was overwhelmingly positive with overall ratings of 9.2 out of 10. “The program has led to some practices making seismic shifts in how they do things. For example, Bridge Eyecare in South Australia is putting their vision and mission on their consulting room doors and Haman Optical has decided to close their practice in Maryborough on one Friday afternoon every month to engage with their team members and celebrate success,” said Mr. Johnston.
“Additionally, practice owners have taken the steps to get the wrong people off their teams and allow good people to thrive. It only takes one bad apple to ruin a practice culture and it is not good business to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour.”
Responding to Needs
Responding to further member demand, ProVision’s culture change program has been condensed down to a series of six modules which can be accessed online via ProVision’s exclusive ProLearn education platform.
Mr. Johnston has no doubt that if practices apply all of the learning, they will have a more profitable business and less stress… and who doesn’t want that!