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In the Know: What's the culture at your business?

In today's world, we hear a lot about workplace or organizational "culture." Years ago, a person got a job, performed the duties expected of them, and often, stayed at that job for most or all of their working years.

That is the not the norm today. Currently we are experiencing an employee job market, which means employees are able to get many of their expectations met when "choosing" a potential employer. Yes, in today's market, employees are choosing their employer every bit as much, if not more, than employers are choosing their employees.

What many of the current generation of workers are seeking in a job is a positive workplace culture. What does that mean? Culture is difficult to define, but think of it as an organization's personality. Much like an individual's personality is created by past experiences, upbringing, beliefs and values, an organization's personality develops the same way.

Usually it is ownership or management that sets that initial personality. That person or persons blend their past experiences, beliefs and values to create a workplace personality. As leadership changes or employees come and go, that personality could change, unless every hire and every change in that organization is made with a focused culture as its driving force.

It's extremely important to realize that leadership or management is what develops or changes that personality, for better or worse. Just like parents quickly realize, you can't act one way and expect your children — or your employees — to act another way. You cannot demonstrate one set of values and expect your employees to showcase other values that you may find beneficial to your organization.

I have heard managers complain about an employee's "poor" attitude and blame them for creating a "toxic" workplace culture. No matter how you look at, the manager is the one at fault. If an employee truly is having that strong of an impact on an organization, they need to be let go.

With the current workforce shortage, some employers will argue that by saying, "We can't let them go — we are understaffed and need everyone, even if they aren't a good fit." But any successful employer can tell you that one "toxic" employee can drag an entire team down and drop production much more than letting them go could ever do.

In today's workplace, employees will not conform to the expectations of management. Instead, they will follow your lead — or they'll find another company with which their "personality" is a better fit and with which they can comfortably follow management's lead.

If you are having a difficult time attracting or retaining quality employees, now may be a great time to take an in-depth look at your organizational culture. Keep in mind that you may be too "up close and personal" to really see it for what it is. Ask some trusted clients or associates from other businesses to give you some honest feedback. And remember, this is something that can't be changed overnight. It will take a lot of hard work and intentionality. But the good news is that it can be changed!

Since becoming director of the Chamber of Commerce almost three years ago, one of the things that has most surprised me is how obvious a good — or bad — organizational culture is to those "on the outside." I could easily rattle off the companies in this community that have "culture" figured out, and which ones are struggling with the concept.

There are a multitude of resources available to help you get on the right track. Just Google "positive organizational culture" and you'll find plenty of resources. Good luck!

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Tara Bitzan is executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.