Companies around the globe are short-staffed. Leaders have tried to boost hiring through higher wages and even bonuses, but staffing shortages continue.

The problem? Many business leaders want to return to the “old normal” but employees and candidates don’t want “old normal.” A new Deloitte study found the top four things Gen-Y and Gen-Z workers want include work/life balance, development opportunities, higher salaries, and a positive culture.

Money is not their primary driver.

What must leaders do? They must build and sustain a work culture where employees of all generations are respected and validated for their ideas, efforts, and accomplishments.

Let’s examine a shining beacon. Radio Flyer is a 100+ year old company famous for their original red wagons. For the last decade, they’ve been rated as one of the best companies to work for by Glassdoor, Crain’s, The Inc. 5000 list, and many others.

Glassdoor tracks employee ratings in seven critical categories. Radio Flyer’s scores average a 4.9 on a 5-point scale.

How did Radio Flyer’s senior leaders create their uncompromising culture? Mark Babbitt and I interviewed Chief Wagon Officer Robert Pasin for our 2021 book, Good Comes First. Their efforts followed our culture model.

First, they defined their desired culture – with input from all staff. “We did a very intentional culture transformation where we started to articulate our vision, mission, and values,” Pasin explained.

“We plastered the cafeteria walls with huge posters,” letting every employee participate by writing their thoughts. “This is when the behaviors we want were articulated,” Pasin said.

Second, they aligned all plans, decisions, and actions to their desired culture. Robert said, “You get better at what you measure and become what you celebrate as a team. We started to develop a lot of awards and recognition for people who demonstrated our values.”

Third, as the company articulated and celebrated its values and behaviors, Pasin said, “We had to have zero tolerance for bad behavior.” When people behaved in disrespectful ways, they were coached and mentored. If they aligned to desired behaviors, they stayed. If they did not align, they were lovingly set free.

Pasin says, “People are so grateful to not have the distractions, the politics, etc., here because we have no tolerance for drama.”

That’s what it takes to sustain an uncompromising work culture. It requires months of steady modeling, measuring, and mentoring of everyone – by every formal leader.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: Good Comes First (2021) and The Culture Engine (2014).
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