How to Develop a Results-Oriented Company Culture

By Carole Wehn

As a business owner or leader, you spend your days addressing personnel matters, supply chain issues, and other challenges. Yet your stakeholders only care about results. They want to see sales growth, market share gains, more clients served, and higher net income. And your customers expect timely deliveries—they want services provided as promised.

Whether your organization is a corporation or non-profit, it exists to produce a product or service. And to do this effectively, you need a culture focused on results, not just doing work.

Having a results orientation doesn’t merely satisfy your stakeholders. It also drives:

  • Higher employee retention and productivity
  • Improved teamwork and collaboration
  • Enhanced communication and transparency between managers and employees
  • Metrics that align with company goals
  • A more positive workplace environment

A Culture of Results

The authors of Harvard Business Review’s “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture” include having a results-based orientation among their eight organizational culture styles. They write that achievement and winning characterize this profile and describe companies with this kind of culture as:

“Work environments [that] are outcome-oriented and merit-based places where people aspire to achieve top performance. Employees are united by a drive for capability and success; leaders emphasize goal accomplishment.”

To cultivate a results-focused culture, leaders must:

  • Reward and celebrate results
  • Set and measure progress against high goals
  • Hold employees accountable for results

Rewarding & Celebrating Results

Organizations that celebrate results demonstrate to their employees that their work is important and supports company goals. Team members also better understand how their roles impact others when leaders and peers recognize and applaud their efforts. For example, support staff can see how their jobs enable salespeople to market products and services, or manufacturing employees can appreciate how their output meets consumer demands.

In addition, receiving recognition makes team members feel more connected to others in the organization since everyone drives toward the same objectives.

All these plusses lead to employees’ increased engagement because they can see that the company is invested in their success. Engaged employees love coming to work every day. Their passion and commitment to their jobs translate to high performance and employee retention.

Celebrate the results of both individuals and teams or departments. Avoid generic “employee of the month” awards and instead provide meaningful recognition and appreciation. Let employees know exactly what they did that was so valuable and how it helped the business.

Some employees like public recognition; others prefer a simple thank you and a glowing performance review. It’s important to know the person so that their results can be celebrated accordingly.

Gallup’s research finds,

“Publicly recognizing whole departments for the value they add to the organization increases employee engagement, raises the department’s stock in the organization, and provides the surge employees get from recognition.”

Team acknowledgment can be especially meaningful for “back office” departments whose contributions to the company are not as noticeable.

Entrepreneur Joe Deobald maintained in a Forbes blog that employees who meet or exceed expectations must be rewarded. He said,

“Incentives make an employee accountable for their own achievements. The goal of incentivizing success is to increase participation naturally rather than pressure employees with deadlines and quotas. By focusing on rewards rather than punishment, personal growth and development are highly emphasized.”

Incentives don’t have to be bonus checks and free lunch for the team. Consider new assignments, project leadership responsibilities, and recognition. These are also ways to celebrate the employee’s successful accomplishment of their objectives. Further, they prove management’s trust in them to continue their high performance.

The key to celebrating and rewarding success is linkage to results. Don’t high-five the team for taking their one millionth customer service call. Instead, acknowledge how many customer problems were solved. Don’t reward the effort of closing the books – celebrate knocking a day off the monthly closing process.

Setting Goals, Measuring Progress

Employee goal-setting starts with establishing company goals and objectives. First, the leadership team sets top-level goals, including those for revenue growth, expense reduction, and market share gains. Objectives then cascade to departments and teams so employees can tie them to their performance and drive the achievement of topline goals.

Peter Drucker championed this “management-by-objectives” approach in the 1950s. Its key attributes include:

  • Employee involvement in goal setting
  • Ensuring that employees work on things that will advance the company in the desired direction
  • The establishment of quantifiable, measurable objectives

Management then monitors team members’ progress towards goals. But the emphasis is on employee growth and development, not punishment for failure to hit targets.

The SMART mnemonic (specificmeasurableachievablerelevant, and time-bound) is widely used by leaders in writing goals and objectives. Another time-honored guide is “what gets measured gets done.” Both help ensure that goals are quantifiable, measurable, and focused on the right things.

Relevance is critical to keeping employees focused on goals. As author and CEO Marcus Buckingham noted in the Wall Street Journal: “Data from ADP’s human-resource systems reveal that, after inputting their goals, fewer than 4 percent of people go back and check their goals even once during the year.” But if employee goals mirror those of the company and progress is monitored, they will remain relevant.

When working with employees to set goals, leaders should keep three things in mind:

  1. Goals need to be realistic. You may have lofty ambitions for revenue growth and cost reduction. Yet the current business environment may make them next to impossible to achieve.

Strive for a balance between big milestones and attainable goals. Stretch your employees but make sure their goals are achievable. Employees need to remain motivated and optimistic about their ability to succeed.

Help your team establish the incremental steps to hit their objectives and drive the business to its desired state. It may take a while to meet a significant objective, so develop smaller goals along the way. Once these milestones are achieved, celebrate the results and the progress made.

  1. Metrics are a critical component of being results-oriented. They provide an unbiased performance assessment. Regularly tracking against metrics provides early warning indicators of a need to step up performance and help employees get back on track.

Many businesses use a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that track how the company is performing against its goals. They can also use these operational and financial indicators to benchmark their results against competitors or industry averages.

Results-oriented employees appreciate metrics as a tool to track progress against their goals. So, encourage teams to develop their own KPIs to monitor their performance against the prior year, budget, and other relevant comparisons.

  1. In a results-oriented culture, goals need to be focused on outcomes. Don’t celebrate open orders; instead, reward shipments and service delivery. Ensure you have the correct data and metrics to evaluate progress towards results-oriented objectives.

Accountability for Results

Leaders can’t hold employees accountable for results without first ensuring they understand what they should be working on, the process to follow, and why their work is important. As leadership expert Melissa Raffoni writes in Harvard Business Review:

“More often, lack of accountability is the result of an underlying issue, such as unclear roles and responsibilities, limited resources, a poor strategy, or unrealistic goals.”

Set your team up for success by giving them the tools and creating the structure for them to take ownership of their work. Do this by:

  • Clearly defining desired results when assigning tasks
  • Openly communicating the organization’s vision and goals
  • Training and equipping team members to do their jobs effectively
  • Cultivating trust by being transparent, consistent, and supportive

Accountability starts with the leadership team. Unfortunately, accountability can have a bad reputation among rank-and-file workers because they usually equate the term with performance measurement systems.

According to Marcus Buckingham, employees often view these processes as “too infrequent, dehumanizing, and irrelevant to real-world performance.” Usually, the reviewer must “rate” an employee using a numerical scale. Unfortunately, such scales may not fully capture the essence of the team member’s contributions and growth opportunities.

 As noted by Ron Carucci in Harvard Business Review,

“When dignity, not surveillance, is the goal of accountability, the quality of evaluative feedback improves. When employees believe their bosses are genuinely interested in their success, they feel less guarded and less inclined to hide their underperformance. When bosses are committed to their employees’ success and are less focused on documentation, they feel comfortable offering feedback and coaching about underperformance.”

Accountability skyrockets when:

  • Employees understand the purpose of their tasks
  • They’re given the proper training and tools to execute the work
  • They know their managers support them

Unfortunately, there will always be situations where someone drops the ball and needs to be held accountable. Before you meet with the team member, critically assess your effectiveness in setting them up for success. Be mindful of your tone, assume positive intent, and listen carefully to the employee’s concerns. Melissa Raffoni advises,

“If your team member feels they are truly being heard, they are more likely to feel emotionally safe and work with you to solve the problem. Whether you are in a leadership position or seeking to be a better peer, listening with positive intent is a skill that will help you reach your goal.”

Work with the employee to develop a plan to get them back on track. This process may involve resetting expectations, revising goals short-term to provide more training, and establishing more frequent check-ins to monitor progress.

Employees need to know they can be open with their supervisors when they encounter problems in their work. They need to know they will not be blamed or shamed. Performance feedback should be balanced, fair, and consistent. Objectively assess performance using metrics to help employees be fully accountable for their results.

Creating a Culture of Results

Culture develops in an organization whether you guide it or not. If you want your company’s culture to be focused on delivering results, your leadership team must make an intentional effort to achieve that goal.

At CultureWise, we help leaders craft and implement the behaviors they want their staff to embody that will drive success in their company. We not only help organizations choose preferred behaviors but also the means of ensuring they are followed. We refer to these as the “rituals.” Rituals help leadership get results from culture change efforts.

If you’d like to learn more about company culture, establishing behaviors, and developing rituals, the CultureWise website contains many helpful resources. And subscribe to our complimentary blog for the latest news about company culture. To discover how CultureWise can improve your company’s culture, request to connect with one of our consultants.

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