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3 Characteristics of an Awesome Staff Culture

  • Name
    Holly Hall Tate
An organization lives and dies by its culture. Gone are the days of punching a time clock and hunkering down until retirement. High capacity people want to work for high capacity organizations, and high capacity organizations care about culture. Our team here at Vanderbloemen Search Group got a nice surprise last week when we were recognized as the #1 Top Company Culture in the nation by in the small organization category. We were overwhelmed with excitement about this recognition because as a team, we’ve spent immense time and energy on creating a culture where our team loves coming to work to serve the church each and every day. As we’ve worked hard to build a positive culture here at Vanderbloemen, we’ve learned a lot along the way. As a leader, are you creating a contagious culture where people want to come to work and invite their friends to join them? Here are three characteristics that have helped shape our culture.

1. Named and Owned Values

Whether you know it or not, your team operates from a set of values. They might not be written down or have even been said out loud, but as the leader, you’re setting the tone for the values by which your team operates. A couple of years ago, when we were only a team of 10 or so, our president, William Vanderbloemen, set aside intentional time at our staff retreat to formalize our team’s values. What started as a list of 50 ideas became a list of nine core values that we felt embodied who we wanted to be as an organization. This was one of the most significant culture decisions our team made, as it has allowed the strong culture of our team of 10 people to remain consistent with the culture we have today as a team of over 30 full-time employees. We set our values in wood—literally. We each have a wooden plaque on our desk that contains our team values and reminds us on a daily basis how we serve the church. If you don’t have your values solidified as an church or ministry, put a time on the calendar with your team to begin the process of establishing your team's core values.

2. Clear Mission and Cause

Does your team know why they are doing what they’re doing? If you’re a church leader, it is likely that your overall mission is the Great Commission. However, does your team know how they are advancing the Kingdom in the unique context of your church community? As a church leader, be clear about what your team’s mission and cause is, and then cast that vision daily. An unclear mission is confusing to your staff and can be a major factor for misalignment within your organization. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk in the church world about Millennials being drawn to cause. While this is generally true, I would argue that high capacity leaders, regardless of generation, are drawn to organizations that have a clear and specific cause.

3. In-House Team

An in-house team—as opposed to a team that encourages their staff members to work virtually—has a strong advantage in the culture-building department. I would argue that while not impossible, virtual teams have a much harder time building an aligned culture than in-house teams. Our leadership made an intentional decision a few years ago that our Vanderbloemen team would be an in-house team, allowing for the highest amount of collaboration, team bonding and culture building that makes our search process so effective. While there is a place for virtual teams, if your organization is struggling culturally, be careful how much you allow your team to work virtually. If you’re in a turn-around or revitalization process, you might consider having everyone in the office for at least a good portion of the day so that you can work to re-establish a positive culture. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo did this when she first took over as CEO, and it was very controversial. However, it seems to have proven effective, as she’s been able to accelerate change in an environment that was in dire need of a culture make-over. These are three areas we've focused on to create a contagious culture on our team. What other tips do you have for building strong staff culture?