As part of the FTA Forum, which took place in Indianapolis, IN, USA, from May 6-9, 2018, members from various segments of the industry explored how culture has improved their bottom line. In a 2-hour session entitled, “Culture Eats Strategy,” Tara Halpin of Steinhauser, Dr. Cynthia Sims of Clemson University, and Rachel Acevedo and Phil Ryan of Flexo Concepts detailed their best practices for instituting a productive working environment.
As one of the session co-chairs, Kevin McLaughlin of Flexo Concepts, said, “We wanted to focus not on whether a company had a good or a bad culture, but did they have an aligned culture. Was it aligned with the strategy of their brand? It’s critical for recruiting, retaining and inspiring your employees.”
According to Sims, an organizational culture is as unique as a fingerprint. Every company will maintain its own traditions, habits and customs. She likened culture to an iceberg, as the rituals and stories we tell one another are above the surface, but there is “a heart and DNA” deeper down, where there are underlying assumptions that dictate best practices. These are “not up for debate,” said Sims.
“A clear mission provides people with a clear purpose,” explained Sims. “You want to have a learning organization where you’re able to adapt and change. If you only look at bottom line results, you’ll get bottom line values.”
To improve one’s culture, a business can follow a strategic plan built upon formulation, implementation and alignment. It’s also important, Sims noted, to eliminate old habits and build new ones. Company leaders should clarify and build on core habits, while changing the employee mindset, behavior and systems.
At Flexo Concepts, leadership plays a pivotal role. “Our vision is to be the world’s most innovative doctor blade company,” said Acevedo. “But how can we nurture a culture that really upholds our values, and how do we hire people who push and enhance our culture to the next level? It really starts with leadership.”
Ryan added, “We didn’t want people leaving a meeting saying one thing but thinking another. To create a new culture, you ultimately need employees to buy into your vision.”
When hiring, Sims said that it’s important to select a candidate based on fit and realize that every employee is a leader in their own way. Establishing accountability is an important part of the molding process, and having frontline supervisors is necessary to instill a positive culture.
Halpin, a fourth generation president and owner of Steinhauser, a label manufacturer in Newport, KY, learned many lessons in leadership. Even though the company built upon its printing capabilities, such as installing an HP Indigo press to complement its flexo label printing abilities, she did not know how to instill culture.
Halpin hired a company to perform 360-degree culture audit, which ultimately led to, “The Steinhauser Way.” Halpin focused on establishing goals and fostering an environment where employees wanted to spend time with each other outside of work. This included company picnics, a family Easter egg hunt, happy hours, and a Price is Right-inspired game for employees.
The strategy worked, as Steinhauser tripled its profits in the first quarter of 2017 as compared to the prior year. Halpin also wrote a “Culture Plan,” where objectives, measurement and accountability are all recorded.
“Happy people deliver results, and every impression matters,” Halpin said.
Steinhauser was rewarded with the PIA Best Workplaces in America Award this year.