How to create an intentional culture in your workplace
How one Colorado company became on of the best companies to work for in the state
Regardless of whether leaders are deliberate about crafting a company culture, it still exists in every organization – the good, the bad and the ugly. The companies in the 2019 Best Companies to Work For in Colorado award program are serious about creating a culture based on intentional effort and aligned behaviors. Many organizations apply to the program because they believe they already have what it takes to earn the “Best Company” title. Other organizations, however, are at the beginning stages of their culture journey and want objective data and a baseline from which to move forward.
Merritt Aluminum Products Company
Merritt Aluminum Products Company (MAPCO), a leading manufacturer of high-quality, high-performance aluminum aftermarket accessories for the heavy-duty truck market, first applied to be a Best Company to Work For in 2017. After 65 years, the Merritt family had made a shift and spun off MAPCO, investing millions of dollars in a new facility. CEO Taylor Merritt already knew that Merritt Equipment had a strong culture, and the beliefs and assumptions of how they got work done were deeply rooted in the organization’s family and history – intentional or not.
The results from the 2017 survey indicated MAPCO had some work to do. Given ever-changing economic challenges, MAPCO’s leadership team wanted to ensure that the company could maintain its strategic position in the marketplace, recruit the very best talent and be a truly values-driven organization. CEO Merritt saw this as a challenge — and an opportunity.
Three Important Principles Guided Culture Efforts
The MAPCO team admits today that the 2017 results, although surprisingly high in some areas, were enlightening and a bit daunting. They focused on three key principles to guide their overall culture mission:
The leadership team started by sharing the culture results with everyone in the company. For a quick win, they implemented 15-minute town hall meetings each quarter focused on profit-sharing and a new EOS implementation. These meetings were an opportunity to reaffirm values and purpose and communicate the company’s direction. They needed every employee from the shop floor to the front desk to be aligned with the vision of the future. The team focused on listening and over communication – even if the message was, “We can’t do anything about that right now.”
Recognize that Change Takes Time
As the leader, Merritt quickly recognized that this was not going to be a one and done. A cultural shift, specifically after 65 years of organizational history, was going to take some time. They had to show up and work at it every day and anticipate obstacles. Giving all employees a voice into the change, including those with extended tenure, proved itself to be the secret sauce for overcoming challenges and resistance.
Paint a Picture
The leadership team needed to dedicate time and space for talking about values and purpose within the organization, so they started a strategic thinking group and created the “Paint the Circles” campaign. This allowed employees to see a very vivid picture of what success would and could look like when the Denison Culture Assessment circles were full of color.
The 2018 results saw improvement, but in 2019, MAPCO was named a Best Companies to Work for in Colorado winner. Although Merritt is not comfortable linking culture to bottom-line results, he can confidently say that the business is succeeding due to the leadership’s intentional focus on culture. Not only has MAPCO seen a nearly 40% increase in revenue since 2017, it also reports an increase of 32% on return on equity for 2018 alone. Further, site visitors often tell Merritt that the operations and atmosphere feel different, with more energy, positivity, optimism and laughter. People like coming to work and are telling their friends, which is helping the company’s recruitment efforts.
When MAPCO leaders received the 2019 results, they were blown away. Their challenge now will be to maintain and strive for continuous improvement.
“The objective data you receive from the assessment and the support and overall recommendations that ICC provides with your report is one of the reasons we started, continued and have seen results,” Merritt says of the Best Companies to Work For program. “If there is work to do, they will help you with actionable items to work towards. Give yourself time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the progress with the survey year-over-year allows you to measure the hard work of your team.”