Lots of organizations and gurus will talk about building company culture, and it can sometimes amount to lip service. Building one that makes a real difference requires being active, intentional, and consistent.
Employee engagement company Limeade writes that the biggest trend of 2018 among chief human resources officers is building an intentional workplace culture. An intentional culture that’s embraced by each individual pays dividends and makes for a more productive and happier workforce.
At DaVita, we have very intentional practices, behaviors, symbols, traditions, and language that are critical to keeping our beliefs alive. Words matter. For example, we call our employees “teammates” because this term is much more appropriate for how we see our relationship with each other. Our workplace is called “Our DaVita Village” since being a community is a foundational premise that we live by.
We have built our culture from the ground up. That journey began in 2001 after our teammates voted to change our name from Total Renal Care to DaVita, meaning “he/she gives life.”
One of the core beliefs is that we should have fun at work. Our chief executive, Kent Thiry, better known as KT, is the Mayor of our Village. He, as well as other executives, can be seen occasionally donning a Musketeer uniform to add fun and create energy at some of our events where we often do call and responses such as “One For All… and All For One!”
Some people might say we are different or even odd. But the truth is, we don’t get too wrapped up in what the outside world says. What matters is that we stick to what we believe in, and that it produces the desired results — in our case to be “A Community First and a Company Second.”
“It’s an important distinction to reward performance but also to honor behavior. A high performer who’s not living the values may not ultimately be a fit for the company.”
As a community, we commit to care for each other with the same intensity with which we care for our patients. We call this “The DaVita Way.”
Our relentless focus is on how we treat each other and what this means for our patients. Honestly, I don’t go around talking about dollars and cents— because it’s not why we do what we do. However, a strong culture does produce results. When we began defining our culture in 2001, our stock price was $6.20 and our future was uncertain. Recently, our stock price topped $70 (after a split) and the Village is thriving.
What we do here is not for everybody. No company should set out do it the way we do it, but every company should be intentional about the culture it wants, then commit to it and practice it on a consistent basis.
Here are seven key aspects of building an intentional culture that could be applicable to any company:
Recruit: Culture starts with hiring people that fit with who you are and what you’re trying to create, based on who they are, what they believe in, and not just what they know or their experience. At Zappos, for example, candidates undergo a cultural-fit interview, and new hires are offered $3,000 to quit early on if they feel the culture is not for them. At DaVita, we measure and verify during the interview process how likely potential hires are to fit into our culture and align well with our Core Values.
Review: We have report cards where teammates grade themselves and each other on our core values. We also conduct 360 reviews of leaders and encourage open discussions about how we are interacting with each other. Talking honestly about our behaviors that align or go against our values creates an authentic environment that yields more of the intentional culture that we’re striving to build.
Revere: One of our mantras is: “A community produces most what it honors most.” In other words, we are sincere about publicly honoring teammates who are behavioral role models for our culture. We have multiple ways to recognize them, from Core Value Lapel Pins to annual “Nights of Honor,” which are formal ceremonies where teammates are recognized in front of their peers.
Reward: Great performance deserves meaningful rewards, including profit sharing and bonuses. It’s important that people feel appreciated. It’s an important distinction to reward performance but also to honor behavior. A high performer who’s not living the values may not ultimately be a fit for the company.
Reinforce: Culture is reinforced by talking about the good and the bad. We hold regular “Voice of the Village” calls and hold town halls around the country to generate ideas and to gather genuine feedback from teammates. Consistently reinforcing culture includes using specific language, symbols and traditions to give teammates a shared identity and to constantly remind us of what’s important. We even have a DaVita song that we sing at many of our events so we can practice having fun without taking ourselves too seriously!
Rejuvenate: We believe that reflection, mindfulness practices and taking time to rejuvenate is critical to helping build a healthy community. So we encourage all of our teammates to be mindful of their wellbeing and refresh their energy. Striking a good balance in our lives strengthens our ability to sustain a healthier community.
Reality Check: Finally, to thrive, a culture must continuously evolve. Tracking and measuring such things as retention and undertaking engagement surveys reveals what’s working and what should change. Authenticity can be measured. For example, if a company says it wants to be a great place for veterans to work, it should pay attention to data to see how many veterans are being hired and that it is really a veteran-friendly environment.
Company culture will develop whether you’re intentional about it or not. Taking the time to shape it rather than allowing a culture to passively grow really pays off.