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Good culture, bad culture: What's the difference?

This blog is part of a series based on a conversation with two of our in-house experts on company culture. Kelly McLuckie, Customer Culture and Transformation Manager, and Dave Jackson, Customer and Industry Relationship Manager, discuss what company culture is, why it matters and how to improve it.

 

Perhaps the best way to succeed in business is to create a great company culture. It’ll do more than make your company a great place to work; it also brings significant business advantages.

The transport industry is extremely competitive, and many operators drive rates down to compete on price. But companies with a strong culture usually have a good reputation as an employer and a business partner. It’s a great way to stand out to the big consignors, but that’s just the start. For example, a good culture can:

  • Decrease staff turnover
  • Decrease the risk in the organisation
  • Increase staff taking ownership of their safety
  • Increase management time available for other tasks (because you’re not dealing with as many incidents or accidents)
  • Decrease stress in the organisation (because you don’t have to worry about what’s happening out of sight)
  • Increase the quality of work
  • Improve teamwork
  • Improve your ability to manage change
  • Create more opportunities for innovation
  • Protect your brand

On the downside, if your reputation is that you’re a business that cuts corners to make deadlines above anything else, that doesn’t look after your staff, doesn’t look after your trucks or loads and only cares about the bottom line, then that’ll hurt you when you have to compete for business. Consignors want to be confident that you’ll look after their loads and ‘go the extra mile’ for them.

Drivers make the difference

Your drivers need to be invested in your organisation and its culture because they spend a lot of time out with clients or on the road. You want to be confident that they’ll represent your business properly, yet it’s sometimes thought that drivers don’t care about company culture, that they just want to be driving and making money.

“The feedback is overwhelming that drivers do care,” says Dave. “Yes, they care about their hourly rate, but they also want work-life balance, they want to be able to go home a couple of nights a week. They want to be driving in nice trucks, and they want to know their bosses have their backs.”

With a strong culture, they’ll have that balance and that confidence. Culture also plays an important role in building the workforce you want. Young drivers are entering the industry, and they want to feel part of something.

“They want to belong somewhere,” says Kelly, “and if you look at organisations that have low driver turnover, or that are attracting and keeping good drivers, they’re the businesses with a culture of higher engagement. They really care about looking after their staff, and they keep them involved with what’s going on.”

Perils and rewards

One of the biggest negatives for businesses with a poor workplace culture is that relationships become transactional. Team members won’t be loyal to the company. They won’t be as good with customers, and they won’t look after their trucks. All of these can hurt your business.

There’s a risk that if you don’t look after your culture, then you may find yourself stuck in a negative feedback loop. Staff and customers alike will join you just long enough to realise the culture isn’t good, and then they’ll go. You’ll have more staff turnover, which makes it harder to build the team you want. And you’ll have more customer ‘churn’, which makes it harder to build a sustainable business.

On the other hand, taking positive steps to create a good and positive culture quickly becomes its own reward. Team members will treat customers better. They’ll work harder for an organisation that has earned their trust and that they know values their work. Drivers will even take more pride in their vehicles, so your trucks will be in better condition.

“It’s all linked”, says Dave. “If your drivers look after the trucks and always return them to the depot in good condition, you’re going to get an extra hundred thousand kilometres out of them, and the resale value is going be far better.”

Not to mention that your customers will be happier with the service they’re getting, making them that much more likely to keep coming back to you. Cash from culture? It’s not the only benefit – but it’s a pretty good one.