Pet food company executives have discussed how to make their businesses attractive to top talent for decades, Donte Vaughn, DM, chief executive officer of CultureWorx, said during his presentation at Petfood Forum on May 2 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. The emphasis on retaining top talent has become even more important in the current environment of the Great Resignation. Finding and keeping good employees is rooted in a pet food company’s management culture, and that ethos can be focused and improved to boost retention of skilled, experienced workers. Pet food companies aren’t the only cultures changing, though.
“The reality is over 55% of the working population in the United States, that same working population you're trying to attract and retain, are of the millennial or younger generation,” he said. “Those motivators that drive them to stick around in an organization, is it rooted in just fiscal or monetary benefit? It's rooted in something greater?”
While everyone needs enough to pay the bills and job stability, once people achieve a degree of security, they tend to look for meaning and fulfillment in their careers. All levels of employees want to feel inspired by their jobs, even if they play a small role. Cleaning toilets at Cape Canaveral is still working for NASA and contributing to space exploration. Younger generations feel empowered to ask that employers offer this sense of meaning, not just a paycheck. However, that sense of purpose and the company culture surrounding it needs to be a genuine part of the organization.
“You cannot fake company culture,” Vaughn said. “You can do all the pool parties and donut drives, but the reality is the experience of your employees, your leaders, your customers are perpetuated by the leaders in the organization, and all those engagements, all those interactions, all the decision making is rooted in those leadership behaviors.”
Pet food companies need a system to effectively define, implement, measure and improve company culture, he said. Pet food companies invest in improving all the other most important processes in an organization. Likewise, a pet food company reaps benefits from investments in management culture. Exactly what those companies are investing in and how can be nebulous.
“Eighty percent of millennials want to hear about the cultural fit now that aligns with their desire to work for you,” Vaughn said. “But only 28% of executives can actually articulate or even understand their culture, their company culture, yet 94% of executives believe that culture is important. There's a disconnect…
“Why do I care about leadership culture, this soft, fluffy thing?” he said. “It is because you have a workforce in the marketplace who wants to hear and be validated by the culture you claim.”
Financial benefits of leadership culture
Beyond workforce morale, leadership culture affects a company’s bottom line, he said. Both people-centered and process-centered activities are influenced by the leadership behaviors. For example, when leaders engage more with daily operations there are several benefits.
“I'm walking the production floor,” he said. “I'm connected. Now I have a better understanding of where my employees are in their performance. If I can do that, now I can engage them around what's necessary to impact how they're performing, and how they're contributing to waste reduction, what's impacting their productivity. By doing so, I'm improving my waste management. I'm improving my cost management, and if I can improve my cost management that has a fiscal benefit. Guess what, it's also creating an experience for that frontline employee that says, wow, they care about what I'm doing. They're giving me some insight. They're helping me be successful. Thus, I have greater probability of retention.”
Leaders must foster this productivity and retention by developing a conducive corporate culture, he said.
“The culture, the tone of the culture and the expectations around it are set by the leadership team, not the other way around,” he said.
Leaders with whom you've not only paid to be responsible for driving but also have general expectation for them to to set the tone for that workplace experience, yet you they should be able to at the highest level, say, hey, here are the behaviors I want out of the leaders that foster business positive business outcomes.