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Culture, engagement, empowerment = performance

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Does your company's performance ebb and flow in response to the economic, environmental or global influences?

Or does it consistently demonstrate top-level performance regardless of the direction and whim of these influences?

Is your company struggling to achieve its goals with existing employees?

Or does your company's culture foster employee engagement, innovation, empowerment and teamwork, making it easier to exceed goals?

Companies that have been recognized publicly and privately for top-level performance share many traits that have helped them succeed. (Being recognized privately refers to customers rewarding them with a steady increase in business growth.)

According to leaders of these top-performing companies, these common traits include focused vision, shared values, selective hiring, extensive training and employee development.

These and other common themes are possible in any business, and none of them occur by happenstance.

For the past seven years, ALL4 Inc., based in Kimberton, has been recognized by Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

In addition, ALL4 started at No. 7 on the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania” list in 2009 and continues to move up, reaching No. 2 in 2014.

These are just two of the many awards ALL4 received for being a great place to work.

Bill Straub, principal consultant and one of the firm's founders, said “it starts with hiring.”

This environmental consulting firm specializes in air quality, hiring well and growing and developing every person on its team.

From the recruiting process to the in-house university training concept to the ongoing performance feedback – every employee is connected to the mission, vision and core values and feels empowered to do his or her job and make decisions on behalf of the firm.

After 13-plus years, company leaders still have the fire in their bellies and passion for the business because of the healthy and dynamic culture they've been able to build and sustain.

Gregg Ciocca, CEO of Ciocca Dealerships, said, “we're an overnight success that took us 38 years to get there.”

He credited success to the “three-legged stool” concept – “employee satisfaction + customer satisfaction = profitability.”

To support that concept, the leadership team continually reinforces empowerment with the 600-plus employees working in nine locations.

Ciocca Dealerships is on an aggressive growth track. Hiring well, and putting the right people in the right positions, are critical to keeping the organization's culture healthy and thriving.

But Ciocca confessed that “sometimes it is difficult to recruit new employees because of the perception of our industry.”

During the screening process, candidates get an in-depth view of a career path that includes extensive training, coaching and mentoring on the who, what, where, when and why of the organization and the industry.

If they are the right candidates, they will soon see the value in the organization and the value they can bring to the organization.

Born in a dorm room at Penn State University almost 20 years ago, Listrak is a high-tech omni-channel solutions company that supports digital marketing campaigns.

Ross Kramer, Listrak's founder and CEO, attributes its success to the recruiting, hiring and training techniques used in its Lititz-based firm.

Like ALL4 and Ciocca Dealerships, Listrak also finds it difficult to recruit.

“The best people have jobs, so we look to recruit in places where people have been displaced by mergers or similar situations,” Ross said.

Once a candidate is selected, onboarding and ongoing training are paramount. Ross explained that “training is huge at Listrak. Our associates participate in Listrak University for e-learning, mentoring and leadership development programs.”

Associates participate in these programs throughout their career at Listrak.

The company has a focused vision and shared values that define its culture and day-to-day interactions.

This takes the guesswork out of commitments to each other and keeps everyone on the same page.

Each of these companies share several factors that continue to help them be top-performing companies. Putting these factors in place will not guarantee that your company could survive and thrive during a great depression, or the many twists and turns one faces in a global marketplace.

But it seems fair to say that if you and your company develop and maintain a solid environment within the company, it will stand a better chance of surviving and thriving the good, bad and ugly times.

As the company's leader, it's up to you to inspire:

The culture.

The hiring of people who are aligned with and support the culture.

The development of leadership skills at every level.

The empowerment of every employee.

The maximization of performance of every employee.

When you benchmark your company's performance, look beyond sales and profitability.

When you focus only on numbers, people become a commodity and lose their real value.

Take a hard look at your company's culture and the alignment of the people to the culture. Anything and everything are possible when they are in alignment.

It takes hard work to become a top-performing company, but it is well worth the journey.

Plant the seeds, make adjustments, grow the people, reap the harvest and feel great about the achievements.

Bonnie Sussman-Versace – business leader, entrepreneur and principal of Focused LLC in Wyomissing – is dedicated to developing leaders, enhancing cultures and improving performance for business growth and prosperity. She can be reached at bversace@focusedllc.net or 610-301-2194.

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