Use culture to drive metrics that matter most

Stop for a moment and imagine a perfect world in which your organization has its core values (its branded experience) very clearly defined by actionable behaviors every employee can do. Now, imagine you’ve rolled out the values and behaviors to the workforce, held the pep rallies, and made announcements, banners and signs. What happens next?

You probably already know the answer. Pep rallies and big announcements alone do not work to engage the workforce to deliver the branded experience. To be a best place to work—where employees, residents and residents’ families are satisfied and loyal—an organization needs to go beyond just announcing the culture and changing the focus to results.

How culture shows up on the bottom line

It’s your responsibility as a manager and leader to determine which financial metrics matter most when quantifying your culture. Doing so creates incredible visibility as to which managers are “managing by the values” and creating an engaged workforce, and which ones struggle to get employees aligned and focused on living the values.

The benefits of this approach are documented. In organizations named to the 2016 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, voluntary turnover rates are approximately half those of industry peers. In addition, the Fortune list also reports that one of the top business benefits associated with investing in a great culture is improved customer service.

Results in senior living

Let me share an example of how this can impact a senior living organization. Lutheran Jamestown, located in western New York, employs approximately 600 people and provides a continuum of community, residential, and home-based supportive services. My company, Brand Integrity, has worked with them for the past 18 months. During that time, they have successfully linked employee behaviors and workforce engagement to financial results and business metrics that are important to their organization.

This year, for the first time in 20 years, Lutheran Jamestown experienced a consistent and significant decrease in family member complaints. In addition, employee turnover has dropped to 12% below industry averages. Lower turnover has a powerfully positive impact on the bottom line as it increases the organization’s ability to provide consistent care, and it helps lower employee stress levels.

So, how did they do this? It started with knowing that if they could help employees understand and deliver the “Lutheran Experience” (their values and brand) they could drive real culture change. Leaders knew from experience that telling employees what to do was not the answer. Rather, they had to show the workforce that their actions mattered. It seemed like a daunting task, considering that employees were located across multiple facilities and in various job roles, but it was one they were courageous enough to take on.

The solution they adopted consists of a series of tools, techniques, and technology—a software platform housing bi-annual employee engagement surveys and strategic recognition. But most importantly, it was the commitment of managers to consistently use the tools and techniques to integrate the Lutheran Experience into everyday activities. Managers consistently reinforce the Lutheran Experience by celebrating successes and sharing examples of the values in action.

It sounds so simple, but the impact is astounding. In less than two years, the workforce shared more than 7,000 stories of employees living the values—each one providing appreciation for a job well done while spreading best practices for others to learn from.

Metrics that matter most

Many aging services organizations use these measures to quantify their culture. Which ones matter most to your company?

  1. Number of residents
  2. Referrals
  3. Resident satisfaction and loyalty scores
  4. Resident complaints
  5. Resident retention
  6. Quality of care outcomes
  7. Employee absenteeism
  8. Employee turnover/unwanted turnover
  9. Employee overtime pay
  10. Safety issues
  11. Workers compensation rates and overtime
  12. Incident reports

Leaders at Lutheran Jamestown found that managers recognizing employees was contagious. Now, employees regularly recognize one another through the online platform, in team meetings, and via certificates. Even the holdouts—those employees who sat on the sidelines waiting for this “new fad” to pass—are more engaged. In fact, more than 60% of success stories shared are currently written by frontline employees.

Rather than waning, the momentum is growing. Lutheran had 87% of employees participate in their last survey because employees now see the impact their feedback has on the organization. Teamwork abounds and staff retention and engagement have both gone up over the past year.

Tom Holt, CEO of Lutheran Jamestown, explains it this way: “Culture is one of those hard things to assess. But we know that monitoring important metrics, such as customer satisfaction, turnover, and occupancy, can help us impact quality outcomes. Since we began the practice of recognizing employees who demonstrate our desired behaviors, we’ve seen a big drop in turnover. We have also become an employer of choice in our region and we are exceeding our occupancy targets in every one of our programs. In fact, we have to turn people away.”

Moving forward

What’s next for Lutheran Jamestown? Management is integrating the Lutheran Experience behaviors into performance reviews. During new employee orientation, new team members are introduced to the behaviors that support the values and how to use the online recognition platform to capture examples of people demonstrating the Lutheran Experience. Leaders have proof that their commitment to improving employee engagement is a total game changer.

Do you know how engaged your company’s workforce is or how consistently employees are living your organization’s values? Are you able to clearly see the impact both factors have on the financial results you are trying to achieve? If so, you are quantifying your culture. If not, you’ve got work to do.

Use the accompanying list of “Metrics that matter most” as a starting point for determining what you should start holding the experience accountable for. It’s a great way to spark the conversations necessary to improve your culture and ultimately improve the resident and family experience.

Gregg Lederman, CEO of Brand Integrity, is a professional speaker on the customer experience, leadership and culture change. He is an adjunct professor at the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester. He can be reached via

Topics: Administration , Articles , Business Marketing Including Social Media and CRM , Executive Leadership , Leadership , Resident Care