Does Your Company Need an Extreme Makeover?

You probably already know if your company needs to change its culture. You can feel it in your gut. So why don’t companies take steps to improve when it’s clear that change is needed?

Instead, most companies keep going along with the same techniques year after year, ultimatly, making the company culture worse. There are only so many times a person can attend the same old training begin to feel nauseous. I’ve literally felt dizzy during a meeting because it was so repetitive and tedious. I couldn’t believe that management could be so out of touch with their employees.

Most of you have probably worked for a company like this. All you can do is shake your head at most of the decisions and wonder why they don’t care about your opinion.

A Story to Which We can All Relate

I once worked for a company that didn’t listen to its employees at all. The people grumbled and moaned then eventually left. The turnover rate was through the roof. Way over 10% a year.

It didn’t have to be that way. If only they would have implemented a few of the employees’ ideas, it probably that would have helped the company’s bottom line and made the employees the employees happier.

I remember one employee who told me about a marketing idea he proposed to his boss. He wanted to create a small club of dedicated customers who would help spread the word at marketing events. We had a core group of customers who loved us and it would have been easy. His boss didn’t like the idea because it would take the control out of the hands of marketing.

“Who knows what these customers will say at these events,” was his reply.

He explained that although we would be relinquishing some control, these people were dedicated to the company and would never do anything to damage the company’s reputation.

He cited other companies who were doing the same thing, but he was still rejected.

This employee left two months later.

I know you don’t want your company to make these same mistakes, so I’ve compiled 6 warning signs that your company culture needs a change.

1. Turnover is higher than 6% a year

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2006), the average turnover rate in the U.S was between 3.2% and 3.6%.

If your company has 40 employees and more than 2 or 3 people are coming and going each year, you might have a problem. Of course there are times when circumstances can inflate these numbers, especially if there are a coincidence of family issues. This can’t be helped. What can be helped is when employees leave because they aren’t happy. Any company culture can be changed. I’ll admit that the bigger a company is the harder it will be, but it’s not impossible.

2. Rumors spread like wild fire

A company that doesn’t address issues will have rumors running rampant throughout its organization. An open and honest dialogue with employees will prevent a lot of bad gossip.

Negative company gossip can fuel the emotions of the employees and make them afraid of what could happen. Their imaginations take over when they don’t have access to the right information.

Every company must create a support system in each department. An attentive manager will notice when his/her employees are spreading rumors. If this is happening s/he must have all the information from management to give to his/her staff. The more information they have about a problem, the less likely it will be that wild imaginations will create the story.

3. Employees stop complaining to management

When an employee gives up, they’ve probably stopped caring. That usually means they stop complaining and stop trying to make the culture better.

You know the difference between good complaining and bad. The good complaining points out a problem that needs attention.

The best way to prioritize employee feedback is to reach out and ask what needs improvement, and then actually do something about it. There are too many companies that ask and don’t actually implement the changes.

4. Your sales have declined or flat-lined

Studies have proven that 70% of a company’s business comes from word of mouth. When a customer loves you, they will tell everyone about you.

The best way to build customer loyalty is to have employees build great relationships with their customers.

You can do this by encouraging friendship building amongst your employees. That may mean creating a program that encourages interaction. One of my favorite ideas is a “thank you” Thursday. Every employee sends out 5 – 10 thank you cards every Thursday to show the customers appreciation.

The best part is about this technique is that it makes both sides, employee and customer, feel good. The employee releases positive feelings by showing appreciation to their customer. The customer loves receiving the adulation.

Creating positive relationships will increase customer word of mouth

5. Employees don’t hang out outside of work

Zappos does everything it can to encourage its managers and employees to hang out with each other. They actually put a percentage on it. They want managers to use 20% of their time to get to know their employees.

The more friends an employee has at work, the less likely they are to feel unhappy with their job. A strong network of friends makes an employee feel safe and happy.

If your employees are all going straight home after work then it’s a sign that they don’t feel connected to the people with whom they work with.

A company should create various opportunities for their employees to hang out outside of work by hosting functions and encouraging employees to go out and have fun.

6. Creativity Slows to a Crawl

Some companies use fear to run an organization. They don’t want to take too many risks because of the potential of lost revenue. What occurs in this fear based company is stifled thought. Employees would rather not bring up an idea because they are afraid of rejection.

A company needs to constantly innovate to stay ahead of competitors. That means trying some weird and maybe crazy ideas.

I worked for a company that sold expensive industrial products. Since the opening of the business, they advertised the same way. They sold the same way. They interacted with the customers the same way.

What they got was the same results.

A company must try new things to keep themselves and their customers interested in the product/service. You may have heard about the TV show AqueTeen Hunger Force’s advertising campaign that used lightbrights to create a buzz around Boston. It actually caused a scare in the community because they created strange boxes and put them in remote locations. It worried quite a few Bostonians who thought they might be bombs.

This may be an extreme example, but they tried to push outside of their normal sphere of advertising. It worked. The word of mouth spread throughout the rest of the country.

Your company can be innovative in various ways. There are always a few people in any organization who are willing to try unique ways to create more innovative products/services/marketing/customer relations. Try asking your employees about ways to expand outside of the company’s comfort zones. It will make the employees happy as well as reach new customers.


There are usually small signs within every company that expose a need for a culture change. These are just six examples that are very important to keep your eye on.

If you can catch these problems early, you have a good shot at turning the atmosphere around quickly.

What do you notice in your organization? Are there other signs that change is necessary? Let us know so we can keep the conversation going.


Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind is someone that I’ve been learning a lot from. I love his fresh angles that make me think differently about my own life.


The Happy at Work Project has gone very well. Looking at the stats, over 500 people have downloaded the free PDF and the response to my Work Happy Now weekly calendar has been wonderful. If you would like me to send it to you, just go to my contact page or send me an email to karl (AT) workhappynow (DOT) com and type in “WHN Calendar”.


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Image courtesy of Patrishe

4 thoughts on “Does Your Company Need an Extreme Makeover?”

  1. Hi Karl,
    Reminds me of an organization I was with many years ago. A company facing bankruptcy today. Hmmm….I wonder why.

    And being in the place I am today, I’m so much happier. In fact, we have a company-wide meeting to honor employees at every 5 year increment of their anniversary with the company. And we have a lot of people who have over twenty years of service. And a common theme they share when they give their “speech” at these meetings is that it’s the employees that make it great, and worth sticking around for. Today, with the economy the way it is – I’m not at all surprised people are staying. What’s more interesting is that when the economy was very strong – people still stayed. And we’re in an area that is growing and expanding – and jobs were plentiful.

    And something I’ve heard from working with our HR department is that it’s so much cheaper to keep an existing employee than to have to hire a replacement. Right there is reason enough for doing a makeover to keep employees and really prosper.

    Anyway, this is good info Karl. And it makes me appreciate even more the place I’m at right now.

  2. Hi Karl,

    Turnover can be expensive, but many companies don’t take that into consideration. When they leave, not only can they throw an employer into a bind, but the time needed to get another person up to speed can be extremely long.

    I like what Zappos does – encouraging managers to get to know their employees. It gives them an advantage over the competition and teaches the employees they are more than just a number. Sometimes that’s better than making a little more per hour.

  3. It’s a great reminder that playing to passions is one of the most effective keys for sustainable results.

    If I think about the companies I know, it’s the ones that focus on unleashing passion that really win the hearts and minds and change the world. The ones that focus more on the bottom line, let the business get in the way, and passion dies the death of a 1000 paper cuts.

  4. Hi Lance, sounds like your company is very healthy. My guess is that people care about each other.

    Hi Barbara, employees need to be cared for. When people know that they matter, they are more likely to work hard and do great work.

    Hi J.D., unleashing passion is a great way of stating it. When we look at the larger picture there are so many factors that contribute to amazing work.

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