Creating Organizational Culture
An Interview With Our Senior Manager of Training and Development
Over the past couple of years, the WinShape Foundation has assembled a team to create organizational culture across the entire foundation. The WinShape Foundation houses six different branches. It has more than 300 employees foundation-wide and a rich history steeped in tradition.
We wanted to learn more about the new team’s approach to pioneering an organization-wide culture, so we interviewed their Senior Manager of Training and Development, Jeremy Marshall. Here’s what we learned.
Creating, Not Changing Culture
“A lot of people talk about wanting to change culture, but you can’t change culture. Culture is the aggregate of tons of cultural artifacts (pre-existing pieces such as music, art, thought, lifestyle, etc.),” says Jeremy.
“We can’t change what exists already, but we can create [a new] culture,” he goes on to say. “And if that’s true, every employee is a culture creator, intentionally or unintentionally. Every person’s mere presence will create an artifact of culture, from today’s staff back to the original staff [and founders].
If we want our culture to be in a better and healthier place, we can’t focus on changing what is already in place, but on creating new culture that will have influence on what we want our culture to be.
Instead of asking our entire staff to change, we want to create something today that leads to a better culture tomorrow.” (Andy Crouch speaks to this in his book, Culture Making.)
Jeremy and his team are not only aiming to develop a healthy organization that serves its clients well, but an organization that other companies seek out as an example of how to create a thriving internal culture. This poses the question, “What kind of culture is WinShape trying to create?”
Space to Flourish
“My passion is for healthy people… the workplace is one application and context for that,” says Jeremy. His team’s vision is for WinShape’s people to be whole and healthy, and for WinShape to be a space where people can flourish.
For Jeremy’s team, creating space to flourish boils down to two key points: creating a space for relational community and creating a space for growth.
“My job is to help develop a space where people trust that they are valued and that their work has meaning – a place where people feel set up for success and equipped to do their jobs well.”
A Space for Relationships
Jeremy and his team work to create a culture of community by equipping leaders to balance results and relationships, an idea that originated with Mark Miller and Chick-fil-A.
“In any organization, the center of gravity is typically going to be results,” says Jeremy. “You’ll always be pulled to that. So, it takes a lot of intentionality to push towards relational health.
We want to value relationships, then results. If you prioritize the interpersonal relationships within an organization, results will follow. You can pursue results hard, but [you] might leave the relationships to languish. I’ve been in those environments. You can get a lot done but have an average turnover of about seven months,” he adds.
“We start with equipping our leaders to value relationships first, and then we provide them with practical tools to help them lead with relationships first.”
A Space for Growth
As an organization, WinShape works to provide opportunities for staff to grow personally and professionally towards creating a culture with a growth mindset. Jeremy is currently working to develop a comprehensive training and development program designed to help connect staff with the right resources and people within the organization that will help them grow in their careers and personal lives.
When it comes to investing in staff development, his team believes that growth is most valuable when it’s holistic and applicable across all parts of life.
“There’s no aspect of growth that doesn’t have an impact on work, but the benefit doesn’t stop at the organizational level,” says Jeremy.
“If we can have moments [in which] we recognize that our work is not supposed to be this siloed thing that we enter into and then exit out of into our ‘real’ life, then there can be a recognition that the growth we experience at home is applied at work, and the growth we experience at work is applied at home. That’s when those false boundaries can dissolve in a healthy way.
Then we can see our spaces at work as spaces where we can grow as human beings; and that growth is going to have a positive impact on our workplaces, our relationships, and our personal lives.”
Adding Value: Retention vs. Engagement
There’s always the possibility that you develop staff and they leave to pursue other opportunities. However, for Jeremy, this doesn’t present an issue.
“If you developed your people to a point that they need space to grow outside of your organization, that’s still a win. Your company becomes an integral part of their story and they become an ambassador for your organization,” he says.
“I don’t think the end game is retention. I think the end game is equipping people and ensuring that your organization is a place where everyone on staff has the space and resources to grow. That means that some of them will grow from a position in the mailroom to an executive position like Mark Miller’s done at Chick-fil-A. [It’s also] going to mean that some people will grow from an entry-level position to starting their own organization, and I don’t think that one of those is better than the other.
“To me, the bottom shelf is retention and the top shelf is engagement. Retention asks the question, ‘What do we have to do to keep our people from leaving?’ Engagement asks the question, ‘How can we get our people to be as present as possible?’”
For WinShape, creating space for staff to flourish is the foundation to creating a culture for individuals who are present, engaged, whole, and healthy.
Start Creating Culture Today
Culture is created one person at a time. Whether you’re a leader, a hired development specialist, or starting new in a position, you have an impact on the internal culture and health of your organization. You don’t have to be in charge to create space where others can flourish.
If you are in a position of leadership and are looking for opportunities to create healthy culture, start with prioritizing relationships. Seek to understand the needs of your staff, then find creative solutions to create space to flourish. You can start creating culture today.