Paul Spiegelman started his career as a bootstrap entrepreneur. What began as a business operating out of his garage grew to become BerylHealth, a customer call center with $40 million in annual revenue. Their claim to fame? The culture.
Culture is a buzz word these days, but it’s not “the vibe” you get upon entering an office. It’s not the fancy espresso machine or the ping pong table. Like any other organizational concept, it’s a process to recognize and respect.
BerylHealth was eventually acquired by a public healthcare company called Stericycle. Paul saw an opportunity to discover if his beliefs and values for organizational culture were scalable. Can the success he had in his small company transfer to a large company, too? Can leaders change the way they lead?
So began his journey at Stericycle with 25,000 employees and 200 locations across the globe. Here, we look at the core elements that help redefine a culture.
The reality is that many companies don’t excel at reward and recognition. At Paul’s company, they decided their recognition process had to be easy, personal and inexpensive if they were to stick to it. They developed PRIDE: Peers Recognizing Individual Deeds of Excellence. Employees could submit notes about their colleagues explaining how they demonstrated one of the company’s core values.
Paul aims to recognize employees whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be limited to their work performance—it can be personal too. Did they win a community award, or did their child just graduate from university? If leaders encourage management to keep an ear to the ground and understand what is happening in people’s lives, it can have a profound impact and make employees feel special and part of the community.
Hiring and Firing
How can we reduce our risk of failure when it comes to hiring new employees?
Paul never rushes the hiring process. We tend to get excited by an impressive resume or interview, but we need to spend time getting to know the people we interview. Hiring failures are usually not about their technical skills or work experience. It’s about their attitude, work ethic and what they bring to the culture of the company. They’ll bring their A-Game to that interview, so we can reduce our risk of failure by using tools like personality tests, multi-step interview processes and more.
Losers, whiners or jerks. Paul dedicates a chapter in his book to them, because we all have at least one in our lives. We say we don’t have time or money to let them go, but accountability is key. We must understand what the signals are for identifying whether a person fits into the company. All leaders can do is provide opportunities to embrace the culture. If it doesn’t work, leaders have an obligation to let them go. That person may thrive somewhere else. When Paul let an unfit employee go, his valued employees said… “What took you so long?”
Employees need both formal and informal settings for feedback. We can't assume the way someone thinks or feels. Paul has used resources like employee engagement surveys, portals, group and individual meeting or any space where employees and stakeholders can openly share. Something as easy as a brown-bag lunch meeting worked to encourage feedback from BerylHealth and Stericycle employees.
If leaders ask their people where they want to be, it's amazing what we learn. Especially when looking for loyalty from millennials, it's important to ask them their purpose and provide opportunities to fulfill it at the organization.
Not everyone will buy in to the significance of culture right away. At Stericycle, they wanted to decrease employee attrition costs. Paul also monitored correlations between employee engagement scores and performance. When high employee engagement scores and high performance scores were consistently relating to each other, it was clear that improving culture made a positive impact.
From his experience in both small and large companies, Paul has proven that the people matter most. Their happiness and satisfaction matters. Determine the company core values and work hard to make them stick. When people know that their leaders are transparent about what they can and can’t do, trust will build. Let employees know that they are heard, and that the leaders of the organization will do everything in their control to make their lives better.
Paul Spiegelman is the CEO and Co-Founder of Small Giants Community. A New York Times best-selling author, he frequently speaks on topics like entrepreneurship, culture and employee engagement. Paul is the former Chief Culture Officer of Stericycle, co-founder and former CEO of BerylHealth and founder and chairman of the Beryl Institute.
About Small Giants Community
The Small Giants Community is a peer organization committed to the development of values-driven business leaders. Their focus is on supporting entrepreneurs by providing resources, events, mentorship and connections needed to bring their vision to reality. Paul and the Small Giants Community members believe in sharing experiences to enhance their lives and the lives of those around them.
“Paul was a great speaker openly sharing his journey. He’s reinforced how happy people can build and grow a company.” – Bob Stahurski, Nyco Products
In addition to Paul’s keynote, attendees enjoyed a complimentary headshot photo opportunity provided by VisualEtiquette. They also took home a signed copy of Paul’s book “Why is Everyone Smiling?”