At Earls, we’ve always believed that a clear corporate culture is linked to your business strategy. Over the last three years, we’ve aimed to create an engaged workforce and take a stand for leadership. In fact, we’ve made a commitment to our people to be a source of extraordinary leaders and create a community of like-minded individuals who want to be their best selves and take a stand for the best in others. Therefore, beyond building a business that we’re proud of, we get to see our partners thrive and become a leader in their life.
However, things haven’t always been so rosy, and in the past, our culture and purpose haven’t always been so clear —all of which led to mediocre results. We were also making plans to expand the brand in the U.S. but weren’t sure how we could successfully do that without having engaged people in our talent pipeline.
We’ve heard from people in and out of Earls that our company culture is special and unlike any other. But despite it being “so special,” we were still seeing declining sales and eroding profits. We needed to unify generations of Earls language into one common language and ensure that this language was integrated into daily routines so that every partner (our term for employees) would be speaking the same language.
How we operationalized the “Earls Experience”
We laid the foundation of a strong corporate culture that we call the Earls Experience. We ensure our partners are supported with shared values (called our Earls Partner Values) that empower them to make decisions and take actions that align with the brand.
This shared language activates our partners with concepts they own, bring to life and take responsibility for. The Earls Experience is our corporate culture strategy and is what sets us apart from our competitors. Our strategy is built on this and it’s used to filter our decisions, build our leadership programs, and guide our roles and KPIs.
How the “Earls Experience” thrives
Dynamic and engaged leadership
Our partner values are modeled, coached, and expected at every level in the company. We are powered by our people and we operate using a “bottom-up strategy” where we welcome feedback and innovative ideas from the front line.
During daily pre-shift meetings, leaders set up their day and night teams with one aspect of the Earls Experience. These meetings provide a daily opportunity to share and ensure alignment with our business strategy, showcase expected leadership behaviours, and strengthen cooperative and trusting relationships; all of which ultimately propel and ingrain the values behind the Earls Experience. Shared language and consistent messaging in our mission, vision, and partner values are woven throughout our internal printed materials (i.e. company posters and partner value pocket cards) and on our intranet, myEarls. Each week, I share my thoughts on the Earls Experience by blogging about my own leadership journey on myEarls and LinkedIn.
In addition to learning and living our shared values, we also needed to clarify our purpose and be clear about what we we believed in. People are the heart of the business and what we want for them is to live large purposeful lives filled with fun. This is our company’s soul and that soul is embraced and embodied by each person at Earls.
Responsibility and accountability
Our company philosophy, “It’s your business,” encourages responsibility, accountability, entrepreneurship, and ownership. Since Earls started, a sign of a good general manager or head chef was their ability to hire and develop a high performing team. Yet this was never measured. While we measured employee engagement, we never held leaders accountable to the level of engagement in the restaurant. We made a significant shift in how we held our leaders accountable to their business and how we made leader promotion decisions. We began measuring our leaders accountabilities in this order: selection, development, partner engagement, sales, and profit. To be a purposeful organization that was living our soul we needed to back it up with how we measured these accountabilities. Click here to learn how to build a culture of accountability and ownership.
Celebrating success and failure
Instead of annual performance reviews, we value frequent informal feedback conversations, identifying what went well, areas for improvement, and what resources are needed for further support. We celebrate the big wins and the small wins (especially the small ones) and we encourage failure because we learn and grow from it every time it happens.
Our people have a big voice. They live into the Earls Experience each day and amplify their experience on their personal social media channels. We’ve laid the groundwork by enabling advocacy through our Earls Wants You social channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. We also have a social feed in myEarls that pulls in all posts tagged with #myEarls, #EarlsLife, and #EarlsKudos so that at any time, examples of the Earls Experience can be shared moment-to-moment by people across the company. We share interviews with our people, showcase what others are doing to mobilize culture and leadership at the store level, and feature our people living into their goals.
Keys to creating a thriving corporate culture strategy
We’re beyond proud to be named #1 Best Place To Work in Canada for 2016 by Glassdoor. The honour is incredibly special because it came from our own people and the positive things they had to say about the Earls Experience. To create a culture that lives and thrives, here are our tips:
- Align your company on its mission, vision and values.
- Invest in leadership development at all levels of your company.
- Be clear about accountabilities and responsibilities. Measure people against them.
- Motivate and empower your people to be advocates for your employer brand.