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updated: 12/5/2019 2:58 PM

Panel: Good company cultures engage employees and leaders

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  • Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comTom Walter of Tasty Catering, from left, Rich Panico of IPM, Jim Ludema of Benedictine University, Amy Bastuga of Radio Flyer and the moderator during the BizLedger, Daily Herald Events Corporate Culture Series Part 3; Tales from the Front

    Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comTom Walter of Tasty Catering, from left, Rich Panico of IPM, Jim Ludema of Benedictine University, Amy Bastuga of Radio Flyer and the moderator during the BizLedger, Daily Herald Events Corporate Culture Series Part 3; Tales from the Front

 
 

The values and goals of a good company culture is nurtured from within the ranks and openly reflected by its leadership, according to a panel of business leaders speaking Thursday morning at the Corporate Culture Series: Tales from the Front, sponsored by the Daily Herald Business Ledger and its partners.

Leaders from businesses known for their excellent work cultures discussed what makes a company a place people want to work for to about 70 suburban business executives during the event at Meridian Banquets in Rolling Meadows.

Amy Bastuga, chief people officer for Radio Flyer in Chicago, said developing a good work culture is not something that should be left to an HR department.

"Culture isn't an HR job," she said. "It belongs to all of the people and your leadership team has to model the values that you embrace, and model and embrace the people practices as part of their job in order to create something that is sustainable over time."

Radio Flyer is a six-time No. 1 company in the Daily Herald Business Ledger's annual Best Places to Work in Illinois awards, and Bastuga noted that competitions like that can give a company a good target and basis for improving its culture.

Tom Walter, co-founder and chief culture officer at Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, echoed that sentiment, telling the audience how his company "blew up" their old culture by having the employees determine the company core values, and building its culture off that. He said that was a key reason why the company today has a 4% turnover rate in an industry that averages more than 50%.

"Our people come here because those are the values they want," he said,

Rich Panico, founder and CEO of Integrated Project Management, added that companies need to be focused on doing "good" with their employees in order to achieve great results. Panico's Burr Ridge-based company was a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2018.

"The focus to making money short term ... are crippling us," Panico said. "They destroy relationships between employees and employers in many companies because it's very easy for employees to see what your perspective is."

"We need examples of companies that are successful, but first and foremost, do what is good, and it starts on the inside," he added.

All the panelist agreed part a key in developing a good culture is hiring people who fit the company's established values. While each company has its unique methods of screening applicants for positions, Jim Ludema, founder and director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University in Lisle, noted a policy followed by successful companies is "hire slow, fire fast."

"Take your time about hiring a person, make sure they are a great culture fit," Ludema said. "Then if you bring them on board and find that they're not that aligned with the culture, get rid of them as fast as you can in a humane and caring way ... because keeping them on can only create toxicity in the culture."

Moderator Mary Lynn Fayoumi, president and CEO of Chicago-based HR Source, added that a company's culture is constantly evolving and must be continually reviewed and nurtured in order to be successful.

"And that goes back to strong leadership, an ongoing commitment and accountability," Fayoumi said.

Walter added: "Culture is such a temperamental atmosphere for an organization. We have standard procedures for buying or selling, but we have no standard procedures for people."

Presenting sponsors of the event were HR Source, Integrated Project Management and Tasty Catering. Marketing partners were the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry, GOA Regional Business Association, Schaumburg Business Association and the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.