Creating a high performance culture

Beyond building successful teams, creating a high-performing organization is crucial to staying competitive in today's fast-paced business environment. Join us to explore the strategies and techniques used by world-class organizations to create successful teams and achieve high performance in 2023 and beyond.
Download the event 1-pager

Matt: Well, I think we're at the top of the hour now, so can get things started. Thank you everyone for joining today on Together's webinar, on creating a high performance culture in 2023. Hope to spend the first 30 minutes or so covering some content and then saving the back half for any questions. In terms of what we'll cover today, I'll start with a brief introduction of myself and my experience with high performance cultures to date. We'll then transition to discussing a little bit more about why high performance cultures matter and why organizations should care about them and a bit more about what they are before discussing, if every organization should want a high performance culture, why don't they have one? And where are the challenges to creating a high performance culture at your organization before finally ending off with some solutions, specifically how mentoring in particular might be able to help build a higher performing culture in your organization.

So, to get things started, just briefly, I'm Matt. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Together. Prior to founding together, I worked at a company called the Boston Consulting Group for those unfamiliar, BCG is one of the world's leading strategy in management consulting firms. Perhaps more relevant, though BCG is consistently regarded, having one of the most admired corporate cultures having extremely high employee satisfaction and from a number of objective measures would be considered to have an extremely high performance culture. The way that BCG works and similar organizations is they take young and fairly inexperienced people directly out of school at the undergraduate and graduate level, and through rigorous professional development and mentoring, build them up throughout the organization, and then they're able to provide advice to other companies at extremely high billing rates despite having limited industry experience. And from one measure for a company that has no product or technology leverage is able to generate over half a million dollars per employee and revenue solely from the billable hours of these employees that have fairly limited industry experience.

And so my experience there in exposure to the success of their professional development and mentoring programs, while at the same time through our consulting engagement, seeing that many organizations didn't offer their employees the same level of professional development is largely what led me to found together. I realized that mentorship software wasn't going to be the full solution, but it certainly could help in making mentoring more accessible and scalable at other organizations. And so that's what I went out to do. And today, we help well over a hundred organizations launch, manage, and measure mentoring and mentoring related programs to drive better business results.

So enough about me want to dig into a little bit more about why organizations should care about high performance cultures at their organization, and not too surprisingly they should care because culture can drive measurable outcomes for organizations. So a number of studies have gone to determine what impact specifically culture can have on the outcomes of businesses. And when even looking within industries and businesses that do relatively similar things, studies have shown across a number of dimensions that culture can explain quite a large variance in the performance of organizations and teams. And so one study by the Harvard Business School found that culture could explain up to five times more productivity within teams, all else being equal from a similar perspective that I was evaluating BCG on, on rather from a financial perspective.

One Gallup study went to show that culture could explain why certain companies were 21% more profitable. And what's particularly interesting is that it's not just that on average these organizations are more productive and more profitable, but they're also more consistent at achieving these results. And so another McKinsey study went on to show that organizations with high performing cultures were able to hit their targets four times more consistently than those without. So as I mentioned, not too surprising that organizations should want to have a high performance culture, but I think it then begs the question if we want to have a high performing culture, how do we actually do that? And so throughout these studies, they've identified a number of qualities that were consistent across the organization and teams that had high performing cultures. And a number of those qualities are listed here on the slide, which we'll go into in a bit more detail.

The first was that these teams tended to have shared goals. And this is for a couple of reasons. Of course, it's because it allows the teams to be more aligned, but it also allows individuals within these teams and organizations to work more quickly in particular make decisions faster if they know what the goals of the organization are. What's great about the shared goals quality is that it's actually fairly straightforward to implement? There's certainly a number of goal setting frameworks within organizations that they can use. Perhaps one of the most popular ones currently is OKRs. Objectives and key results first popularized by Intel many decades ago and now heavily relied on by leading companies like Google. What's great about Google is they actually publish a lot of their own research and resources on their website rework. So you can certainly take a look at their experience using OKRs.

Next quality that organizations that exhibit high performing cultures have is a high degree of trust. What's interesting about trust is that it's not necessarily as straightforward or tangible as implementing shared goals. However, there are certainly things that organizations can do to increase trust levels within their teams. One being that typically the longer people have worked together and the more shared experiences they have, the higher degree of trust they will have between team members. And this will become quite relevant to some challenges that we'll talk about in a couple slides. But what's also interesting about trust is it's not solely about the team dynamics. The individual components of the organization and team really matter as well. So one element to having a high degree of trust is that people believe their colleagues are competent, and for them to believe that their colleagues are competent, they likely have to have some level of competence. And so certainly there's an importance in employee selection when it comes to trust. Both trust and shared goals also then cascade down into communication. So in terms of trust, it elevates the rather the quantity of communication amongst team members when there's less fear of judgment or criticism. And having shared goals allows team members to have a higher level of quality of communication when they know what and when to communicate to their team members.

Accountability is another quality that is actually fairly straightforward to address. You can have processes in place such as performance reviews and performance management cycles to ensure that all the team members are being held accountable to both the goals, but also any other performance metrics that an organization might care about. Diversity, of course, is extremely important in having a high performing culture. A tremendous number of studies have recently shown that diverse teams are much more capable at problem solving and coming up with novel solutions than teams that are more homogeneous. And then, of course very close and dear to our heart here at Together is continuous learning, both in creating a high performance culture initially, but also maintaining that critical that people are always open and willing to learn and improve that so they continue to stay competitive.

So we've now discussed why organizations should care about high performance culture, and we've even discussed what qualities can make a high performing culture. But if studies have shown us why or rather how we can build a high performing culture, why don't all organizations have high performing cultures? And as I mentioned on a couple of the points, some of them are straightforward to address, others not necessarily as straightforward. So that's a piece of the puzzle. But the other piece is that there are persistent challenges that are in direct conflict with a number of the qualities that are required to build high performance cultures. There's certainly more than that are listed on this slide, but I want to touch on a few that are particularly relevant in the current environment. And so in terms of the first one here around the economic environment, this one is quite interesting to dig into because at the current moment, it doesn't necessarily uniformly impact all industries the same. At the moment, certain industries like technology and as of this week, financial services are very acutely impacted by the current economic environment. Other industries are certainly transitioning to be a lot more cautious about how economic changes will impact their industry. But regardless of this, when the economic environment shifts like this, organizations are going to shift their goals away from growth towards more efficiency objectives. And when goals around efficiency are at the top of the organization and are cascaded down, these can come into conflict with the goals of teams and especially individuals who will typically resonate more with goals around growth. And certainly that conflict can create issues in motivation amongst the team and the performance culture. This also has a negative impact on trust. It certainly depends on the specific industry and even more so on the specific way that companies manage this.

This has been seen very acutely in many tech companies where they whipsawed from extreme growth and then overnight pivoted to extreme cuts within the organization. And making changes like that can be very detrimental to undermining the trust of leadership amongst the organization. And then, well, this certainly isn't true across the board. There are a number of cases where organizations because of the economic environment are deprioritizing initiatives like diversity programs to focus on some of their fundamentals, which will in the long term certainly harm their corporate culture and potentially the outcomes or performance outcomes of that organization. I want to double click on attrition because this is especially unique to 2023. Despite the current economic environment, we are still in one of the tightest labor markets the US and other developing countries have ever seen.

And so certainly before 2023, there was lots of talk about elevated voluntary attrition coins with the great resignation, and to an extent someone that's persisted into 2023. But on top of that, certain companies have now layered on involuntary attrition, but regardless of where that attrition comes from, it can have severe negative consequences on the trust within an organization for a couple of reasons. So first, when you have higher turnover, that leads to shorter average tenures of your employees, which means on average, people are going to know their colleagues less and have weaker bonds with their colleagues. It also means that people in those roles are going to have less time to develop and learn those roles, and on average, maybe less competent in those roles, which also erodes trust. And of course, when you have elevated attrition every time someone leaves the organization without properly transferring that knowledge off to the next person, you have a decreased or you have greater learning loss for that organization.

And then finally, I'll just touch briefly on the change in the workforce. This one's a little bit less acute, specifically to 2023. The workforce is always evolving and changing in 2023 and more recently, you do have the transition with Gen Z joining the corporate workforce for the first time. So change might be slightly more elevated, but certainly anytime you have new generations working, entering the workforce who have different styles of communication and different shared values, they can put strain on internal communications again being a challenge to building some of the qualities of high performing cultures.

So don't want to leave you with just challenges. Also want to discuss some solutions. Have certainly mentioned a couple briefly throughout the presentation so far, but want to take a deeper dive on one solution in particular, which is mentoring. But before I do that, curious to understand a bit more from our audience here. Your experience with mentoring, if your organization has a mentoring program, and if it does, whether it's currently being run manually or using software for the purposes of the poll will restrict mentorship program to be a formal mentoring program. So one run centrally formally by HR learning development or so forth.

Give everyone a couple moments to respond to that question. And then we'll take a quick look at the results and discuss that before moving on. I think that's probably been enough time, Brent, if you want to close the poll and we can take a look at the results. So, okay. These are actually quite interesting. I've been asking this question now for over five years and have certainly seen a persistent trend towards more organizations offering mentoring programs. This looks like over half the companies here at least have a mentoring program although there's still about 45% that don't, so plenty of opportunities for those organizations to use mentoring as a tool to improve their corporate performance.

So as I sort of alluded to, I think every organization should be considering mentoring as one of the initiatives they can be using to improve company performance. The reason being is that I think it has a tangible and positive impact on all of the qualities that we've discussed in terms of having impact on corporate performance and culture. So in particular, mentoring has a strong impact on goals. Goals are very potential to the way that a well-run mentoring program works in terms of having mentors paired with, with mentees to help them achieve their goals through the mentor’s experience. From an organizational perspective, mentorship programs are also a great way to build additional connections and relationships throughout the organization that wouldn't necessarily have existed otherwise. Certainly, it depends on the way that the program is structured, but in general, it should be the case where you're building relationships outside of the people you're typically working with on a day-to-day basis and so be it cross-functional or at least cross team or skip level, you're creating additional relationships and connections throughout the organization. And certainly the experience of going through a mentorship relationship with someone, having them help you achieve one of your goals is a great way to build relationships and trust with others in the organization. That, of course, also has a positive impact on communication when you have additional channels and different contexts in different parts of the organization. Mentors also are a great third party unbiased perspective to hold mentees accountable to achieving the goals they set out to work on together. Plenty of studies have now shown the tremendous impact that mentoring has on their retention and promotion rates of diverse talent. And then, of course, very essential to mentoring is learning. It's certainly how the mentors are able to help mentees achieve their goals by transferring much of their accumulated experience and knowledge to those mentees.

I want to take even a more granular look at how mentoring can improve employee retention as there's been many studies to show this both conducted by others but also by ourselves. And one of the studies we ran very significant results in showing that a mentoring program dramatically decreased the turnover rate of employees participating in that program versus the turnover rate prior to that program being launched. And versus those employees who opted not to participate in the program even once the program was launched. And so almost a 40% decrease in employee turnover for the people participating in the mentoring program.

I’ve talked a little bit about the benefits for an organization about, there's of course also benefits to the individuals from a mentee perspective. We've already talked a little bit about goals, but certainly when a program is well run and well-structured goals are very central to the mentoring program both in terms of finding mentors that can help a mentee achieve their goals, but even before that, helping set and frame the goals and making them measurable. As I mentioned earlier, mentors also able to provide unbiased third party advice that mentee might not be able to get on their existing team. And then because of mentors often outside of their existing team, also able to provide great exposure to additional opportunities throughout the organization that that mentee might not already be aware of. I think the benefits to a mentee are also typically well understood, and so wanted to touch a little bit more deeply on the benefits to a mentor.

In our experience, certainly there's often great appetite from mentors within organizations to provide mentorship, whether it come from the goodness of their heart or from some of the tangible benefits that there are to being a mentor. It's quite often that mentors have had a mentor in the past and they want to give back to their organization. But from some of the tangible benefits, there's a lot to be learned as a mentor from the mentees, both directly from that individual, but also through the process of helping someone develop. And mentorship is also a great way to exhibit to your organization that you care about developing people and that you're a culture carrier and that you're ready to progress to higher levels within the organization.

In summary, I think mentoring is a great way, as we've discussed, to improve performance within your organization, especially in this economic times. Mentoring is an extremely cost effective way to do this, given that a lot of the knowledge already exists within the organization. Mentorship is just one way to unlock that by building more connections throughout the organization. This is also extremely effective way for people to learn as they learn, often learn better from others than they would learn from watching it through video or reading it through some other resource. And then, as we've discussed, plenty of empirical evidence to show that it can drive significant business results. And so final slide, which I won't spend too much time on. Certainly, if you're a small organization or have a small mentorship program, you can get started without software. You can start with just an Excel sheet, but if your organization's a bit larger, your program starts to scale. Certainly, there is software out there that can help. We would love to learn more about that program and would be happy to show you how together in particular, can help you manage a program and help it scale. And if you want to learn more about that, you can book a demo directly off our website. But that's all the content I have. Happy to address any questions that there might be on anything I've discussed so far?

Brent: Amazing. Matt, we had a few questions roll in. We're getting a few more coming into, but we will kick them off. We have one here immediately that was about the trends regarding, mentoring programs for skill development. And that question is what are some of the emerging trends in mentoring programs targeted at addressing skill development and how can people stay on top of those trends?

Matt: So it certainly depends at what stage your organization is at. Certainly organizations that have more experience with mentorship programs will start to layer on more nuanced and additional programs that are targeted at specific use cases more than just general programs. It's quite common for some of our organizations that we've been working with for multiple years to start building programs that are specific to departments or specific to employee resource groups so that the matching criteria that's being used is a lot more tailored to the goals and skills that are relevant to those individual employees rather than just being more general. The one thing I'd say there is that requires a certain level of scale within the organization as well as certain level of experience with mentoring, which I think ties into this other question We have in the Q&A about what do I consider smaller organizations and larger organizations. So generally speaking, there's sort of two criteria that we consider. One is just number of FTs, and then the other is the organizational maturity in terms of the learning development department and the ability to support a mentoring program. But in terms of small organizations, we typically see that 500 employees is the cutoff where above, it might make sense to consider software, whereas below it typically doesn't make as much sense unless the organizations heavily invest in learning development has an L&D team and people able to quarterback a well-run program. The other criteria is this program size. So typically around 50 employees within a program is where you might want to consider using software versus just using an Excel sheet.

Brent: Amazing. We got another question here about it looks like peer mentoring, so siled teams and lack of communication is an issue. What would the mentoring engagement look like if the goal is connection rather than learning?

Matt: Yeah, so that's a great question. I don't want to be too pitchy in terms of together, but we do have a specific mentorship format that is more geared towards networking and there's other tools out there as well, where it's not necessarily about mentorship and it is more about networking and creating connection. The main difference there is that the way that you would think about matching is less about facing it on goals and skills and more about creating connections that wouldn't have been created otherwise. So you might intentionally ensure that people are being matched across geographies or across functions. And then once they're matched together, the expectations are typically that they meet once or twice versus having a longer term relationship. And there's less structure around those meetings. And the idea is to meet with more people. So perhaps instead of meeting with one person over the course of six months, you're meeting with a different person every month or every other week depending on the cadence that you've set up for your program. And there's software that can help support those types of programs as well.

Brent: Awesome. We have another one in here asking about what audiences are typically targeted by the mentorship programs to improve skill development. Basically like, what are customers doing in terms of the programs they're running?

Matt: So there's a number of different use cases in general. Most organizations will start with a more general mentorship program that's open to not necessarily a specific population. They might start with a pilot and so restricted to a specific department to test it out. But typically, the first type of program that organizations introduce is one that is branded as career development that's available to anyone in the organization that wants to have a mentor and progress in those individual goals and skills. The thing about mentoring is it's very specific to the individual relationships. And so the goals and skills that person A might be working on can be quite different than person B. Beyond that though, organizational typically consider layering on more specific mentorship programs that might be focused on subsets of their general population. So very commonly, high potential programs or leadership development programs are put into place where those programs are specifically available to employees they've tagged as being high potential or who have recently been promoted to managerial position or expect to get promoted soon. Diversity equity inclusion programs are also quite common amongst our customer base, where what is interesting about these programs is typically enrollment as a mentee is restricted to people who are members of the employee resource group, but whereas participation as a mentor is typically open to anyone across the organization who's a certain level or above just because it tends to be challenging to get enough mentors if it's restricted to just ERG.

Brent: Amazing. Awesome. And we got our last question here is actually about the measurement of performance and measuring high performance. So what are some of the measures that you use for, like, from an HR perspective for measuring performance of a team in measuring performance before and after making changes?

Matt: So it certainly depends on the team. There's definitely specifics for certain teams. And some teams are easier to measure quantitatively than others. Sales teams come to mind where it's very much easy to measure sales achievement before and after. But typically, you'd want to try to measure the outcomes that that team is responsible for. More general things that you can measure are certainly turnover. Very quantitative to be able to measure that turnover rates before and after. More subjective would certainly be qualitative surveys on employee engagement, which can be measured before and after initiatives. And I think that'd be helpful as far as bit more specificity on the circumstance. But certainly if the organization is large enough and has a P&L, you can also measure from financial performance and the impact on any one of those measured profit or revenue before and after.

Brent: Awesome. We got another one here from an autonomous attendee. How do you propose an organization garner buy-in from their senior management to adopt an internal mentorship program?

Matt: Yeah, that's a great question. And so certainly, it depends on the circumstance. In our business, we have actually seen a ton of inbound interest from organizations where they have demonstrated the effectiveness of a mentoring program through running a small pilot. And through a combination of running employee surveys before and after, as well as if they're able to measuring the results of employee turnover, use those results to demonstrate the impacts to management. The other place that this comes out of is companywide employee surveys. And so very often, organizations come to us after they've run a survey and seen that one of the top results that employees are asking for are mentorship programs. So if mentorship is something that you're thinking of introducing into your organization, certainly would encourage you to have questions relate to that in the next employees engagement survey that goes out so that you can use those results as evidence for why you should be exploring that as a potential initiative.

Brent: It seems like we got a follow up here. Is mentorship for everyone or just top performing employees?

Matt: I think at its best, it's available to everyone. Certainly, we've seen organizations that have limited resources. They may want to focus their efforts on their top performing employees, but certainly mentorship can be used for everyone. Does not need by any means be restricted to top performing employees. How does together support privacy concerns? So it depends specifically what you mean by that. There's certainly a bunch of it and technical aspects that have discussed outside of this, but the way that the program works is the information is typically restricted to the individuals in that relationship. So the mentor, mentee, and it's quite common and we provide templates for confidentiality agreements that the users would agree to before entering that relationship. So generally, the expectation is, and you can make that more formal, that what's discussed between the mentor and mentee is kept between the mentor and mentee. And so if that's the concern, that's how that's addressed. If it's more technical aspects of how we keep data secure, then have it address the outside of the webinar.