Company culture influences the behavior and performance of your employees, which in turn can impact the performance of your business.
The most successful companies are those that build cultures in which their employees can thrive. One company that’s learned the value of a good company culture is Ace Hardware Corporation—recently named one of the “best and brightest” companies to work for by the National Association of Business Resources.
Two years in a row, the company was also listed among the top 10 employers in the Chicago area—an impressive accomplishment for a retailer during a time when the marketplace is troublesome and there’s a shortage of talent.
Despite all this, Ace Hardware is enjoying success in the Windy City through its dedication to company culture, even with other warehouses and competitors seeking to move into their space.
Here are 3 things Ace Hardware can teach you about how a strong company culture helps drive business success:
1. Live by Your Core Values
Core values explain who you are and what you believe in. They define everything you do, and they do not change.
Ace Hardware’s core values—according to Kane Calamari, senior vice president, chief human resources officer, and president of the Ace Foundation—are service, convenience and quality.
“We make sure staff are trained and equipped with everything they need,” he says. “They represent our brand every day: When your tagline is “helpful hardware folks,” employees know they’re every part of the customer experience. We work hard to leverage that internally and externally. We want the best people, the best brands, the best customer experience we can provide; that relies on employees.”
“We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.”
– Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos
Ace sincerely wants people who want to be at their company. They want employees to be connected to their cause and to love what they’re doing. Living their values at the retail level means being an integral part of the community. At the corporate level, it means the CEO is in the cafeteria eating with the rest of the staff.
“Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and a great company.”
– Brian Kristofek, President and CEO, Upshot
When companies, like Ace, promote their core values throughout their organizations, it helps employees focus on organizational goals and provide better service to customers.
In short, defining core values—and living by them—strengthens and sustains companies.
2. Invest in Employee Development
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) discovered that companies offering comprehensive training programs enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those that spend less on training.
At the root of this promising statistic is increased employee productivity, which is driven by the skills advancements made possible through employee training and development.
“We know that growing our people is important; more and better leaders make everything better at Ace. We have developed a high-potential program through our ‘Ace Academy’. We look for employees that exhibit leadership skills and work to develop them. We also have our online ‘Ace Learning Place’, which gives employees the opportunity to develop at their own pace. Employees love the fact the company is investing in them.”
~Kane Calamari, Ace Hardware
As Shift Learning points out, “Training is one of the most effective things that a company can do to increase productivity.”
While many of Ace’s “red-vested heroes” have been with the store at the retail level for many years and turnover is low at their corporate office, they do see some churn in the warehousing and distribution ends, especially when large warehouses move in. But Ace is striving to provide better onboarding and more mentoring programs in an effort to ensure that every employee is exactly where they want to be.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve but our CEO says that what you do and how you do it matter equally. This means living our values and working hard to make sure they’re not just a poster on the wall is job one. Everything we do, from hiring and beyond are guided by our values: wining, excellence, love, integrity, gratitude, humility and teamwork.”
~Kane Calamari, Ace Hardware
To make sure their values are translated all the way through the employee experience, Ace uses survey tools and works directly with store owners. They want to ensure that their leaders are thinking about employee engagement every day.
3. Use Tech to Enhance Company Culture
“From attracting and retaining top talent to boosting innovation and growth, companies can reap several profound benefits by creating a great company culture,” says Thrive Global.
One of the key ways companies can build and sustain an appealing culture that reflects core values and keeps employees engaged is by embracing and leveraging the power of technology.
Ace Hardware is using technology to help stores with labor force optimization. “There’s a lot of waste in retail,” says Kane Calamari. “We’re looking at how to have our red-vested heroes spend more time with customer-facing activities and less time on waste.”
This new tech will help not just small stores but also large locations with up to 100 staffers or more, as well as helping owners with multiple stores. The goal is to put employees where they’re available for the customers.
“Ace will be the last company on the planet that replaces cashiers with tech. We always want someone thanking customers for their business.”
~Kane Calamari, Ace Hardware
Acehardware.com has also become a large part of the company’s business strategy. But while the digital success of their website continues to bring in sales and spur growth, Ace tries to focus more on the fact that the majority of their products are picked up in store, giving them the opportunity to connect with the customer for a great store experience.
As mentioned previously, Ace also leverages technology to continually train their people. With their online ‘Ace Learning Place’, employees have the opportunity to grow and develop at their own pace, making employees more valuable and building confidence and loyalty in the company.
While Ace Hardware is proud of the awards they’ve been honored with, they know it has everything to do with their company culture.
Ace has been in business for 95 years—based in the Chicago area with stores that are individually owned and operated—and competes with the best-funded companies on the planet. And they’re still winning.
Ace has built a company culture dedicated to serving their customers, store owners and employees.”We always say we’re blessed to be in the business of serving others. As long as we remember that, the company will continue to succeed,” Calamari states with confidence . . . “As long as we have a great culture, we’ll be successful.”
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