A culture consultant is neither someone who advises you on how to make your own yogurt nor on what paintings to hang on the wall. Instead, a culture consultant, in a business context, helps business owners and employees determine the business’ culture — its personality, if you will.
That’s important because it helps the company brand itself, both internally and externally. It also helps employees determine the appropriate course of action in a given circumstance, as well as what sort of employees should be hired and the company’s future direction.
More recently, companies have been hiring culture consultants to help improve their diversity, in case the business culture is getting too insular. That could mean helping employees make the company feel more welcoming to those of different genders, different races or different generations.
Consilio Consultants is headed by Susan Kuehl and Lori Martin, and has led sessions in the past few years in Idaho ranging from giving accountants a more positive view of their job to closing the generation gap in Idaho offices. Between COVID-19 and the #MeToo era, we thought it would be interesting to catch up with them and see what’s new in Idaho company culture.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What got you interested in this field, and what are your backgrounds?
Organizational Development is a broad field that affects every aspect of work-life experience. It would be hard NOT to be interested in something that has the power to make or break your enjoyment at work. We both come from varied backgrounds and have worked in about every industry imaginable. The common thread is assessing the gaps and building strong, engaged and high-performing teams regardless of industry or organization size. Everything we have done has led us to the role of culture consultant with a grounded optimism and unbridled excitement about the future.
What does your business actually do? What is a typical day?
We say we have the best job in the world, and we mean it. We get to be intimately involved with team dynamics and explore “behind the curtain” operations that make each culture unique. After a detailed discovery process, we create customized frameworks that amplify the culture in a precise and measured way. It is a mix of group leadership training, delivering companywide offsites, individual executive coaching and developing content that we provide and white-label. A typical day is never the same, and that’s why we love it.
How has COVID affected your business?
We lost 80% of our contracts in March when a majority of workforces were sent home. As things have settled, our client base has expanded exponentially. We are seeing companies double down on people strategy as the uncertainty and fear about the future remain at the forefront. We have been training virtually for over eight years, so it has increased our number of out of state clients.
What is important about workforce culture?
That’s like asking what is important about breathing. Everything. Culture is like air; it’s around us every day. If you aren’t intentional about creating one that supports your company’s goals, it is still being built and created daily. You either direct and guide it, or it happens on its own. It is a dangerous place for cultures to morph and react to the environment on their own. We like to say, don’t tell us your company values or purpose…if we can’t go into your company and FEEL and see it by your employees behavior, it does not matter.
How do Idaho businesses compare with other states in terms of workplace culture?
We have 60% of our business is in Idaho and 40% out. We know that people are people; when employees feel seen, valued and heard, an impactful culture is created. Idaho has more of a rugged individualism, less of a need to be part of the norm or participate in activities that may detract from the end goal. We stay away from comparing culture because a dynamic, impactful culture at one organization could be detrimental and divisive for another. Culture is built and sustained upon the collective set of behaviors agreed upon by the insiders.
What advice can you give to Idaho businesses about what they should be doing about workplace culture?
The sad statistic is that almost 70% of all company initiatives fail. There is not a single business we have been inside that is not concerned with making their culture the most fulfilling it can be. Each company wants to offer its employees a remarkable experience. It tends to go off the rails when it is not a consistent and rewarded ideal. Our advice would be don’t make culture an obligatory, once-a-month training, or quarterly workshop — build it into your business’s daily fabric. If people are your most valuable asset, prove it. Every. Single. Day.
If we asked your employees — not in the annual engagement survey — are they excited to work there, and would they recommend it to their friends, what would they say? The companies that are doubling down in this time of uncertainty will be positioned to take on 2021 and beyond with optimism and a concrete belief that tomorrow will be better than today. Be intentional about what you want your legacy to be.
What’s next for your business?
We are launching a new product in 2021, the re.MIND studio. It is a performance coaching studio without the coach. The mental game is THE GAME. It is a place where employees can level up and maintain optimal performance. Self-directed mental training on-site and available when needed, without disrupting workflow. A self-led program, because owning your progression and growth is vital to success. It’s time to reset your mind and mental capacity. Building high performing teams doesn’t matter if they’re not fulfilled or engaged; we build both.-