Better culture equals better business. It’s the basis for MindSet.
The team at Mindset LLC – Brett Hoogeveen, his brother Blake and father Dr. Kim Hoogeveen – provides training programs for companies that want to focus on the “creation and protection of a culture strong enough to attract, build, motivate and retain great talent.”
Brett Hoogeveen is a leadership consultant, trainer and speaker. He has a background in engineering and leadership experience in healthcare, marketing and insurance.
Here he shares what shaped MindSet’s approach and the importance of cultural clarity, employee experience and the characteristics of great employees.
Could you provide some background on Mindset and how your philosophy was shaped?
Dr. Kim Hoogeveen, founder of MindSet, went all-in on culture when he built his first company, QLI. While its CEO, he developed and tested many of our concepts.
Fast forward a couple decades and QLI became known as, inarguably, the best place to work in Omaha. When he retired from QLI, we started MindSet to respond to other community leaders who asked him for advice about leadership and culture.
We believe MindSet is one of the few leadership development resources started from experience and a proven philosophy. Now we teach other people how to do it. A family-owned business, we help organizations across the country achieve a culture they’re proud of, one that causes high levels of employee engagement.
We’re also proud partners of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Human Resource Association of the Midlands, HRAM. Both share our desire to make an impact right here in Omaha.
What trends do you see as you help others reach toward a great culture?
Employers focus two things – to develop unique employment brands and employee experiences.
Employment branding is a separate discipline from what’s called organizational marketing or public relations. But like a brand identity where your goal is customer identification, we see separate but aligned communication channels focused on current and prospective employees.
A concentration on employee experience is an effective way to attract and retain talent. Employees look for advancement opportunities, flexibility in their schedule and an employer genuinely interested in their success.
What are some ways to improve the employee experience?
To keep it simple, we boil it down to seven words: culture, pride, growth, duds, decisions, conflict and fun. I’ll expand on just a couple of them.
The first is clarity related to culture. Most organizations want happy employees, lower turnover or higher productivity, but they fall short because they don’t develop a clear and detailed description of what they want their culture to look like.
A list of cultural or company values describing the cultural identity is quite common. But oftentimes those lists are vague, which makes it hard to recruit, hire and manage, and to develop incentive programs.
To identify specific descriptors, compare what your culture is with what you want it to be. Be critical and identify the differences. A good question to ask is, “What attitudes or behaviors do you want your employees to exhibit?”
The second one is pride. Not enough employers consider employee pride. There’s nothing more powerful than an employee who says, “I’m proud of where I work, proud of my company and proud to be associated with this organization.”
In reality, employers do things that make employees proud, but they’re not communicated effectively. To share interesting and well-crafted stories throughout your company is a cheap and easy way to immediately boost pride.
The last one I’ll discuss is “duds.” Mindset has an engagement survey. Of the 49 questions we ask, the second-lowest scoring is, “My company does a good job dealing with poor staff performance.”
From that data, we know employers do a poor job holding accountable under-performing staff. A result is a decrease in engagement, usually from the most dedicated and driven staff.
So one shortcut to a great place to work is to make sure people who drag down the culture either change their behaviors or find jobs elsewhere.
Employment surveys are common. How do you help organizations use them effectively?
What’s more important than the actual survey is whether or not something is done with the results.
Very few organizations can make substantive changes based on surveys. So it’s important to partner with someone who can not only diagnose organizational issues, but provide the correct “treatment.”
A robust survey can be very informative and enticing to organizations that want to take a deep dive into the data. Unfortunately, most can’t reasonably address all the areas at once. We recommend focusing on just two or three aspects at a time.
What are some mistakes you see in hiring talent and promoting from within?
Leading people in a way that attracts, builds and motivates talent is a distinct skill set. To lead others and build the type of culture employees want to work in are often overlooked when employers hire, select supervisors or promote from within.
It’s a cliché, but two reasons employers still promote people into leadership positions is technical expertise and years of experience. Neither correlates with the ability to lead human beings.
What strategies do you use to identify talent?
In addition to basic competency or industry experience, we list 22 leadership characteristics we look for. Listening and emotional stability are two of them.
Increasingly, when you talk with successful executives, they look for people who know how to listen. Listening well means to devote as much mental energy as possible to what the other person thinks and feels. It’s a basic skill, but most leaders chase down tasks, run from meeting to meeting and send email after email. They don’t spend enough time listening to their team and the folks on the front line.
Emotional stability, often called emotional intelligence, rightly gets attention. Employees regularly report dissatisfaction when they work with leaders who don’t perform well under stress or who’re unpredictable and volatile. Leaders strong in this area are generally quite effective and well respected.
In what ways should companies pivot to prepare for the future?
The degree to which employers are flexible today versus two decades ago is significantly greater. I’d expect to see employees contribute increasingly in non-traditional ways.
For example, there are more opportunities to work remotely and to structure your work day to meet family obligations. In fact, a client of ours got very creative and took a more seasonal approach, which let him dramatically accommodate people’s schedules in a “real-time” fashion.
Similarly, part-time or contractual arrangements that let employees work with multiple organizations are more common. The best employers make it easy and rewarding to work for their organizations. They’re able to achieve a balance between recruiting top talent and having top talent actively seek them out.
Any other predictions for the future?
Many organizations haven’t empowered an executive to make changes across the system and influence change-related culture. The concept of a Chief Culture Officer with broad influence is an interesting idea. It clarifies ownership over culture just like we have do for operations, finance, human resources or sales & marketing.
Traditionally, the role closest to a Chief Cultural Officer is CEO. A great chief executive sets the vision for the organization, leads by example and creates an environment where people thrive.
In a great organization, the CEO is your chief cultural officer. So in that case, I don’t suggest the need for a separate one. But traditional organizations more financially or metrically driven could benefit from someone adjacent to the CEO who’s able to influence the organization on a day-to-day basis.
What are some resources you recommend for more on these topics?
Raving fans, by Ken Blanchard
The Living Company by Arie de Geus
Mindset, LLC blog: gomindset.com/blog
The MindSet Leadership Series: gomindset.com/omaha/