Strong Company Culture: Essential Component to Success, Part II

Team overlay on Voit headshot collage with text Strong Company Culture Essential Component to Success

In our previous post, we defined what Voit means by “company culture” and discussed the benefits of a well-defined workplace culture that is put into practice. We examined the positive impact on work-life balance for employees and the company and how a positive culture helps attract and retain talent. In this article, we’ll look at the importance of engaging employees in the decision-making process and implementing formal recognition/reward programs for employees.

Listening to Employees

Studies have shown that companies that encourage employees to participate in the organization’s decision-making process have higher levels of employee engagement and motivation. Employees who feel their opinions are valued and their voices heard tend to be more productive, perform better, and are more likely to stay with their firms.

Voit is a privately held, broker-owned commercial real estate firm, so employee participation is built into the business model. The Board of Directors meets quarterly, with each of the six offices having a representative on the board. Before the quarterly meetings, each office holds an advisory board meeting where its brokers and staff are encouraged to share any ideas or concerns. Their board member takes this input to the board meeting for consideration.

According to research, valuing employee input demonstrates transparency and builds trust between management and employees. It fosters a culture of collaboration, respect, and shared ownership, which can positively impact overall organizational success. By actively listening to employees’ concerns and challenges, organizations can identify and address potential issues more effectively, leading to better problem-solving and conflict resolution.

Chris Drzyzga Headshot in a circle“As a broker-owned firm, the brokers have a say, but so do the staff,” says Chris Drzyzga, VP/Partner, a 12-year veteran who worked with two other CRE firms before joining Voit in 2017. “The board of directors is obviously making the strategic decisions for the firm, but it’s an open-door policy. They are constantly reaching out to the various team members to get their feedback, thoughts, and suggestions. And very frequently, the feedback and suggestions are implemented in some shape or form. I can point to multiple examples of where the leadership team has listened and implemented ideas from everyone on our team.”

Eric Hinkelman Headshot in a circleEric Hinkelman, CEO/Partner, agrees with that assessment. “There’s not a big hierarchical structure here. We’re lean,” says Hinkelman, who manages four offices while Eric Northbrook, Executive Managing Director/Partner, oversees the San Diego and Carlsbad offices. Vance McNeilly, COO/Partner, leads Voit’s financial operations. The three comprise Voit’s leadership along with the board of directors. “Just about anybody and everybody has access to me, Eric, or Vance at any time, whether it’s brokers or staff. We don’t have an ivory tower type of situation where you have to go through five levels to have a discussion.”

Employees on the front lines often have valuable insights and perspectives that can lead to more informed and effective decisions. By actively seeking and considering their input, organizations can make better decisions that address real challenges and align with operational realities. “The door is always open, so staff can come in and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s not really working well’ or, ‘Here’s something that I think we should think about doing,’” says Hinkelman. “I really like it when people come in with a proposed solution, and they are generally very good about that. People genuinely care for the company and its success, and I think it’s really ingrained within our culture.”

Employee Recognition and Rewards

Another critical component of a positive company culture is recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts. While acknowledging achievement verbally can boost employee morale and performance, programs that reward employees with award ceremonies or perks can be even more effective.

When employees are rewarded for their contributions, they feel ownership and gratification and are typically willing to work harder. Recognition connects employees to the organization, elevates performance, and increases their likelihood of staying. Research by Quantum Workplace, a consulting firm that helps organizations create positive and productive workplace cultures, found that firms with formal employee recognition programs have 31% less voluntary turnover than organizations without any program. And they’re 12x more likely to have strong business outcomes.

Drzyzga says Voit is a huge proponent of recognition and rewards, celebrating employee birthdays and career milestones, and holding award ceremonies to honor top brokers and staff. “We do it office by office but also have firm-wide events, like annual summer and holiday events, as well as broker incentive trips,” he says. “We work hard but also understand the importance of work-life balance.”

Hinkelman says that Voit, as a broker-owned organization, is not subject to constraints at publicly owned CRE firms. “We have a culture — and my dad used to always say this — where we work hard and play hard, and I do believe that Voit has embraced that idea. We do a lot of fun things, and without any outside influences. We can do things that maybe a lot of our friendly competitors can’t do.”

Small Group photo from 2023 Voit Incentive TripFor brokers that hit certain financial thresholds, Voit has incentive trips for high achievers to resorts like the Mandarina in Puerto Vallarta, the Montage in Cabo, and the Four Seasons in Hawaii. “It’s a fair amount of money, and I think if there were outsiders, they’d be scratching their head, saying, ‘What are you doing?’ But it helps with our culture. When 40 brokers and their significant others can get together for a few days and network and enjoy each other’s company and get to know their coworkers’ families, it creates deeper bonds, which I think is a great thing for our company.”

In addition to financial incentives for brokers, Voit also values and rewards employees who believe in giving back to the community — by providing matching contributions (up to a certain level). “The company has a lot of cool little perks for those of us who donate time and money to various causes — whether you’re writing checks or want to donate your time — like rolling up your sleeves and working in a soup kitchen. There are a number of team members that spearhead their own causes, and Voit has causes that they support as well,” says Drzyzga. Who adds that whether it’s a company social/recognition event or one that benefits the community, it speaks volumes about the company culture. “That’s the secret sauce. Voit routinely provides opportunities to not only build on the culture but also to build new and strengthen existing relationships. Working with people outside the day-to-day real estate business and understanding what makes them tick… is very powerful and translates into every little aspect of the business. A lot of the people I work with have become lifelong friends.”

Company Culture and the Bottom Line

While a positive company culture offers a myriad of benefits for employees and companies alike, it also significantly impacts three key areas that directly affect a company’s bottom line: improved customer satisfaction, enhanced innovation, and reduced costs.

Research indicates that engaged employees are more likely to provide excellent customer service. A Glassdoor study found a strong correlation between a company’s rating on its platform and customer satisfaction scores, and happy employees typically translate to happy customers. A positive culture that encourages open communication and embraces new ideas can help foster innovation, as engaged employees are more likely to contribute ideas and solve problems creatively. A positive company culture can also reduce costs by reducing absenteeism and employee turnover.

“We have people that have been here 25,30, 30-plus years, and we don’t have a great amount of turnover,” says Hinkelman. “I think the biggest reason is that people genuinely care about the company and its success, and that is really ingrained within our culture.”

There may be no greater confirmation of the strength of Voit’s company culture than how the firm fared during the pandemic. While other firms had significant layoffs, Voit added support staff and gained brokers from competing firms. “It’s in times of crisis that you separate the weak from the strong and the efficient from the inefficient. And during COVID, Voit separated itself from the competition,” says Drzyzga. “It was a testament to the quality of our culture, our people, and the systems and processes that we had in place.”

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