Healthy Company Culture

When you think about the culture in the Dirt World, what comes readily to mind? Is it the particular mix of skills and work ethic that combine to create a well-functioning work site? Is it the jovial kidding that occurs at the end of a long shift? Does a healthy culture mean one where it tends to be quiet or where things occasionally get loud?

When it comes to company culture, it all comes down to how you treat your people. And the consistency with which you treat their issues and meet their challenges. A welcoming culture can really help your recruiting and retention — and culture-building doesn’t have to be expensive.

'How do we compete with tech?'

For Blount, when he’s looking at the culture of his organization — and the construction industry at large — he often asks, “How do we compete with tech?”

There’s no question that Dirt World job postings are competing with a variety of tech industry roles that come with lots of bells and whistles. ”How do we compete with these industries that I think are sexy right now?" he asked. "And do so even though we aren't making the margins they make, right? So we have to be a little bit creative.”

“Don't get me wrong,” said Schroeder. “I love buying the foosball tables and the golf trips and lunches and candy and stuff. But at the end of the day, I don't think that's what people are looking for.” He doesn’t think younger workers are looking for a masseuse every week at the office, but rather are seeking “not to waste their lives.” 

“I don't think that the kids coming out of school are lazy. I don't think that they are different. I don't think that they're greedy,” said Schroeder. “I think they have been told now long enough to not waste their time in their lives by people like Gary V and Tony Robbins, you know, they've been told to go live a life of worth and meaning. And now they're listening. And they're like, Where can I go work to live a life of meaning and not waste my time?” 

Common beliefs and actions.

For Schroeder, company culture is about “the common beliefs and actions of an organization.” He knows plenty of people with 20 and 30 years’ experience in the Dirt World who’ve “just grinded through it,” without necessarily having a positive work culture to support them. He and Blount agree that what most people want is to be respected at work. 

Looking at many of the younger people coming into construction, “The problem isn't that they're not hard workers.” Schroeder said. “The problem is that they don't want to work for certain companies, because the culture isn't taking care of that respect that you're talking about. And so when I talk to somebody, and they're teasing me, I'm like, it's not that they don't want to work. It's that they don't want to work for you.”

Respect is a critical driver of a healthy company culture. The vast majority of people want value and meaning in their lives. For some, that may mean having their weekends free. Looking specifically at Millennials, Blount said, “They do know how to work hard. But their values are different.”

Which is not a bad thing, in his opinion. “How you win in construction is [by having] people that can lead…So once you recognize, I just have to be respectful to the people. And I need to ask questions to understand how can I demonstrate that respect?”

“Once you understand that,” says Blount, “All of a sudden, you can have the best people. And generally, it doesn't cost you a lot more.”

For Schroeder, “A company has to have clarity, right? They have to have a strong leadership team. They have to scale that clarity to the organization, and they have to reinforce it with human systems. And then we have to get employees engaged by providing connection, relevance, and measurement.”


The business management literature is filled with actionable advice to help energize your culture, by writers like Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni and Paul Akers. 

Both Blount and Schroeder spend a lot of time reading these leaders, and discussing how these management concepts can apply to their businesses and teams. 

For Blount, when you’re in a management position, the company culture is on you, “like, oh yeah, amen.” Because of this responsibility, he is “so stoked and pumped about how we become leaders. How do we create that culture that not only am I a leader in my organization, not only are you a leader, but how do we have leaders all the way throughout the organization?”

When leadership extends to all levels of a company, there’s a higher likelihood that a positive, respectful company culture will result.