A Flourishing Workplace Culture Leads to Ministry Effectiveness and Kingdom Impact
By Lisa V. COne l Special to The Church Guide
The Gideons International Executive Director, Craig Warner, shares his testimony of taking a once-toxic culture and moving it toward a flourishing work environment.What does a healthy workplace culture look like? Made up of attitudes, values, and beliefs of both leadership and employees within an organization, culture shapes team unity, inspires people, and motivates employees to be their best. A welcoming and purposeful culture can attract talent and create an engaging work environment. Business owners rarely make time to focus on and nurture their company’s culture, but The Gideons International Executive Director, Craig Warner, stepped up to the task and has seen true transformation in his organization.A 116 year-old evangelical Christian nonprofit ministry, best known for distributing Bibles in hotels, schools, prisons, and hospitals, The Gideons International was built with the purpose of growing God’s Kingdom. However, as they toiled to fulfill their mission, they were suffering from a neglected and deteriorating organizational culture.Time for Change“When I joined The Gideons, we needed to shift gears and keep pace with the evolving changes around us,” Craig explained. “Our past success did not guarantee future success. We had stayed true to our original mission, but my instincts told me we were trading some of our principles for practices that created a lack of trust and unity among employees.”David Ashworth, The Gideons’ IT Manager shared, “There was a great divide between upper management and staff. Employees did not feel valued or encouraged, yet, many tolerated the atmosphere because they were dedicated to their work and believed in the mission of our ministry.”Leadership has the power to intentionally define and shape culture. Left alone, a culture will shape itself by default. To create a flourishing workplace culture, Craig intuitively knew he was responsible for creating an environment where employees felt motivated, inspired, and rewarded for their work. He also knew that restoring trust, building the necessary communications, rewards, and recognition infrastructure to make a culture successful - and sustainable - would take time.Craig knew he wanted every initiative to be carried out on the foundation of the Lord. “The leadership of The Gideons International had to reflect the fruit and purpose of the Holy Spirit, but to uncover the root cause of an unhealthy office culture, I needed answers and hard facts,” stated Craig.In his quest to understand some of the internal challenges, Craig and the leadership team enlisted the help of The Best Christian Workplaces Institute to produce a series of online employee engagement surveys. A 64-question survey allowed employees to be open and provide feedback on critical topics aimed to address their internal struggles.“We were thrilled with the employee participation, but the results told us we were two ticks away from having no pulse as a culture! The analysis revealed that employees perceived the office environment as highly political and they felt there was no trust, engagement, support, or sense of community. Many felt underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated in their roles. We realized that employees believed in this public ministry, but felt that actions from management were misaligned with our mission. The Lord spoke to our hearts and we knew the office culture couldn’t stay this way,” Craig shared.Blessings through ChangeShortly after the Best Christian Workplace Institute analyzed the first survey results, Craig and the management team rolled up their sleeves and began the transformation. The first step was to prioritize and focus on areas needing the most attention. Management divided into focus groups, met for hours and weeks at a time to collaborate, and created a plan for change.Strategies included creating cross-departmental task forces to remove silos and allow employees to give insight into current processes. The organization introduced a performance management process. By internally advertising position vacancies, employees could apply for positions based on skill and talent, rather than being appointed based on seniority. Craig and his team enlisted the help of Grant Thornton to ensure compensation was aligning with salary benchmarks. The organization kicked off an employee training program and introduced a college tuition reimbursement program, encouraging employees to return to school. In addition, The Gideons adjusted compensation and health care benefits and encouraged department managers to offer flexible work hour schedules with extended vacation and personal time. With the encouragement of the C12 Group, The Gideons have implemented a pay-for-performance compensation program ensuring accountability while rewarding and incentivizing top performance. Craig explained, “I really care about what my employees want and need and constantly welcome their feedback. We want our people to know they have a voice and we too need to be open, honest, and transparent. Over time, trust and relationships can be restored.”For the first time in years, David Ashworth saw true momentum. He elaborated, “Pay increases and positive changes with internal policies were the early signs that management was seriously listening. Employees were rewarded for ideas and began collaborating more. Creating a healthy culture didn’t happen overnight, but the effects have dramatically impacted productivity and performance.”The Gideons recently sent out a fourth employee engagement survey. With 94% of employees feeling valued, encouraged, and supported, it is clear that the hard work has paid off. Craig advises leaders who sense their workplace culture suffering to recognize the early warning signs. He advocates for clearly defining your organization’s vision and mission statements and making sure that current and new hires believe in it. Make the time to listen to employees and reward their efforts. Constantly reflect on who you are, the vibe you want to radiate, and, ultimately, the kind of culture that fits both you and your God-honoring brand. Mostly, Craig says to be patient and prepared for change.“Changing a company’s culture takes time, patience, and serious dedication. You can’t go from unhealthy to healthy in one swift leap. We have been working on this for years, and we still have more to improve. It takes time to win your employees’ trust and repair relationships. Cultural change has to be woven deep within the fabric of the organization for it to outlast its leaders.”How is your workplace culture? Consider these statistics:Companies with engaged employees outperform others by 47 to 202 percent. (Watson-Wyatt Research)Organizations with employee engagement scores in the top quartile had 18 percent higher productivity and 16 percent higher profits. (Gallup)Highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave their organizations than highly disengaged employees. (Corporate Executive Board)“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to herds.” (Proverbs 27:23)Modeling Servant LeadershipWhat creates a healthy workplace culture? Employees who feel valued and appreciated by their leaders are more likely to go above and beyond for the company. In a healthy workplace culture, people look forward to coming to work every day because they feel engaged and know that their work truly matters.The impact of running the ministry for Christ has encouraged him to set the standard as the best, most effective place to work in the world. With support and guidance from his C12 peers, Craig has made it his mission to cultivate The Gideons’ workplace culture to reach maximum Kingdom impact. “My treatment, encouragement, and relationship with my employees has a tremendous impact on them and their families. The Gideons International needs to set the example of what a great Christian workplace looks like. How we treat our people should reflect the values we share in the scriptures we distribute,” explained Craig.