7 Ways to Create a Winning Workplace Culture

Lalaina Rabary | January 19, 2021

Every savvy business owner recognizes that strong company culture is the key that sets them apart. Benefits span from being able to recruit top talent to keeping current team members happily moving, with both passion and purpose, toward results. Consistently recognized as a top workplace by Forbes, Indeed, Franchise Business Review, and most recently Glassdoor, Keller Williams has built an award-winning workplace culture that is both rare and empowering.  Read on to learn about the core tenets of this culture, and how you can leverage them as components to take your team to the top.

Create a strong mission, vision, and values statement

Every impactful organization is built on a clearly defined mission, vision, and set of values.

 “They serve as the core pillars of who you are as an organization,” shares Leslie Vander Gheynst, vice president of people operations for Keller Williams Realty International. “With these foundational attributes, people know what to expect when they choose to associate with you, and, as a leader, decision-making becomes easier as you can quickly see if your decisions fall in or out of alignment.”

It was KW’s values that spoke to Jeff Johnson, ultimately leading him to move his top-performing team to Keller Williams four years ago.   

“The culture of God, family, and then business is what attracted me to Keller Williams because that’s how I run my team,” Johnson shared. “I keep seeing the whole. It’s like nesting dolls – you take our team, fit it inside a market center with the same values, put that franchise within a corporation with the same culture and values, and it’s just awesome.” 

As you crystalize your team’s:

  • Mission: Make it action based, declaring the purpose your organization has to your intended audience.  KW ‘s mission: To build careers worth having,  businesses worth owning, lives worth living, experiences worth giving, and legacies worth leaving. 
  • Vision: Think through where you want your business to be once your mission is achieved. KW’s vision: To be the real estate company of choice for agents and their consumers 
  • Values: Assess your highest priorities and deeply held beliefs. KW’s values: God, Family, then Business

Employ shared decision-making

In 1986, Co-founder and Executive Chairman Gary Keller convened the Associate Leadership Council (ALC) to transform Keller Williams from a traditional company to one that would disrupt the industry. The ALC – bringing agents together to take part in company decisions for the first time – did everything from creating KW’s core beliefs to detailing its profit-sharing system. As the company grew,  the system scaled. 

The International ALC is currently composed of 124 associates who meet biannually to bring forward and vote on proposals to enhance the culture of the organization. Because of the framework created by Keller decades ago, associates have agency in the decisions that will impact their lives and the results are far-reaching.

While powerful, shared decision-making doesn’t have to be centered on a formal format. You can bring more of it to your organization by simply asking where you could better engage your team members for input. 

As Vander Gheynst states, “Company culture is at its strongest when it’s exemplified by its leaders and ideation and problem-solving is born from individual contributors.” 

Promote sharing and collaboration

From technology to training, sharing is the bedrock of KW culture: 

  • Associates are invited to share their ideas for technology that would benefit their businesses most through Labs
  • Knowledge, scripts, and best practices are exchanged regularly via livestream training and immersive, virtual events
  • In Command, agents can access a library of over 1,750 customizable SmartPlans that they can send to their contacts.   

With sharing comes synergy and creativity, remarks Marty Miller, Texas South regional technology trainer and team lead of the Summit Property Group in Houston, Texas. Miller has been an avid contributor and user of KW’s SmartPlans library.  

“When one agent shares a SmartPlan, that ignites a creative spark in another agent who can then download, tinker, edit, and improve the SmartPlan to become an even more powerful version of itself; capable of helping others reach new heights with their real estate goals.” 

Among many things, a collaborative culture can be achieved by: 

  • Prioritizing cross-functional team building
  • Embracing mistakes as stepping-stones to progress
  • Recognizing that relationships make the unit stronger, and together everyone achieves more

Recognize and reward team members for their contributions 

Recognition is an essential part of making team members feel valued in the workplace. At Keller Williams, this happens most notably through profit share, a risk-free wealth building system that allows associates to build inheritable wealth for simply helping the company grow.  Over $1.5 billion has been distributed to associates and their families since the program’s inception.

When asked what profit sharing has allowed her to do; Summit, New Jersey, agent Sue Adler Replied,“My philosophy is that money is good for the good it can do.” One example of how Adler gives back is through The Sue Adler Team’s Annual 100th Home Sale Charity Program, where she donates $20,000 to six local charities, as voted on by the community. 

While monetary rewards are powerful ways to support associates, small gestures can go a long way in helping promote positive workplace culture, too:

  • “Make it a point to give one word of acknowledgment to someone every day,” writes Vija Williams.  
  • Open up space for peer-to-peer acknowledgment at your next team meeting.
  • Extend opportunities for professional development and learning. 

Be a bridge, guiding people toward their goals

Every September, The Loken Group based in Houston, Texas sets time aside to come up with their Goals, Priorities, and Strategies (GPS) Roadmap. “The entire organization masterminds on how we’re going to get there,” CEO Lance Loken shares.  “It is done together at the company level first, a departmental level next, and finally, on an individual level.” Once individual goals are established, leaders remain committed to holding team members accountable to reaching them through weekly conversations. 

This goal-setting process, rooted in principles of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and The ONE Thing, is embraced companywide and made available through training (KWU’s Business Planning Clinic), MAPS Coaching, or direct consultation with the market center leadership team.  Driven by a passion to help others achieve more, market center leaders are responsible for helping agents increase their profitability and reach their long-term goals. 

You can also be an effective champion for someone as they journey toward their goals. How?

  • Help them tap into the power of grit through passion and perseverance discuss VP of Learning Jay Papasan and Grit author Angela Duckworth. 
  • Show up consistently as KW agent Dan Grieb did when coaching Chris Nikic to the Ironman finish line. 
  • Place the focus on progress, not perfection reminds Jessica Fox Wimmer 

Bring work-life balance and wellness to the forefront

Healthier employees make for happier employees. Placing first in Indeed’s Work/Life Balance ranking in 2019 and 2018, “Keller Williams trusts their associates to make their own schedules and believes it gives them ownership of their time as well as their earning potential.” 

Adam Hergenrother, founder of the Hergenrother Realty Group in Vermont, echoes this sentiment believing that a focus on wellness has helped pave the path for his team’s momentum.

“At the foundation, our focus on inner wellness and personal growth has raised the level of consciousness of our entire organization. While hard to measure, I can’t help but think that is part of the reason why we were able to put 865 homes under contract in the past 90 days during an unprecedented time in our country,” he writes

“We focus on creating morning routines full of journaling, meditation, exercise, and centering the self. We have had countless individuals completely transform their relationships with their children and partners based on doing the hard inner work of shifting their perspective and letting go of the outcome.” 

Models and tools that can make work-life balance a reality: 

Cultivate a culture of giving 

The crises of 2020 demonstrated how life can change in an instant, and when it does, a strong giving culture is paramount.  

Recognizing that crisis is inevitable, KW Cares was created in 2003 to support KW associates and their families as a result of sudden hardship. At $4.9 million distributed this year, the organization provided much-needed relief to associates impacted by natural disasters. The giving spirit didn’t stop there. Agents across the country rallied together for RED Day, volunteering virtually or socially-distanced to support their communities on top of daily acts of generosity.

For your team to feel fully supported, it’s important to promote giving in all forms. The above are examples to build upon. As shared in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, there are several ways to give: 

  • Through gratitude
  • Through time
  • Through money 
  • Through leadership
  • Through wealth 

Explore each facet and encourage others to do the same. 

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