Interview with Ashely Houchins, Senior Lead Advisor, Culture Team at Chick-fil-A.
In this interview, Ashley answers questions about company culture. Whether your chapter has been around for ten years or you're just starting out, it's important to be intentional about creating culture. As your DECA chapter jumps back into the school year, consider how this interview can apply directly to your chapter's culture.
What is your definition of a healthy company culture?
Culture is a shared set of values, beliefs and behaviors. We would say that the unseen force impacts everything we see, feel, hear and experience.
Why is company culture important?
Culture is important for many reasons; one is that it can help diagnose the health of your organization and its team. The way work gets done impacts how employees feel engaged, interact with one another and represent the organization. Culture lets staff know what’s acceptable and what’s not at a particular organization—more importantly, what that organization values.
What are some ways to establish company culture?
Defining what you want to be true, the behaviors that are valued and how you’ll measure it are important. Leadership buy-in is vital to establishing a culture by design. You’ll have a culture no matter what; it may be by default, but you’ll have a culture.
How does leadership influence company culture?
Leaders are vital, as stated above. Leaders should be your biggest culture advocates within the company. They are the role models for what culture building/amplification should be. One executive said it best recently, “They will follow what you model,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Can you provide some examples of ways to improve company culture?
Establishing what you want to be true is the first step. Second, identify the gaps between the goal and the current state. How will you close the gap—who will help you move the needle toward what you want to be true.
What are some key behaviors that you want to see change/improve?
Talk about the ideal state and the way forward, and do that often.
- Paint a picture of the ideal future and help people see themselves as a part of the journey to get there.
- Ask staff what they want to be true; how would they go about making that happen?
- Identify quick wins that keep people engaged and excited to be a part of the transformation of culture.
- Infuse culture-supporting messaging into key business communications (written and verbal) to connect as a strategic lever for the overall health of the business/organization.
How do you measure the effectiveness of company culture?
Staff surveys, listening sessions, culture councils (within departments) feedback and culture moments that all staff participate in.
What part of Chick-fil-A’s culture are you most proud of?
So much makes me proud—it’s the little things that make up the collective whole, honestly. We love encouraging staff to show up in little moments and small ways for one another regularly, which takes thoughtfulness and intentionality. That is truly the secret sauce, in my opinion. When you know that generally how much we care for one another and want the best for one another, the culture is strong. It doesn’t take grand, sweeping gestures and events to build culture—those just reinforce the daily behaviors that keep our culture and connection strong.
What advice do you have for DECA members when establishing culture in their chapters?
Don’t compromise on what you want to be true of your chapter; you’ll become known for it. Make sure it aligns with who you are and who you want to be.