This past week we welcomed the first day of spring here in NYC.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at the weather which is still hovering somewhere in the 40 degree range, but it’s true, its spring. 

While some may follow Tennyson and believe that spring is meant to turn one’s thoughts to love, I of course think of spring and ruminate on similarities between this time of year and establishment of successful employee programs.  I know, it’s so sad, I must have some sort of sickness – but then again, hear me out…

One of the predominant activities of springtime is gardening, and as every gardener knows the absolutely most essential element of a successful garden is healthy soil.  And so it goes with people programs, if the ground you’re planting your people program seeds in is essentially ‘bad soil’, you can’t possibly expect anything to grow.  Makes sense, right?  Of course right.  Now let’s dig deeper (sorry, couldn’t help it).

As I said, soil is arguably the most important component in a successful garden.  Soil is generally evaluated on fertility and texture. Fertility is a combination of essential nutrients and a pH that makes these nutrients available to the plants.  Texture refers to the size of the soil particles and their cohesiveness.   So too an organizational culture can serve as the ‘soil’ for your people programs.  It, like soil, also needs to be evaluated to see if anything can grow.  While soil focuses on fertility and texture, you might want to evaluate your culture for engagement issues such as team cohesion and trust in management. 

So how do you know if you have bad soil?  The only way to know for sure is to have it tested.  As in a garden, a quick guestimate of your soil’s health can be made by looking at your plants (i.e. employees).  If they are thriving, don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If they are languishing, it would be worth testing your soil.   Then focus on preparing the ground – aerate and provide nutrients to your cultural soil through ongoing communication, weed out issues that can poison the well water, and nurture and tend your culture on an ongoing basis…etc.   I could find a dozen more analogies but you get the point.   

The bottom line is plants won’t grow in bad soil and neither will your people programs, and in truth, ultimately, neither will your employees.  Take the time to create healthy soil and you’ll be reaping the rewards of your garden before you know it. 

Oh and remember, “Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  ~ Lou Erickson
Happy spring!