Don’t just offer a job; build a strong culture

What’s the No. 1 reason people continue to work for their employer? Is it the pay? The benefits? Or, maybe a lack of better options?

A while back I came across a Workplace Retention Survey that had been commissioned by the American Psychological Association. According to its findings, the top reasons Americans gave for not leaving their current job were “I enjoy the work I do,” and it “fits well with the other areas of my life.”

You can see this as further validation that employees want to feel connected to their company, and want to know that their employer is invested in them as well. As business leaders, we should be offering more than just a job, it’s important to establish a strong workplace culture.

From the leaders on down

By definition, workplace culture is the collection of business practices, processes and interactions that make up the work environment. In my experience, when business founders and leaders value certain things and behave in a certain way, this helps to establish the company culture.

Never was this more apparent to me then when McDonald’s purchased Donatos Pizza back in 1999. One day we’re a family-owned pizza company, and the next we’re being run by one of the world’s largest fast food chains.

Seemingly overnight, our business was changing, and our well-established culture was at risk. My role as “Chief People Officer” at Donatos had never seemed more challenging, or more vital.

During those years, I was reminded that in order to maintain a strong culture, we had to have a process.

No accident

Culture doesn’t just happen; you have to make it a priority. A process can sound restricting as it relates to people, but there are some important systems that have to be in place to keep the spirit alive:

  • Hire the “right” people, those whose values fit, using tools that measure values.
  • Measure results by setting goals through a performance management system.
  • Succession planning should be based on principles and results and reviewed at every level in the organization.
  • Compassionate accountability with a feedback process.
  • Training people is different than development, and you have to do both for the person to fully develop into the best skilled leader.


Company ownership may change hands, menu items will come and go, but people will always be one of a company’s greatest assets.

This is one of the most valuable lessons I learned working as the CPO for Donatos under the arches — you can never take your culture for granted, it requires constant attention to detail.


Jane Grote Abell is Chairwoman of the Board at Donatos Pizza. A founding family member of Donatos Pizza, Jane is heavily focused on the chain’s mission of promoting goodwill through product, service, principles and people. She was featured in CBS’s hit series “Undercover Boss” and will release her first book this year, “The Missing Piece: Doing Business the Donatos Way.”