It is important that your office culture reflect your company values, supports your goals and empowers those who work for your company. Even if you have a team of remote workers, you have a company culture.
The notion of “culture,” loosely defined as the beliefs and behaviors that govern how people act in an organisation, emerged in the 1980s and is now believed to be a major determinant of a company’s success or failure.
Culture is a top-of-mind issue for many executives and that companies with positive cultures have better performance, productivity and profits than those without. For example, the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report found that culture and engagement were the top issues of concern to more than 3,300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries. And companies on Fortune’s list of the best places to work—known for their strong cultures—have stock performance that is double that of other organisations.
For those reasons, it is important to direct your company culture and define your values so that you can share them with your team and create a lasting company culture.
- Define a set of desired values and behaviours. Clearly described the values and behaviors you’re seeking as a leader. Make sure people can understand and relate your culture to your day-to-day behavior. Try writing behavioral descriptors for each value you define and articulate how those would translate into actionable behaviours at all levels—from secretaries to middle managers to executives.
- Align culture with strategy and processes. Understand your mission, vision and values and consider how they line up with your HR processes, including hiring, performance management, compensation, benefits and the promotion of talent. “Think about how recruiting and talent management build your culture into your future,” one HR agency said. “Are your succession plans really creating the leaders you want?”
- Connect culture and accountability. Companies like Enron and WorldCom have struggled with company culture. It is easy, particularly in difficult times, to forget the values that you set in place to define your company.
Embracing accountability can help companies weather disaster. In one case in the US, twenty-three people died after eating the company’s cold cuts that had been contaminated with bacteria. “We took immediate and public responsibility for the crisis, against the advice of our legal counsel and technical counsel,” the head of PR for the company said. “We never pointed fingers.”
The company settled with the families within three months, a North American record, he said. A year later, the company’s brand score had increased, employee engagement went up five points, and stock more than quadrupled. “It was a great example of taking an investment we made in culture that was years in the making and applying it effectively in a tragedy,” he said.
- Have visible proponents. For culture change to be effective, it must be a priority of the company leaders. Share with the board a framework for understanding organisational culture and its impact on performance. Work with leaders to create a standing performance objective for the CEO that evaluates culture.
- Define the non-negotiables. When contemplating a culture change, look at your current culture and define which aspects you want to retain. HR are crucial to this process. Determining what’s not up for debate is particularly important during mergers and acquisitions, when leaders of two or more organisations must figure out how to blend identities.
- Align your culture with your brand. Culture must resonate with both employees and the marketplace. Partnerships between HR and marketing can drive this and help to activate the brand across multiple stakeholder groups. This is especially relevant to the online world, where today’s bad customer experience can become tomorrow’s viral sensation.
- Measure it. What gets measured gets managed. Help demonstrate the effectiveness of your efforts by implementing employee surveys, talent analyses that identify gaps between desired and actual behavior, and assessments of ethics online usage.
- Take your time. Changing a culture can take anywhere from months to several years. It depends on how wide the gap is between your culture and your goals is to begin with. Start by making sure there’s a clear rationale for why the company should change.
- Invest now. Don’t wait for staff and resources that may never come. Culture change is not a one-and-done exercise, it requires work, leadership and adaptation. The process is fluid and it changes over time. Each new team member will bring a new piece of the puzzle to developing and deepening the culture.
- Be the leader. You don’t have to be in a position of influence to have influence. When a leader steps up, it encourages others to step up as well. You need to be the example that your team can look to for guidance. If you want a warm and friendly environment, you need to be the person who is warm and friendly. If you want a punctual team of people who corroborate openly and honestly, you need to be on time and open to new ideas.
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