Culture. It’s something you should notice the moment you step through a company’s front door, and it should continue to be obvious as you move about within. Every business has its own organizational culture that develops and evolves over time as the business expands, moves into new markets, and adopts new values and goals. Company leaders often give thought to the best way to shift the company culture in a direction they desire. It can be difficult to change a company culture, but here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you begin the process.
1. Change begins at the top
For change to be effective, it needs to begin at the top with a company’s leaders. Your business probably has performance expectations, and the leaders there are always working to hold everyone accountable. But it’s the perceived behavior of those leaders when it comes to values that can cause changes to the overall organization’s culture. Do your leaders support programs that ensure cooperation, teamwork, validation, and even fun at work? Do you consistently demonstrate those values, and apologize when you don’t? And do you have these expectations and values clearly outlined in some document (and even better – on the walls) so that all employees can reference it as-needed?
S. Chris Edmonds, CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group explains why it is important to have these performance and values expectations formally defined. “With both performance expectations and values expectations formally defined and agreed to,” he shares, “you know you’ve spelled out exactly how you want everyone to behave.”
Think about this: do you say your company’s culture is one of openness and honesty, but you make big decisions behind closed doors and hold back on fully communicating the rationale behind them? And if an employee were to respectfully and professionally point out this inconsistency, would they be praised for bringing the issue to attention, or dismissed as a tattletale? If an employee brings an innovative idea to the HR department, are they met with immediate rejection, or readiness to research and consider it strategically?
2. Quantify your culture and its value
We have all heard it: what can be measured gets done. Because many businesses think that they cannot objectively quantify what company culture is and the measurable value a well-formed culture could bring to the business, they give up trying. However, while quantifying your culture as a whole could be a challenge, you can certainly measure the value of certain initiatives aimed at enhancing company culture.
For example, if you were to implement a policy that allowed employees to work remotely when they were feeling sick or under the weather, you could analyze how many fewer sick days were used in a year and, thus, how much money the business saved from this initiative. Likewise, if you were to have spots in the office that encouraged fun and health, you could measure how those initiatives contribute to employee productivity and happiness. In addition, hire the people that have a passion for what they do and so in turn they make the workplace fun.
3. Share what you value
To create a culture that values what you do, you must share what you value with your employees. For example, the Cambridge-based company HubSpot has a Culture Code that it shares with all of its employees shortly after their initial onboarding. This Culture Code presentation shares with new employees what HubSpot values and why, and how that affects the programs and policies of the company. As such, employees immediately understand what the company values and how that is reflected in their work environment.
Likewise, you also have the opportunity to reiterate what you value through your actions. “How leaders embrace, model, and coach these valued behaviors is how team members will — or won’t — embrace them,” Edmonds says. “Leaders modeling behaviors is powerful—and it must validate other desired behaviors while also redirecting folks who are not modeling desired behaviors.”
Sharing your stated values can be tough, but your employees won’t take your culture change seriously if you don’t actively share what the new culture will be and why, and if you don’t model that behavior yourself.
4. Hold everyone accountable, especially yourself
No longer tolerate bad behavior. Meeting performance expectations deserves reward and recognition, but so does modeling desired valued behaviors. By holding people accountable and rewarding behaviors that contribute to the business and overall company culture, you increase the frequency that your employees will demonstrate your desired values, and they will perform better in their jobs because they will feel valued for doing well and know they can’t get away with less than their best.
Holding everyone accountable is often the most critical step, and as the leader, the most important person to hold to this standard is yourself. You are either living the company value or you’re not, but by holding yourself and everyone else accountable, you will make a difference in how your company’s culture grows for the better.
Contact us today to learn how you can work with Contracted Leadership™ to build your company culture, and make it a place you and your employees will be proud to work.