It is the culture and the values of the organization, closely followed by the quality of the senior leadership and career opportunities for the employees within the company.
The importance of culture has seen a massive rise in the last few years. In Deloitte’s 2016 report on Global Human Capital Trends, 86% of respondents viewed corporate culture as important or very important to business success. But only 28% said that they understand their organization’s culture.
Culture is understood as important by everyone, but the same people aren’t really sure as to what constitutes a great culture. Culture is often misunderstood which is why superficial attempts are made in the illusion that things will get better. These often revolve around providing employee perks such as swanky offices, great snacks, letting people bring their dogs to work or installing ping pong tables. While such initiatives might cheer up employees for a bit, it will not stick for long.
A great culture demands a deeper analysis and vision. It aims at changing behaviors and attitudes towards achieving common organizations values. Just a few posters on the walls will not define it.
If you are struggling with putting the right organizational culture in place, here are five steps you can follow to take charge:
1. Achieve a consensus
Before beginning to set the tone for defining the culture of your organization, what would be really helpful is if you got all the stakeholders, including employees, to express their versions and then come to a consensus. The definition should state exactly what you mean by culture and should be agreed by all.
This can be achieved by talking about behaviors that are acceptable and that which are not. This can be followed by defining the core values. Core values are the ones that define standards for conducting interactions and business with each other. These values need to be kept in mind while going to work on a daily basis and should reflect in all kinds of practices taking place within the workplace. For example, the way employee performance is measured should be guided by similar values in determining productivity and improving skills.
These values need to be carefully picked and ensured that they are in sync with what people want. Once all the values are collated, there needs to be further communication on which values matter the most. The final values are those which can have the biggest positive impact on the culture if they became standard. Each company should not have a zillion values, as it will lead to even more confusion. The idea number of about five core beliefs that the organization upholds and works towards.
2. Communicate, educate and involve employees
Once the core values are set for the various organizational practices, the next step is to communicate the same to the entire organization. The trickle-down effect will not work till employees across levels are made aware of these values. And it is also not a one-time event where a power point presentation is forcefully skimmed through. Steps should be continuously taken to help employees understand the new values and make this as easy as possible. Cultural values need to be backed up by leaders and they need to set examples through their behavior and interactions for the rest of the staff to learn from and follow. And for those employees who perform with values in mind need to be rewarded regularly to keep the practice alive and motivate the rest to do the same.
Asana is a workplace productivity management company which has received a rare perfect rating on Glassdoor and also a spot on Glassdoor’s Top 10 Best Places to Work in 2017. The founders played a lot of importance to culture from the very beginning.
Their values included healthy work-life balance, inclusiveness, embracing mindfulness and equanimity, responsible behavior and open communication. And Asana’s founders have gone out of their way to ensure that these values are maintained in the culture and practiced by every employee. The leaders have gone out of their way to ensure that employees are in coherence with what is expected out of them. The sense of this is by anonymous employee surveys and rich one on one conversations. On the basis of all this information, the health of the culture is analyzed and steps are taken to rectify what’s not working. No complaint or issue is ignored or delayed, but immediate action to fix it is undertaken.
3. Get together often
Being excited to go to work every day is probably a myth. But there should be enough reasons for employees to be motivated to do their best to their maximum ability. Productivity depends a lot on the kind of relationships employees have with their peers, bosses and other teams. In order to ensure healthy relationships, leaders need to budge in and make time for collaborative exercises. Town hall meetings discussing issues on an informal level could be one example. A silent office with no interactions cannot do anyone any good.
Leaders need to pave the way for change by sharing legendary stories with the employees, motivating them, guiding them and enjoying informally with them from time to time. A leader without a sense of humor or an open mind is probably just another strict boss. Getting together should feel natural and not like a chore. Such initiatives help foster strong employee connections to co-workers within the team as well as across departments. Only an organization where teams work together through communication and collaboration can reap the true rewards of novelty and success. These platforms can also be used to discuss issues related to beliefs, reward employees and shake a leg from time to time.
Like Asana’s founder Justin Rosenstein says, culture is not something that happens. Instead, it is like a product that needs to be thought about, built, and tested for efficiency. Leaders across organizations need to adopt a similar approach and start mending their culture.