Thursday, September 27, 2018

Company Culture: Who Are You?

I have been writing and speaking about corporate culture for almost 20 years now. After seeing "under the hood" at hundreds of organizations in dozens of industries, each has a unique culture; one that has either come by design or by default. Consider your own company culture - what is it? Is it aligned with your stated company values? Is anyone responsible for its measurement and good health? This month's article provides details on the factors that go into a company culture so you can do your own analysis of how your organization stacks up.        
Culture Defined
The definition of corporate culture includes a common understanding of definitions and traditions, including the appropriate ways to behave. In short, it is the way things get done at your company.
A strong culture gives a business an edge in two major ways:

1) it empowers people to feel part of the fabric of the company building motivation and employee engagement.   

2) it builds a brand image as the customer experience is shaped consistently and reinforced with every interaction. 

Spend a few moments considering your company or department culture and how you can be more intentional about shaping it into the one you desire. What five words would you use to describe your culture today? Are you satisfied with those descriptors? By limiting yourself to just five words, you can hone in on specific traits about your culture. Now ask your employees to do the same exercise...are their words the same? You may find their perceptions extremely insightful. 

Questions to Consider

There are several factors that influence a culture: 

1. How does your atmosphere support your stated business goals and values?   Atmosphere includes how the office or retail location looks, smells, and sounds. This includes how employees dress and what titles people are given. 

2. Are your policies/practices directly supporting the behaviors you expect from your employees? Policies include what is and isn’t formally allowed. Practices are the way policies are demonstrated behaviorally.

3. Take a look at your performance reviews, do they measure behaviors along with results? 

4. Do employees receive formal and informal rewards not just for the results they get but how they get them?

5. When new employees start with the company, does the on-boarding experience consist of a review of paperwork and benefits with Human Resources in a conference room? 

6. Does the company encourage folklore as a way to keep traditions alive? Folklore includes powerful stories that get told about your company by your customers and employees. When I worked at Nordstrom in the 1980’s, there was much talk about their return policy and a popular story routinely circulated involving a customer returning a snow tire.

7. Does every member of senior management set the right tone to support the culture? Duplicity is toxic to credibility. When you say one thing and then have hidden rules, you force employees to behave in self-preserving ways; they learn the loopholes, workarounds, and can go underground. Most employees will follow the path of least resistance to meeting their goals. Remember that leadership will always have the most influence on your organization's culture. 

One way to know if your actual culture is aligned to your desired one is to read about your company online or by surveying your employees and customers to see if the picture painted is an accurate representation of the way things really are. Check out what people are saying.

As a manager, you cannot control every aspect of your corporate culture, but you do wield a great influence over it. By understanding and intentionally shaping your department’s culture, you can build more employee loyalty and engagement.

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