Corporate culture is a hard thing to get right. It’s a moving target that means something different to everyone. It grows and evolves over time and is the result of action and reaction. It is the lingering effect of every interaction.
The definition of a new set of corporate values, the decision to reduce the level of “politics”, the way customers are addressed, how problems are solved, how difficult conversation are handled, the way management engage with their employees, the openness of top management, the places where celebrations occur and even simple things, like an office layout, are all factors that create and define a culture.
This may seem an abstract concept, but in fact corporate culture is not intangible. It lives in every office, process and person that is part of the organization and it’s here where change is possible.
One of the most prominent examples of corporate culture change was recently implemented by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! She asked all Yahoo employees to stop working from home and return to the office. With this initiative, Marissa is saying:
We need to embrace passion; let’s work together, closer than before, let’s share more ideas in order to transform the company, if we stay at home this will never happen
From the outside, it may seem like a minor change, but I’m sure it will have a profound effect on the organization’s culture.
#1 – Having a purpose beyond profit
Connecting people to a purpose is an important way of helping them feel good about your company. Why? because there is a very high correlation between the way your employees feel about the company and the way your customers do.
#2 – Declare values
Put them on paper, on the bulletin boards, and in every speech or talk you make. Company values can be made to work when they are a genuine part of a company’s culture.
#3 – Do something together
As the saying goes, work hard play hard. Try stepping outside of your usual group activities and tackling a goal together in uncharted territory. Step outside of your office walls and play a sport together, cook together, volunteer together- try something new!
#4 – Open communication
A good flow of communication is crucial in any organisations. In some instances, a simple conversation can go much further than another email in the inbox. Take the time to speak face to face with the people around you. We exist in a world full of real-time reactions so take the time to develop a relationship with the people around you.
A fertile culture is one that recognizes when things don’t work and adjusts to rectify the problem. As well, people need to feel safe and trusted, to understand that they can speak freely without fear of repercussion.
#5 – Talk-lunch
On a regular basis, have lunch or coffee with randomly chosen employees and really listen to their concerns and suggestions.
#6 – Celebrate
When you have a daunting mountain to climb, it is often best to break it into molehills. It is critical for teams and individuals working on complex problems to achieve small wins regularly.
#7 – Create an environment of trust between employer and employee
Employees are happier and work harder when they feel like they can trust their leaders. They decide which leaders they can trust based on how their fellow employees, company vendors, and customers are treated. If an employee sees a leader treating someone else poorly, whether it’s a vendor or a fellow employee, his level of trust diminishes and he starts to care less about doing a good job for the leader.
#8 – Share numbers
By sharing numbers with employees, not just executives, you can increase employees’ sense of ownership. However, being open is not enough. You need to be sure your employees are trained to understand financial statements and have enough insight into their own jobs to know how to affect the numbers.
#9 – Goals
Make sure employees have clearly defined goals and understand their professional growth path in the company. Raise bars constantly – there’s never room for complacency when you keep challenging to go higher.
#10 – Listen
Great cultures grow around people who listen, not just to each other or to their clients and stakeholders. It’s also important to listen to what’s happening outside your walls. What is the market saying? What is the zeitgeist? What developments, trends, and calamities are going on?
#11 – Say thank you
Sit down with your employees and let them know you appreciate their efforts. This could be a formal or an informal effort, but it is often overlooked. Take the time to thank a co-worker! It doesn’t matter if the effort was small or large, thanking someone is the most simple way to remind them that they are valued. A simple showing of gratitude can build a tremendous amount of respect.
#12 – Keep promises
Nothing poisons a culture more than a lack of integrity at the highest levels.
#13 – Walk through
At least two days a week, walk through the office and chat with people.
#14 – Find something to be enthusiastic about
Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are excited about something, take the time to share it with your employees. Did you read an interesting article on the way to work? Share it! Inspiration stems from the strangest places and you will never know what you have in common with the people around you until you talk about it.
#15 – Eliminate the negative words
Start with “can’t”. That one alone will make a huge difference.
Too many businesses lose sight of the importance of a coherent company culture, or they have limited knowledge about how to develop it. These companies concentrate on the business disciplines that are directly connected to their profit margins and neglect the emotional health of their team when, in fact, the two are closely related.
If you neglect your culture, you may begin to notice some of these warning signs in your employees’ behavior. You may hear less laughter in the office or notice that people seem unfocused. Employees may begin working shorter days, taking longer lunches or even asking for more compensation. When employees request additional compensation, it usually means that they’re reevaluating their contributions to your company’s goals or mission.
The important thing isn’t which adjectives you choose to describe your culture – it’s taking the steps to cultivate it. Your employees are your greatest assets, and when your business experiences a growth surge, you need a united front of employees that supports your company’s efforts in mind, body and spirit.
If your culture is dependent on this quarter’s earnings or this month’s sales targets, then it is handicapped by short-term thinking. Passion capitalists take the long view. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in five years. The culture needs to look ahead, not just in months but in years and even decades.
Make developing corporate culture one of the top five priorities for your business. Build your culture on clear vision, attainable goals, a genuine concern for your employees’ professional growth, an appreciation of their contributions to your success and companywide rewards for successful performance.
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Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement and development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland View full profile