Does your company have an organisational culture? Most importantly, does it really live up to it?
The need to have a company culture is well known, and most of us understand its value and benefits. Unfortunately, while most companies are doing their job to create a culture, many fail to live up to these cultures.
In a nutshell, we have beautiful slogans on our walls that don’t impact employees’ day to day behaviours in any way. For the most part, they are considered nice-to-haves that ultimately don’t have any real impact on the organisation.
In addition, many companies are failing to keep their organisational cultures alive in a remote working environment. Nonetheless, it is now more important than ever to maintain our company cultures and do whatever we can to keep them alive and progressive.
What is a company culture: A company culture is defined as a shared set of values, goals, attitudes, and practices that make up an organisation.
While it can seem quite challenging to maintain our company cultures while WFH, we need to remember that culture is about values, beliefs, and behaviours. It’s not about ping pong tables or nice offices with free drinks (even though they help to keep things fun!).
Keeping in mind what company culture really is can help us find ways to keep it alive while working remotely.
Are we living up to our organisational cultures?
According to an analysis done by MITSlogan, there is no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasises in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in employees’ eyes.
Even more, while most company leaders accept the importance of having a company culture, statistics show that they are not walking the talk.
According to the Achievers Engagement and Retention Report, 45 per cent of employees say that their leadership is “minimally” or “not at all” committed to improving company culture.
37% of the voters have never seen the Mission Statement
25% believe it is not in line with the vision
38% believe it’s in line with the Company Vision
42% of the voters claim the Company Values do not reflect the company behaviours
43% confirm they walk the talk
7% is not aware
56% of the voters said Company Vision had been presented and discussed with them
44% have not seen it or discussed it
So, if we all know how important having an organisational culture is for success, how can we make sure we succeed in living up to it?
9 tips to help you succeed
According to a behavioural experiment, when we choose something for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome (almost by a factor of five to one).
So, instead of creating or even changing your culture behind closed doors to later communicate it to everyone else, why don’t you include people in the process?
This can be a challenge for big companies, but there are ways we can still involve as many people as possible. For example, using forms, questionnaires, … The crucial thing is that people feel included in the process.
Make sure everyone believes in the culture
As we mentioned above, including everyone is not always possible. For small businesses, it can be easier, but this can be a challenge for big companies. So, if not everybody can be involved in the creation process, at least make sure everyone agrees and buys into it.
You can have a beautifully written culture, but if people don’t really believe in it, it will only be that; beautifully written words.
This is even more important with younger generations because they are looking not only for a paycheck but for a company that aligns with their personal values.
When we create a culture based on a mission, vision and values that people can relate to, we will be on the right track to creating an organisational culture that people believe in.
Creating a story or narrative can be a good idea to communicate the company culture effectively. An excellent example of this is the CEO of a retail bank who, in order to implement an organisational change, created a compelling story that would make sense to all the bank’s employees, top to bottom.
The main idea was that everyone could relate, understand and believe in the story, making them work together towards success.
Focus on a sense of belonging
This is strictly related to the two points above. If we involve people in the process and make sure that everyone believes in the culture, we will be closer to achieving a sense of belonging.
A culture should focus on creating an environment where people feel like they belong. Concentrating on creating a culture that promotes inclusion, collaboration, and authenticity is a good starting point to build a working environment where people feel safe and feel a sense of belonging.
When we talk about hiring people who align with the values, it doesn’t mean they all need to be and think alike. It’s essential to find people who share the same values but who can also challenge us to evolve and grow.
Finding people who align with our values should never be an excuse to forget about the importance of diversity. This is also why many companies are moving away from hiring cultural fits and hiring cultural add.
Keeping our company culture in mind will also impact people who are already part of the company. Sometimes, redefining a company culture can lead to having to let people go.
This happened to Gail Kelly, former CEO of St. George Bank in Sydney, who had to let some people from the team go in order to implement a cultural change that could improve performance.
This situation is not ideal; there should always be an opportunity for people and organisations to adapt and change, but also knowing when something or someone doesn’t fit can save us time, energy and resources.
Accompany your company culture with behavioural guidelines
Sometimes, when we create a culture, we can fall into the trap of believing that everyone thinks and understands it the same way we do.
So, in addition to communicating and explaining the culture, it’s helpful to include what the culture means in terms of behaviours. For example, if we say that collaboration is one of our values, what does it mean to our day to day lives?
Setting clear expectations of what the culture means for everyone can be helpful to live up to it successfully.
When we create a company culture, we must be genuine about it. Creating something that sounds perfect on paper but doesn’t replicate the company’s day to day behaviours will have little to no effect. In fact, it is likely to have negative consequences for the business.
The idea of having a company culture is to effectively communicate what the company stands for, its values, and its mission and vision. So, everything we do has to align with it.
For example, if a company states that they care about people’s wellbeing or are “people-first”, their actions must demonstrate the same thing. No one can fool people for an extended period of time.
If we use over time as an example, imagine that a company clearly says they care about their employees’ work-life balance but then promotes people who overwork all the time. Even though the message is excellent, their actions are talking louder than their words.
We are not saying authenticity is a must-have; instead, it’s a must-demonstrate value. This means that whatever your values are, they have to be authentic and champion everything that the company does and represents.
Walk the talk
This is probably the most critical point of all, and it includes a bit of everything we have already talked about. We need to walk the talk. From top to bottom, everyone in the company should act according to the values, mission and vision stated in the company culture.
For leaders, this is extremely important because most of the time, leaders are the ones who need to implement the culture. Also, people will behave according to the behaviours of the people around them.
To use the overtime example again, in this case, leaders should show with their behaviours that they care about work-life balance. Taking time off, disconnecting after work hours, or even being vulnerable when they feel overwhelmed will help everyone feel safe doing the same.
Make sure there is a reward system in place
Using a reward system to establish the company’s behaviours can be a great way to implement a company culture successfully.
Rewards can be shown in many different ways. The easiest of all would be a monetary reward or even link it to promotions. But we can also implement a reward system to show appreciation and value to the people committed to living up to their company culture.
For example, John McFarlane, the former CEO of ANZ Bank, sent a bottle of champagne to every employee for Christmas with a card thanking them for their work on the company’s “Perform, Grow, and Break-out” change program. While this can seem like a small gesture, employees consistently report that the rewards have a disproportionately positive impact on changing motivation that lasts for months, if not years.
As we mentioned before, people not only care about money, they want to feel valued and sometimes asking people’s opinions, caring for them, even small tokens of appreciation can have more of an impact than a salary increase in a toxic culture.
Don’t be afraid of change
Last but not least, it’s essential to be aware that company cultures will continually evolve and change.
It’s important to consider that company cultures are living entities that will evolve over time. So being open to its evolution is essential to succeed.
The crucial thing to remember is what our core values are, and keep them in mind even during times of change.
The Optimist View…
At Optimist Performance, we believe that every company has a culture, even if it wasn’t thought or designed. Once a group of people start working together, you will soon see a culture of shared values and principles emerge. This is why we should never underestimate the importance of creating and implementing the culture you want for your company.
We also believe that company cultures are much more than nice words on a piece of paper. It is the set of values and principles that determine the whole identity of the organisation, and as such, it should be a guide for everyone in the company.
Unfortunately, this is not an easy task, which is why so many companies fail to live up to their cultures, even more so in big organisations where there is constant staff turnover. The positive side is that there are many ways out there to help you succeed.
At Optimist Performance, we help organisations build a culture to succeed, and we do it in different ways depending on your organisation’s needs.
If you want to know more about our services, get in touch with us today and find out how we can help.