Culture is present in every organization, influencing things like productivity and retention, and it affects everyone, from executives to hourly employees. When it comes to building a strong culture, human resources professionals are often looked upon to pinpoint any problem areas and develop strategies around them. Read on to learn how you can create a strong culture to help your organization reach new heights!
What Is Organizational Culture?
It’s important to understand what organizational culture really is before attempting to alter it! An organization’s culture isn’t always easy to define, as it’s made up of the repeated patterns of behavior that can become invisible and unconscious after time. It’s based on the beliefs, customs and rules, whether explicit or not, that are developed and accepted within an organization. Culture can affect how employees are treated, how an organization conducts business, and how information flows throughout an organization.
What Are The Benefits?
Strong organizational culture serves as the driving force behind motivating employees to look forward to being at work, and continuously put in that 100%! It can lead to improved performance, productivity and profits. It also helps employees decide how they’ll respond to situations when their superiors aren’t around, serving as a guide for discretionary behavior. As such, companies with a strong organizational culture can place greater trust in their employees and allow them to operate autonomously, making employees more inclined to develop innovative ways to improve their organization!
Having a strategic and deliberate culture also helps make your organization more appealing to newcomers while supporting the engagement and retention of current employees. It’s safe to say that having a strong organizational culture is a victory for employers and employees alike! But in reality, a whopping 64% of employees feel their organization doesn’t have a strong culture. By taking the time to create a work environment that gives employees a sense of purpose and the means to be engaged, an organization can begin to define its culture, and reap the benefits!
How Can I Create Strong Organizational Culture?
1. Assess Current Culture & Values
It’s important to preface any major changes by assessing your current structure. Begin by recognizing that every organization has its own culture, and strive to identify all of the positive and negative elements of your existing culture. For example, your culture may bring in great sales, but also foster unhealthy levels of competition between team members. Some negative culture warning signs to look out for include poor internal communication, office gossip, and low employee engagement.
Consider some of these strategies for understanding your current organizational culture:
- Be mindful of the link between an organization’s culture and its mission and vision. Your organization’s documented values are guidelines for its culture. Read up and ensure that these documents are current and guide culture in the right direction!
- Observe the day-to-day interactions between employees. Do you notice a culture that helps employees reach their full potential, or one where they struggle to be heard
- Review current practices for recruiting, promoting, performance management, and other organizational procedures. What kinds of cultural expectations do they set?
- Find out what areas your organization is already excelling in by conducting employee interviews. Try asking employees why they’d recommend their workplace to a friend and one thing they’d change about it.
- Take a close look at your organization’s turnover and retirement rates. A low turnover rate can indicate a high-engagement culture!
- Consider utilizing a research-validated cultural assessment tool, which can measure and analyze your current culture based on surveys. These solutions can simplify the process by compiling responses into a profile detailing common behavioral norms in your organization.
Once you’ve identified what makes up your existing culture, take the time to decide what your organizational culture should look like. The culture you shape should ultimately support your organization’s goals and future. Only proceed to the next step once you’ve determined the elements of your culture that require intervention.
2. Do Your Research
After you’ve narrowed down the cultural elements that need a boost, conduct research into how you can improve them. Look into what top companies have done and consider how their methods might translate over to your organization. Keep in mind that despite their frequent association, great culture isn’t dependent upon pricey perks, like frequent company outings or catered meals. Instead, strive to create an environment where everyone’s input is celebrated and day-to-day interactions are positive.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Encourage inter-departmental socializing to strengthen bonds between team members. Hootsuite implemented a random coffee program, in which employees from different departments were paired to spend a coffee break together. This helps employees feel more incorporated in their workplace, in turn increasing their loyalty. It also opens up the possibility of collaboration between departments!
- Utilize an inter-office messaging system to foster a culture of open communication. Slack recommends using their messaging system to improve culture by allowing employees to ask company executives questions in a designated chat channel. A tool like this can also be used to foster positive interactions between employees by providing a platform to publicly recognize a job well done!
- Emulate your values within your own HR department! Managing company policies and federal or state guidelines, such as the FMLA, with a human touch can have a positive effect on organizational culture. Consider utilizing a leave law web app to ensure that you're consistently applying all applicable leave laws, especially during the sensitive times when it can become necessary. With leave law information and forms at your fingertips, you'll have the time you need to make sure the rest of your leave process is aligned with cultural values.
3. Collaborate With Stakeholders
While HR often sparks the movement, organizational change must be embraced by leaders in order to be effective, as they set the tone for the rest of the organization by leading by example. Offering your assistance to leadership, who are often too tied up to conduct investigations themselves, will help your push for cultural change. Be prepared to communicate organizational culture’s bottom-line value and impact on success to really drive home the importance of your movement!
Once you have their buy-in, encourage leaders to take ownership by collaborating on next steps. You can ease this process by proposing clear priorities and solutions based on your research. You’ll also want to ensure you’re prepared to equip leaders with strategies to positively influence culture themselves, in case they’re unsure of how they can help.
4. Roll Out Changes
The success of organization-wide change depends upon the agreement that change is necessary across all departments and positions. Ease this transformation by distributing documentation that details the benefits, from an employee perspective. Communicating changes across the board in a transparent and consistent manner will help to establish the relevance of cultural change.
Involve employees throughout your roll-out process to reduce resistance. Consider holding meetings to openly discuss changes and address any questions. These could be company-wide or departmental, depending on the size and needs of your organization. You can provide assistance throughout this process by bridging the gap between employees and leadership, to ensure a smooth transition.
5. Monitor Effectiveness
Following the initial roll out process, you’ll need to continually monitor your organization’s culture to ensure that changes are effective. Fortunately, there are a number of tools and strategies available for assessing the changes made to your organizational culture:
- If you’ve implemented any new programs or initiatives, monitor their uptake and lend a hand to any employees who may not understand how to utilize or benefit from them.
- Keep a close eye on your rate of turnover. A strong organizational culture supports employee engagement and provides employees with a sense of purpose, giving them a reason to stick around!
- Continue to conduct employee surveys and interviews and assess how and if their answers change. Be sure to address the feedback you receive!
- Look for some of the common signs of cultural shift, including improved company reputation, greater quality of work, and increased productivity.
Throughout the process, bear in mind that cultural change doesn’t happen overnight! Be open to making adjustments to your strategy over time, as you discover what works best for your organization. Remember, putting a strong culture in place provides the framework for great performance to follow!