7 Tips to Improve Your Company Culture
Identifying the company culture in your business can be hard to assess, especially if you just let it develop instead of developing it with a purpose. Whether you realize it or not, your company culture will decide the fate of your company. If the pandemic taught us anything, it was that the top-down management approach often referred to as command-and-control management, should be a thing of the past. The great resignation is not about people wanting more money; it is about people wanting better working conditions. With that, 79% of people leave their jobs because they feel unappreciated; only 12% leave for more money.
When developing culture, most companies create a mission statement that aligns with the company strategy and communicates that to the company. Those turn into performance reviews to build their culture around. Yet, despite creating a clear set of values, people’s actions often fail to reflect them.
Acknowledgment Leads to Action
It makes me think of when I was raising my kids and now when I watch my grandkids. It was all about rewarding for good behavior and discipline for bad behavior. I remember the terrible twos, which lasted for more years than I care to remember. The terrible two’s is when your kids begin to figure things out; they know what they want, can’t fully communicate it yet, get frustrated and begin to lash out. Either with a tantrum, yelling, or hitting, pick your poison. When they began to lash out and misbehave, we stopped them immediately. We disciplined them. When they did something good, we either praised them or rewarded them.
This is human behavior. Every leader should know the importance of encouraging people to behave in certain ways by acknowledging them when they do so - otherwise, how will they know what you expect? Simply broadcasting your values doesn’t necessarily lead to action.
I had a client several years back. She had around 20 employees. She never let anyone know they did or were doing a good job. Her culture was one where she didn’t yell at you for doing something because she had specific expectations that she never communicated; it was when you didn’t do it the way she would. On the flip side, when someone would do something good, I would say to her, tell them that they did a good job. Her response to me was that they should know they did a good job. NOOOOOO, I insisted, they need to hear it from you! The culture was extremely toxic and is best described as a culture of fear. People were afraid to even send an email for fear of being reprimanded that they didn’t say things the way she would. Although I tried my best, she was unwilling to change, and I was forced to let her go as a client; 2 years later, she was out of business.
Mission Possible: Improving Your Culture
You may not have a mission statement or a set of core values on your wall, but people in your company do act and interact in discernable ways. What are those ways? Think about the beliefs, norms, attitudes, goals, conventions, and behaviors you see at work. What are the common themes and behavioral trends? If employees don’t seem to work and interact in cohesive or structured ways, in what ways do they function?
Specific questions you can ask yourself:
Do people get along with each other?
Do they trust and respect each other?
How do they communicate?
Do they collaborate and share their ideas, or keep insights to themselves?
How do various teams and departments work together?
How do people generally respond to change?
Do you hold activities or events throughout the year? If so, what is attendance like? Do people enjoy them? What effects do they have on the organization?
What are meetings like? Are they organized and efficient, or a waste of time?
What management style do you use? Is it directive, coaching-based, or empowering? And how do your employees perceive it?
What principles motivate people in your workplace?
As you go through your rules and traditions, try to come up with about five words that describe the way people behave, treat each other, and work together. These are the characteristics of your culture. For example, if people generally show one another respect, you probably have a culture of respect. But, be sure, to be honest. Describe the characteristics that you see, not the characteristics that you’d like to see.
Identify Conflicts Between The Plan And The Practice
After observing and evaluating your rules and traditions, check for any conflict or resistance to these rules and customs. If you have defined core values, do people follow them? If you have established policies, do you enforce them? Do you consistently hold people accountable to your expectations? If you have a peer recognition program, do employees use it to praise their co-workers?
Just because you’ve established rules and traditions doesn’t mean that they’ve strongly affected the workplace. Are you leading by example? This is key when building the culture; employees won’t be motivated to follow the policies and procedures you set up if you don’t follow them yourself. If people are working in conflicting ways, try to find out why. Knowing the reasons will be important when you start to assess and improve your company culture.
Identify Your People
When identifying your culture, you must consider the people who work in your organization. A big influence on culture is simply the people in a place and how they work and get along as individuals. Who are your formal and informal leaders? How are they influencing people in your workplace, and in what ways? What kinds of personalities and personal values do your employees have? Do people tend to work harmoniously, or do they clash?
Need Help Determining the Type of Culture You Want? Ask Your People!
Identifying your culture is a process that may require more in-depth insight than one person can manage. One way to better understand the type of culture you want is to survey your people to get their thoughts. Depending on the size of your company, you could set up a Culture Committee/ task force composed of people from various departments. Since the members come from across the company, they will see things you might miss. With their help, you’ll get a more accurate and complete picture of the culture and a better sense of when the culture is changing. With your people's help, the buy-in will be easier for the rest of the company.
Knowing Their Why
Take time to understand and be responsive to employee needs, motivations, and priorities. As we stated in the opening paragraph of this blog, only 12% of people leave a job for more money. Let’s be real, a paycheck may be the reason everyone has a job in the first place, but it’s not the only reason people choose to work or decide to work for one employer over another. Your culture is a huge intangible. When you have a rewarding, supportive and appreciative culture, your employees stick with you because there’s something in it for them besides the money. The job is useful to them. Knowing why it’s useful enables you to keep employees satisfied and, better yet, make their jobs even more appealing.
Understand Why Employees Leave
Sometimes you can’t find the right seat on the bus for someone, they know it as well, and they become a distraction that can disrupt and hurt your culture. It could be someone that is an integral part of your company, but for some reason, they decided it was time to move on. I have a very clear philosophy when a person says they are leaving. LET THEM. Say Thank you for your time, and good luck in the future. Then let them go. Remember, you have only so much time in the day. Don’t spend it trying to entice people to stay if they really want to leave the organization. Sometimes that sounds harsh and can be hard, especially if it’s someone that does a lot of things for you and they have been with you for a while. Trust me when I say I know the feeling. It feels a bit like betrayal or maybe even a gut punch. But, and this is a big BUT, over the years, I would say that 99% of the time, I came out on the other side looking back and saying we are better than I would have ever imagined. Why? Because instead of focusing on finding a way to keep them, you focus on why they left and how you can improve things for the next person.
You Are Not Alone!
Trying to run a company and build a culture can be overwhelming. Pull the Chute was designed to help you with those challenges. Click here to book a free one-hour coaching session and let’s see how together we can put your company on the path to success. It’s time to stop doing the same things and expect different results. Let’s reach your business goals together.
Have specific questions? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.