English - United States
Company culture is a phrase that seems to be said by many, but understood by few. Culture is an ambiguous term by nature; intrinsically we know it’s an important aspect of any organization of people, but it’s hard to pin down what it actually means to the business world. According to the Harvard Business Review, company culture…
“... guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time”
We know that company culture fits within the realm of Human Resources, and is highly important for building corporate identity and employee retention. But does Human Resources really have the power to guide and influence the direction of company's culture?
The answer is YES!
...as long as you get the reasons behind your strategy right.
Putting little thought, or no thought at all, into the type of culture your company wants to promote can have disastrous effects on the longevity of your business. Without proper thought and strategies put into place a toxic culture will certainly arise, leading to unmotivated employees affecting the productivity of your operations, high turnover rates and negative employee brand awareness.
To prevent a toxic culture breeding in your workplace, it’s important to ensure the culture goals of the organization are both achievable and realistic. For example, aiming for perfect employee satisfaction scores is neither achievable nor realistic (unless perhaps you run an ice cream tasting factory?!). However, creating a culture where open communication is rewarded and encouraged is realistic and can be easily achieved, given the right tools.
Here are three scenarios when culture will become an elusive Human Resources goal;
We all know Simon Sinek’s memorable line from the Millennials in the Workplace interview: and millennials will say “we want to work in a place with purpose, we want to make an impact, we want free food and bean bag chairs.”
We might laugh at this sentence, but how many companies are highlighting company perks in their job postings these days? Of course these are appealing to employee prospects, but this incorrectly places the “free food and bean bags” as an important factor to look for in a future employer.
The most troubling thing about this is so many people confuse company perks, such as food and foosball tables, with company culture. It really makes you wonder if a ping pong table at work is the symbolic band aid to a toxic workplace culture.
Does this mean we’re saying ditch your company perks? Absolutely not. The perks you may offer your employees do have importance; they show you’re invested in their satisfaction, you value their contribution and you want them to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Perks can certainly offer ROI, such as higher retention rights and positive employer-brand perception, but the bottom line is that they do not equal a healthy workplace culture.
What to focus on instead:
Communication is a key ingredient to your company culture; it improves productivity, employee happiness, and has a positive effect on absenteeism and turnover rates. Transparent, open and honest conversations amongst employees help to fuel this effect, with face-to-face communication helping to break down barriers and formalities.
But what do you do when your company comprises of multiple locations, with many frontline staff, and you only have a top-line view of the way these teams work?
For companies to thrive in the digital age - where customer service is competing with a few clicks on a computer - engaged employees are key to providing exceptional customer experiences. If your company culture goals are too focused on the needs of your head office, you’re discounting the needs of employees (who can often be the driving force of the companies success) which can lead to disengagement.
What to focus on instead:
You’ve read the books, you’ve surveyed people across the board. You have a pretty good understanding of where the company culture is currently at, and where it needs to go, to achieve a great culture. But unless an effective feedback loop is put into place, your plans will only result in a perception of your company's culture... not a reality.
So how do you gain feedback on the effectiveness of effort to guide the company's culture? Is it through another survey? Or do you wait to receive results from the next annual review? The answer is to create a feedback loop using internal comms software with internal communication mobile apps that ensure employees consistently have multiple avenues to provide feedback, and this knowledge is shared amongst the organization.
Creating consistent behaviors around feedback in all areas of the organization helps people trust each other enough to share openly and more often. If promoting a “culture of feedback” isn’t one of your goals, then it should be.
What to focus on instead:
All the way from "down under" Louise has joined Speakap to help businesses to build better relationships with their workforce. When she's not busy producing the Frontline podcast, you might catch her running... while listening to a podcast.
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