BusinessDay

Culture, culture, culture

Company culture is the environment in which employees work. This includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.

Company culture is important because it leads to many positive things, like high productivity, better morale, greater employee engagement, more sales and creativity and lower turnover.

A crucial thing to note is that people are the heart of an organisation’s success or failure. A company must foster a culture that inspires innovation, dedication, and enthusiasm in the workforce. We can conclude that if company culture is not any of the above, it is toxic and will lead to company decline.

The way to create a culture that has talent lining up at HRM and clients lining up for company products starts with leadership that focuses on creating a culture that encourages staff to believe in the mission of the organisation. There must be a mission.

Corporate must be deeply rooted in the company’s core purpose and value. The company’s product and services are never enough to pull the customers and employees in. This makes people want to be part of the organisation. For employees to feel good about what they do, you have to articulate your values explicitly and intentionally.

The value statements should represent the vision of what you believe your company should represent. You may need to pull in your top executives for several days of crafting to get it right. A way to do this is by crafting an aspirational story that will look into the future for a number of years highlighting things like a sense of contribution, sense of belonging, great productivity, flexibility. As many things as you can think about what it would be like for you as an employee to work in the organisation.

Authenticity is another key component of building culture. You must believe in the culture you are building, and the process must be genuine. Leadership must be fiercely and personally accountable. They must act within the defined values so as to earn the trust of employees and help people buy into the process.

If an employee genuinely feels there is integrity in what has been declared at the top and that leadership deeply believes in and reinforces the values, then they will feel they are genuinely advancing a purpose for good reason. Leadership must be prepared to communicate the values and always act on them.

Being a listening organisation is also important. You must therefore create listening posts throughout the organisation so as to gather quantitative and qualitative data about your culture. If you are listening attentively, your data should confirm that your culture is motivating your employees or alert you to signs that change is required.

Surveys are a good feedback tool. Quantitative data like, low employee turnover, high retention, ease of hiring good quality talent, high productivity, high customer engagement can also show that your culture is working.

Read also: Olajumoke Aleoke-Malachi, Lead, People and Culture

Effective and direct communication must also be ongoing as part of the process of feedback. One on one meetings, working groups, workshops and conferences are a good way to get direct feedback from top down and across the organisation.

Listening posts are critical for alerting you to when your culture is trending in a negative direction. High employee turnover is an obvious sign that the culture is not working. A root cause problem could be a lack of psychological safety. Employees may not feel safe to express concerns, report problems, be proactive or creative, promote innovation or take risks. One of the most powerful indications that people don’t feel safe is silence.

Listen to criticism and do not be defensive. Have the courage and honesty to accept when something is not working. Gut reaction may want you to write off criticism as just opposition to change, but rise above gut reaction.

Ensure that your actions are in line with corporate value to build psychological safety. This may require rebuilding trust and ensuring that your actions align with your values and acknowledge wrongdoing where necessary.

How mistakes are handled can reinforce or undermine culture. Acknowledge mistakes and examine them in the context of core purpose and value. Reviewing how errors occurred enables you to learn the right lessons. Only then can you truly promote a culture of acceptable risk-taking, creativity and innovation. Leadership is not always perfect.

Creating culture or culture change is never static. The goal is to create momentum in a positive direction. Every small step starts to reinforce all the other steps moving you forward. The reverse can also be true that if you are not careful, the movement can tend toward toxicity.

Never stop paying attention to your listening posts. They should confirm your positive direction. Always look for the trends that are moving you forward. Frequently revisit and revise your value system. Finally, be relentless about your communication system.

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