We've written and researched so much on organizational culture that it can be tough to know where to start, so here's our primer with must-read (and must-watch) resources.
Let's start with some basic rules that will get you on the right path for a thriving culture:
- Create a mission: Every company needs a direction. Your mission statement highlights the company’s goals and what it’s striving to achieve. So to create and maintain a strong culture, it has to be molded from the top down. Creating a mission statement will keep employees all on the same page and driving in the same direction.
- Maintain transparency: What are the benefits of hiding information from employees? It might seem less complicated to wait until you have confirmation or you’ve made a final decision, but doing that creates an air of assumptions. Be transparent with your information and keep employees in the loop so they know what’s going on in the business.
A great culture means happy employees and a better working atmosphere — essential qualities in a strong company. But don't assume that culture lacks a quantifiable impact:
It seems like a no-brainer that a company with hardworking employees will make more money. Ensuring your employees are working hard comes down to your company’s focus on engagement. From there, connect the dots from a strong financial performance to hard workers to employee engagement — it all leads down to organizational culture.
- Working groups in the top quarter of employee engagement outperformed the bottom quarter by 21% productivity and 22% profitability
While many different factors go into building your company culture, organizational values are like the basic building blocks. They lay down the ground rules and give you guidance on how to make company decisions. To find out how to handle this crucial component of your organization, we turn to science:
Stanford University’s Jamil Zaki conducted research on how people’s values relate to being part of a group, and here are some of the most interesting ideas for company leaders.
Social connection: It’s important to us that our values are shared by the rest of our social group. In Zaki’s research, people who were told that their opinions were the same as the rest of the group experienced a reward response in their brains. Another experiment showed that money, which our brains usually see as a reward, caused less of a reward response if it would hurt a participant’s social connections.
Shifting values: Zaki also found that if a person learned that their value judgments were different from their peers, they shifted their opinions closer to the group’s. So social connections can actually change a person’s values.
Your values will be unique to your company, but there are some essential threads that should be woven into the concepts:
When asked what factors were important to their happiness, here’s what employees said:
- 72% said the respectful treatment of all employees at all levels
- 64% said trust between employees and senior management
So consider adding trust and respect to your organizational values. As the economy recovers and jobs become more secure and competitive for workers, this kind of open and positive office culture is increasingly important. Here’s how you can get started.
This week's advanced reading takes a look at what can happen when culture goes awry. We surveyed tech employees and found widespread dissatisfaction — particularly around cultural values:
IT workers showed a worrying mismatch between themselves and their companies when it comes to the purpose behind their work. For instance, very few of them are aware of their organization’s mission and values.
According to Globoforce, 88% of employees who know their company values say they are engaged (compared to only 54% of those who don’t). That’s because values inform every aspect of a company’s operation, from how to treat customers to how departments communicate with each other. When there’s a tough choice to be made, employees should be guided by your organization’s principles, not just whatever is currently convenient.
IT employees are telling us they don’t even know what those values are. Of those who do, the majority don’t consider them compatible with their own values.
Got some time to sit and listen? Watch our on-demand webinar (and earn HRCI and SHRM credit while you're at it!):
- The crucial role values play in your company
- Which values are right for you
- Ways to make them memorable
- How to bring them to life
Here's some "homework" for you: creating your own list of company values. Even if your organization has established values, try the tips in this e-book to make sure you've got the right values for building the culture you want.
1. List who you like and why: As a manager, you’ve had plenty of time to work with bosses and colleagues, and by now, there are several you admire and enjoy working with. Jot down the names of four or five of them. Then list out what you liked about them.
2. List who you don't like and why: We’ve also all worked with people we find less than stellar — the kind that drain your energy and make you want to pull your hair out. So flip the preceding point on its head and list the names of four or five people you’ve disliked working with. Then describe the characteristics that made them unappealing colleagues.
And when culture issues raise their ugly head — which is inevitable, even in great companies — it's helpful ot know how other leaders before you have found solutions to similar problems. Check out these real-life stories of navigating cultural speed bumps.
The Challenge: Creating a Transparent Culture
Transparency is a two-way street. Leadership needs candid communication from their employees in order to know what’s going well and what isn’t. “It’s hard to get that transparent feedback from your employees,” says Amy Patton, Director of Culture and Well-Being at Limeade. And she’s not alone. According to the Harvard Business Review, 42% of employees withhold information from their managers if they believe they may lose something by sharing
The Tool: Anonymous Feedback
Patton found her solution in an anonymous feedback tool. A weekly online survey allows employees to give their direct input without being identified. It’s “the perfect opportunity for our employees to be honest and feel like it’s a safe place to express their concerns,” says Patton. “Or, you know, happy moments too!”
You've got plenty of reading and actionable assignments to keep you busy. Then come back next week for our guide to employee recognition and appreciation.
We want to hear from you! What would you like to see from TINYinstitute? What resources do you need to become a better leader?