The Impact of Company Culture
As a business owner, team leader, or manager you are responsible for directing the culture of your organization. Companies with strong cultures tend to out preform those without managed culture. Culture is commonly referred to as a shared set of beliefs, values, and vision. In times of change it is a good idea to keep an eye on the culture of your group and make adjustments if necessary. There are many different elements and nuisances that can make up a company’s culture. Left unaided, the culture can turn negative quickly. This can have negative impacts on whatever metrics you track.
One negative impact of not managing culture is employee turnover. This is not a cheap process! (The true costs of hiring a new employee are hard to get a clear picture on. There are many articles like this one that are helpful: The True Cost of Hiring an Employee in 2020 - Toggl Blog) Employees can become unhappy with their job for a variety of reasons. Unhappy employees disengage. Then they do not represent the company well and reflect their “mood” about the company to their customers and clients. They do not communicate well with each other. They are not happy and they seek different employment. You find yourself with a hole in the team and a need to fill it.
Set, See, and Share the Vision
It is important for leaders and managers to have a clear picture of where the company or team is heading. More importantly, you must share that information with the group. Each employee needs to understand how they fit into that vision, that their work is valuable to the group, and without their inputs the group wouldn’t function as well as it could.
Considering the changes 2020 brought, there are a few situations you might find yourself in. One path is that your vision hasn’t changed. Then discuss that with your employees. Make sure they still have a clear idea of how they, and their role, fit into achieving that vision.
Another is that, your vision has changed. Address the changes this has had to the culture and to the individual. Communicate that change, the steps along the change, and what the vision is for the future. Fear is a common reaction to change. Information, communication, and discussion will combat those emotions before they have a chance grow.
A third path you might find yourself on is that your company vision needs to change. The pandemics rapid impact on many businesses caused a reactive response at front line levels of execution, which may have forced policy changes. A company cannot live on policy changes alone. To persist or grow, strategic level thinking and planning must take place. Vision and mission are often discussed at this level. One important element, that doesn’t always make a business plan, is culture and how it will help realize that vision. Take some time as soon as possible to assess your company or team vision and make changes as needed.
Get Innovative with Culture
The four steps I use for applying innovation to any problem are:
1. Frame the Problem
2. Ask the Right Questions
3. Brainstorm Solutions
4. Create an Action Plan
Figure 1 Steps to Innovate Around A Problem
When talking about innovating with a culture, it is helpful to change the verbiage slightly to these four steps:
1. Define the Desired Characteristics
2. Determine the Current Culture
3. Brainstorm Opportunities
4. Create an Action Plan
Figure 2 Steps to Innovate with Culture
Let’s dive in a little deeper to these steps.
Define the Desired Characteristics
How do you want the culture to look and feel?
What are the common beliefs and values you want to be shared? Things to consider here are organizational structure, formality, tone. There are many dimensions to consider. Try to get as clear a picture as you can before you move to the next step. Knowing where you want to be, is very powerful during this process.
Determine the Current Culture
What is it like in the current culture?
Observe how people interact, work, and connect. A good way to figure out how they feel is to ask them. Getting honest feedback can be difficult, and using third-party to ask questions, collect responses and analyze data can be very helpful here. Some dimensions to assess are:
· About the Job Itself
· Independence and Responsibility
· Client Relationships
· Feedback and Recognition
· Interpersonal Relationships
· Learning, Growth, and Advancement
· Outcomes and Results
· Organization Specific Questions
How are you going to make the changes from the current culture to the desired culture?
Now you have two clear pictures. One of the culture you want, and one of the current culture. This is the step where you brainstorm ideas that will bridge the gaps. Researching companies that have similar characteristics to those you desire could be helpful. Perhaps policies need to be changed. Meetings and discussions need to take place. Collect event ideas, training topics, teambuilding activity ideas. Try to be open to any and all ideas.
Create an Action Plan
What can you do, and what will you do?
During this step, determine costs and benefits of the ideas. Decide what are the best options to pursue. Then put them in order and create a plan. Finally, execute the plan. Remember that, depending on the degree of change, there may be resistance. Communicate clearly about the changes. Actively manage and address concerns as they arise.
The Importance of Managing Company Culture
Actively managing company culture is now arguably more important than it was pre-pandemic and can have very positive results. Change and uncertainty are stressful. It is important to keep your employees engaged and help them understand that they have an impact and are part of a shared vision. Keeping this engagement with employees will help them be happier and decrease turnover and other negative effects of poor culture. If you haven’t already, it is time to start thinking strategically, engage your innovative mindset, and start managing your company’s culture.