The culture within your organisation will determine how your staff communicate with each other as well as how they serve your customers or clients. Culture affects everything: staff morale, team performance and ultimately the success of your organisation as a whole.
Most people accept this as a concept, but struggle to understand what organisational culture really is, how to define their own or how to create one that is effective!
A strong culture allows you to set and manage employee expectations from the start, ensuring the shared ethos is fully integrated into their working lives and behaviour in the workplace
What is organisational culture?
One definition of culture by Deal and Kennedy is “the way a we do things around here” which is a great starting point. Here at Transcend, we also like to think of it as a set of “shared expectations that determine how we all behave at work”.
It will encompass everything from the attitudes and behaviour of staff to the way they dress, office etiquette, habits, working style and communications. It will inform the strategic direction of the business and impact staff satisfaction & productivity.
Harvard Business Review studied 20,000 workers across 50 organisations a few years ago. At the end of it, they concluded “why we work determines how well we work.” They found that a high-performing culture maximises the play, purpose, and potential felt by its people, and minimises the emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia. In other words, if your work environment is motivating, you’ll perform well and want to stay.
So how do you build an effective culture that attracts the right people to join, develops them into highly effective workers and retains them for longer within your workforce?
The process of shaping an effective culture should encompass the following areas:
It is vital that senior leaders and key stakeholders have agreed what your overall organisational values are. These are often written on your website or included in your marketing material.
In addition to this, leaders should also discuss key aspects of your culture and clarify expectations at different levels.
As a starting point we suggest considering things like:
- Work commitment, quality and results
- Communication and sharing knowledge
- Management style and leadership
- Collaboration across teams
- Innovation in the workplace
The Transcend model can offer many other examples, but these are a good place to start.
If people don’t know what’s expected, they can rarely act.
Without a doubt, managing expectations when someone joins (or even during the interview process) will help. A simple induction handbook can set things out clearly for staff and managers.
The majority of ‘culture’ is about the day to day interactions between management, staff, customers and partners.
With this in mind, it is vital that communication is more than just a written piece of paper. You need to show people what your culture is and ensure that everyone leads by example, from the top-down.
Regular meetings are a great way to do this. If you have a distributed workforce, hold virtual group meetings that ensure everyone feels they are part of the team. Reinforce them with regular one-to-one meetings if necessary.
Leading by example shows that you are serious. If office etiquette includes switching your phone to silent in meetings, having a clear desk or following particular procedures, ensure everyone does it or explains why it may not be happening.
Appreciate and celebrate to build positivity. The majority of organisations want a positive culture. It’s easy to forget to appreciate every day positive contributions. By making the time to do so you are communicating company culture every day.
It’s a great start to clarify and communicate your culture, but if you don’t stick with it, things will soon start to unravel and your efforts will be wasted.
If you’re inconsistent in enforcing guidelines, employees will end up feeling confused. This can result in a lack of direction and a lot of disgruntled employees feeling that expectations apply to some people and not others – this generates feelings of unfairness.
If some people don’t fit in with the culture, don’t chop and change to accommodate everyone. Instead, have the difficult discussion with managers who are not leading consistently in the first place
Consistency means others will be happier and everyone will know where they stand. Consistency is also helpful in recruiting the right people.
If you are also communicating consistently as part of the recruitment process, you will attract employees that fit in with your preferred environment. This helps maintain the right culture, creating a more stable environment for all employees, existing and new.
What kind of culture?
Creating an organisational culture must be something that fits in with your brand values, industry, customer base and leadership team.
Look at other organisations for inspiration, talk to your team, and ask yourself what type of company you want to build.
Above all, treat people with respect and remain steady in the culture you end up adopting. If you do so, your organisation will be more efficient and your staff more satisfied.
Richard Branson takes “serious fun” to new dimensions.
Richard Branson is no doubt a visionary leader in company culture. As his company, Virgin, grew from record stores to a full-blown enterprise, “serious fun” became a driving force behind his company’s culture. The idea started as a simple effort to disrupt “business as usual” and introduce some fun into the day. And overtime has since scaled across the different verticals of the Virgin family.
Recently, the next generation in “serious fun” began. The newest sector of the enterprise, Virgin Hotels, launched a distinctive employee wellness program. True to Virgin fashion, it focuses on a well-rounded approach, whose offerings range from yoga classes to a softball league, from free English lessons to the encouragement of an infusion of employee personality into the business. For example: Someone at the hotel front desk doing a moonwalk while checking you in, or a chef incorporating his love of tattoos into a brand new dish.
Virgin Hotels’ program puts the health and happiness of employees at the heart of all they do. It is a new iteration of the company’s core vision and demonstrates the company culture to new additions to the Virgin empire.
Virgin’s VP of People Clio Knowles describes it this way: “If we truly live the culture every day, it becomes part of the fabric of who we are as a company, and in order for it to become embedded in our daily lives, we have to reinforce it regularly.”