Do You Have a Culture Strategy?

Monday, November 18 2019

Culture is the shared values, attitudes, behaviours, assumptions, norms, and expectations of the organization.  It is the way the organization operates and has a huge impact on its success, influencing the ability to attract and retain great employees and customers; impacting work satisfaction and motivation; affecting productivity and performance.

Despite its critical importance, we tend to allow culture to manifest organically, which often yields undesirable results. However, you can generate the culture and success you want if you:

1. Define the Essential Elements

What is the vision?  What attitudes, behaviours, assumptions, norms, expectations, and values do you want in your organization? This is a great opportunity to survey employees and get a sense of the culture they would like – one that would motivate them to do great work. Asking for input increases buy-in and the chance of success.

Company ABC may determine their desired culture includes:

  • Asking questions when things are unclear
  • Treating others with respect
  • An environment that is psychologically, mentally, and physically safe
  • Taking risks and treating failure as a learning opportunity
  • Preferring teamwork and interdependence to independence
  • Providing clear expectations
  • Letting others know when deadlines can’t be met
  • Being honest, even when it’s difficult
  • Cheesy contests and silly events

2. Create Metrics

What you measure is what you’ll get. Defining specific metrics for the elements you seek will drive behaviour in that direction and enable you to determine if you have the desired culture. Ensure you create a plan to measure the metric you are looking to achieve. Company ABC could:

  • Create a simple employee survey, sent every two months, that asks “How well do we provide clear expectations to each other?” and “How honest are we with each other?” and aim for an average score of 9/10 on each question.
  • Create a goal for each person to take at least one risk per quarter and have everyone record their risk-taking activities.
  • Plan to have one cheesy contest per month and track it.

3. Evaluate Results, Celebrate Successes, and Make Course Corrections

Just because we create an expectation, doesn’t mean it’s upheld.  It’s important to evaluate outcomes to see if they match planned ones.  It’s relatively easy once the metrics are established; the key is taking time to evaluate.

Celebrate when the organization does well at meeting the goals. Celebration doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, acknowledgement goes a long way.

Take time to understand what’s going on in areas that are not going as planned.  What’s the root of the problem?  Create and implement corrective actions.

Company ABC may:

  • Review their survey results each quarter and ask all managers to report successes to their team.
  • Review the frequency of risk-taking activities and seek to understand why some aren’t taking risks.
  • Celebrate having 12 cheesy contests by hosting a silly event.

You can establish the culture that helps you find and retain the right people, and will generate the success your organization wants to achieve.