The culture is the lifeblood of any organisation regardless of size – it’s the heart and soul. It’s at the centre of talent retention and acquisition, business performance and overall team engagement. Culture is defined in many ways but a simple dictionary definition is the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
In the latest ‘Great Place to Work Report’ – 3 Predictions for the Workplace Culture of the Future it highlights the following:
- A recent survey of CEO’s by PriceWaterhouseCoopers says 41% cited workplace culture as the aspect of their talent strategy that would make the biggest difference in attracting and retaining the people it needed to remain competitive
- Nearly seven in ten executives in a recent Delloittes survey on the future of the workplace said company culture will be critical in realizing the organisation mission.
Culture has been a top priority for the Fortune 100 Top Companies to Work For for many years now and it’s no surprise it’s become one of the most critical components in business now. David Cumming, Co-Founder of Pardot aptly points out “Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.”
So while we talk culture and the importance of it, what are the keys to creating a culture that supports the 21st century workplace, which is a complex one. Richard Branson who is someone who embodies everything his Virgin brand stands for says, “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” I love his simple approach as we can overcomplicate something like culture when it certainly doesn’t need to be. In fact, it needs to be something that’s easily communicable and livable!
Here are five keys to creating a strong and sustainable culture:
- Define Your Culture
Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook said “I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.”
How do you want your culture to be? What’s important to your business now and in the future and to your current team and future team? Your culture should be easily defined and encompass the purpose to your business. It needs to transcend time and support growth but needs to be malleable enough to evolve with our changing world.|
- Align with your Values
A strong culture is closely aligned to the organisations values. Your values should be authentic and come directly from the heart of the business. Everyone should be across the values and these should be used and linked to in all communications and be the basis of the standards of the business. These are your guiding principles in ‘how you do business’ and what’s acceptable and unacceptable in your workplace. These values should then align with the values of your employees. If there isn’t an alignment the relationship won’t work.
- Walk your Talk
It’s one thing to define and talk culture and values. It’s another thing to live it. And this is where some companies go horribly wrong. You can get a sense for a company’s culture as soon as you walk in the door. To attract and retain strong talent, to remain competitive and to thrive in a business environment now, you must live and breathe your culture. It can’t be just something that’s spoken about or something that’s written on a wall. Whatever you promise must be delivered. The leader must embody everything about the culture and values of the business and lead the way.
Communication is fundamental to the success of any relationship; it’s also fundamental to cultural success. Open and transparent communication is the key. This will be crucial if or when your culture isn’t going well. Culture is incredibly sensitive and situations can ‘rock the boat’. Honesty and transparency about the good and the bad will enhance a culture. As will calling things for what they are. That elephant in the room is not conducive to a strong culture, nor is the undercurrent of gossip. Jump on things early, never let things fester.
- Protect Your Culture
Following on from the point above, it’s one thing to establish a great culture; it’s another to protect it. And protect it fiercely. You only have to look at the demise of Uber’s culture for what can happen when a culture is left to chance. A leader must lead the culture and the whole team need to own it and uphold it. You can’t let little things slide, as they become big things. Future hires should be done in an effort to enhance the culture. Be careful of bringing anyone into your business that could damage it. And if things come to light after a couple of months in a business, your probation period is there for a reason. Act.
As Lieutenant General David Morrison AO said in his anti-misogynist speech, ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.’ What cultural standards are you accepting?
Culture doesn’t have a perfect formula to follow, I agree with Richard Branson on that one. There will be trial and error but it’s not something that will flourish if left to chance. It does have to be treated with the respect it deserves. Because when you get it right, only great things can come of it.