The term “agile” has become a buzzword in recent years, impacting more than just tech companies as well as Research and Development teams. The idea of regular improvement has a place in most business conversations now, and yet, when it comes to company culture, it seems that we often fall into patterns of mass change, rather than iterative advancements. The question I encourage organizations to consider is:
How are we regularly evolving our culture?
Peter Drucker is known for saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and, data supports his claim. Forbes reports that companies with strong cultures see a four times increase in revenue growth. Those with poor cultures see 18 percent lower productivity and a 37 percent increase in employee absenteeism.
While employers recognize that culture is important, they often primarily place a focus on our workplace environments when there are major shifts in employee demographics or large-scale organizational changes. We recommend that companies are proactive about attending to their cultures and making continual improvements.
To place a consistent focus on this critical aspect of business, I invite you to consider these eight tips to help your workplace environment evolve.
1. Evaluate culture against your company’s objectives
Culture should support your ultimate business goals. If they are at odds, you will find that culture does indeed eat strategy for breakfast. It will be challenging to reach your objectives if your environment does not support your targets. A great place to start as you adapt your culture is by ensuring that it aligns with your yearly and long-term goals.
2. Involve more than your CEO in the process
Leadership often drives culture, and typically, the CEO carries the most weight. However, this practice can be risky, especially as CEO tenure has been decreasing in recent years. Beyond the numbers, there is another reason to involve more employees in setting culture: cognitive diversity. When one or a small handful of individuals set workplace norms, you may find that they favor a working style that may not fully connect with your existing staff, or the prospective employees you seek to attract.
By using a cognitively diverse team, you can spark innovation and approach culture from all perspectives. To ensure that you have diversity of thought when addressing your work environment, try putting together a WEteam, which is a group of individuals with each Emergenetics® Thinking Attribute and a range of Behavioral Attributes represented.
3. Explore ideas from other companies
As you brainstorm adaptations within your culture, look to other organizations to identify creative approaches. Try reading local, national and global Best Places to Work reports or articles and consider what ideas you may want to borrow, or what new concepts they inspire. You may also try exploring LinkedIn as a number of organizations highlight their cultural practices on their company pages or attending industry events to learn more about what other businesses are doing to promote a positive workplace.
4. Ask for employee input
Surprisingly, nearly one in five employees report that their companies do not formally measure employee engagement, which can be a missed opportunity to understand your staff’s perception of your company culture and identify ways you can better meet the needs of your people. In addition to formal measures, I also recommend that you ask high performing teams within your organization what they do to support culture and determine if you should expand these practices to the larger employee population.
Try using a mix of surveys as well as in-person opportunities to garner feedback and do so regularly. Annual culture surveys are useful, and I encourage you to brainstorm ways to take the pulse of employees more frequently to better track the impact of your initiatives throughout the year and find additional avenues for culture improvements.
5. Commit to promoting and hiring employees who walk the talk
If you want your work environment to thrive and continue evolving, it is important that your people exemplify the company culture. One way to do this is to include culture metrics in performance reviews. Having an honest conversation when employees do not meet expectations helps build credibility and ensure that culture changes you make are implemented.
6. Share traditions and embrace the new
While company cultures should grow, consider how you will honor the history of your organization and share any key traditions that you want to maintain. Not everything needs to change as you adapt your workplace, and when something does shift, explain why so that employees can more easily embrace new operations and expectations.
7. Align your company culture with the Emergenetics Attributes
In companies with more than a handful of employees, you can reasonably assume that you will have staff members with preferences in each of the Emergenetics Attributes. To ensure they remain engaged, it’s important that your work environment supports the needs of each preference, so take time to assess whether your company’s culture connects with each Attribute. If not, I encourage you to reflect on what changes you can make to better support all preferences.
8. Review your culture on a consistent basis, and reaffirm or revise
My final recommendation carries a central assumption: that you understand, and better yet, have documented cultural elements such as the values, behaviors and attitudes that define how your employees work together and do business. If you do not, I invite you to start there, and you may consider using our Power of WE: Crafting Team Norms workshop to help you.
Now, assuming you can articulate these cultural aspects, determine how often you will assess your workplace environment. Using the tips above to help guide your actions, you can use this regularly scheduled time to identify any changes you need to make and update or reaffirm documentation, so all employees are clear on cultural expectations.
Culture can and should evolve throughout the course of your company’s history. By being proactive in adapting your workplace environment, you can help employees feel like the changes they experience are positive evolutions – rather than rocky revolutions – in your organization.
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