Okay, I couldn’t resist a nod to the late, great Tina Turner, as I sat down to reflect on this ambiguous and often overlooked topic.
Many years ago, a colleague of mine quoted Peter Drucker’s view of culture, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Now, after working with hundreds of different companies, I appreciate culture (and Drucker’s observation on its voracity) more than ever.
So, what is culture? Well, that is the tricky part. I summarize it as:
Observations ➞ Beliefs ➞ Actions ➞ Results
When people are in a work environment, they are watching what people do, listening to what people say, and trying to make sense of the rules and priorities. All of these inputs create a belief system that guides their actions. And, those actions lead to results… with some results being unintended consequences that can be harmful to the organization.
This process of developing a culture happens whether you want it to, or not.
Thus, I strongly encourage entrepreneurs to be intentional about the culture that they want to create for the company.
Here are my four steps to culture creation/maintenance/modification:
- Vision/Mission/Principles/Goals - What is your ideal culture? What are your values? What are the drivers for business success? Create a list of 4-6 attributes that you want to internalize into the fabric of your organization.
- Expand and communicate - Define each attribute with 2-3 sentences so that everyone in the organization is clear about what it means. Publicly reinforce your values with employees when you have the opportunity. Tell stories that people will remember.
- Use your “HR levers” - Hire and promote people that exemplify these attributes. Design your compensation and performance management systems to encourage people to use them.
- Be consistent and persistent - Make sure that everyone buys into the values, and that you refer to them frequently.
Building and maintaining a culture takes hard work and focus, but it is necessary for your business to thrive.
Here is a culture checklist for you to use, too. Give yourself a point for every true statement.
- Do you have core values/guiding principles, etc.?
- Does everyone in the organization know what they are?
- Does your leadership team embody them and are they committed to making it a great place to work?
- Do your managers all “live” them?
- Do you use them as screening criteria during the hiring process?
- Do you provide on-the-spot feedback when someone deviates from them?
- Do you have an internal communication strategy and implementation plan?
- Do you emphasize teamwork?
- Do you provide rewards and recognition that reinforce your values?
- 7-9 points: Great job! Your culture will help your organization succeed.
- 4-6 points: Nice start! Try to spend a little bit more time here.
- 0-3 points: Well… you might want to spend some time here. Perhaps consider creating a team to work on this to help authentically capture your culture’s “current state” and to think about how to prioritize changes and next steps.
Want to dive deeper?
Here are some free resources we can provide for you:
- Stay Interview Form
- Employee Engagement whitepaper
- Culture whitepaper
Want to take your culture to the next level?
Here are some ways that we can help:
- HR one-hour “Quick chat” to talk about your desired culture and how to get there - $150
- Culture mini-audit - special pricing of $100 for the month of June. (use promo code JuneAudit).
- Culture strategy and implementation plan designed for your organization - $1000
Let us know how we can help! Schedule an appointment with our HR expert, or call us at (734) 747-2936 to determine if this is the right fit for you!
Next month I’ll be musing about the hot topic of compensation. Do you have a question that I can answer - send it to me at Amy@AmyCellTalent.com
Amy Cell is a renowned and passionate pioneer in HR and Talent initiatives. She also leads an innovative consulting firm that specializes in recruiting and HR services for startups, small businesses, and municipalities.View Bio