How many of these fit your business?
Culture has become a popular industry buzzword over the last few years, a way to define what may be missing when businesses face deeper challenges with everything from recruitment/retention to communication to sales/revenue growth and much more.
And it’s true – your company culture does affect all of those things. More difficult to pinpoint though is what culture actually means. What it looks like and feels like and sounds like for your business. You can read about hundreds of examples of cultural excellence – from Zappos to USSA to Google – but those examples aren’t necessarily duplicable. One company’s culture is not the same as another’s, because every business is different. If you try to replicate someone else’s culture, your results aren’t likely to be as effective, because the effort won’t be as authentic.
There are some commonalities however that can help you recognize when your business is on the right cultural path. Companies with strong internal cultures often share some key characteristics, including:
Organizations with a strong culture understand their purpose – the why behind the work they do – and promote it at every level, from leadership to employees, customers to vendors to visitors. Company decision-making, branding and processes should all reflect that purpose.
While your purpose remains constant, to have an effective internal culture your business must be adaptable, able to recognize and react to new opportunities and challenges alike. Businesses that welcome change are better positioned to predict and pivot as markets and consumer needs shift, paving the way for strong employee confidence in leadership decision-making and the company’s future, which in turn builds loyalty and cultural buy-in.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you certainly can’t grow it. Having a strong culture means cultivating a results-focused mindset, putting structures and processes in place to measure success of internal and external performance indicators – from employee morale and job satisfaction to customer service or revenue growth – and then using the gathered data to drive decision-making. How is your business currently measuring your:
- onboarding/training efforts
- employee engagement
- internal communication
- customer satisfaction
- marketing/brand strategies
- management effectiveness
- recruitment/retention efforts
- anything else that ultimately drives your bottom line
If the answer is “I’m not sure” or “We’re not”, or if you are measuring but not utilizing the results in your decision-making or strategic planning, then this is a good time to evaluate those opportunities and put processes in place to ensure you’re fully capitalizing on those investments.
They have excellent communication
Communication is one of the most universal challenges businesses face – the root of almost all problems can be traced back to a lack of communication or miscommunication. The right internal culture alleviates many of those common communication barriers. Open dialogue, clear internal and external communication strategies with checks-and-balance processes in place are all important characteristics of a solid company culture. Customer service complaints, high employee turnover, low workforce morale, management problems, missed orders/deliveries/deadlines and lack of awareness of products/services are all common warning signs of communication challenges.
They advocate career-long learning
Companies with strong cultures promote professional development, growth and learning opportunities at all levels of the organization. Cross-training, career pathing, successful training and mentor programs and leadership development are all examples of learning opportunities that benefit not just your team, but your business as a whole.
They have strong leadership
Strong leaders set the tone for every aspect of your business. On the flip side, if company leadership is struggling, then employees and customers alike will sense and react to that. The right internal culture supports those in management positions with resources and tools to develop leadership skills while empowering strategic decision-making. Take time to evaluate your organizational structure to identify gaps and overlaps in leadership. Internal surveys and perception studies can also help uncover challenges and successes to emulate organization-wide.
They recognize a job well done
Research proves that employees value feedback and recognition. Businesses that don’t do a good job of recognizing and rewarding good work are more likely to experience higher workforce turnover, lower job satisfaction and decreased employee engagement. Companies with effective cultures have processes in place for identifying and acknowledging excellence in the workplace, with feedback channels for customers, managers and coworkers to share experiences. That doesn’t necessarily mean implementing an expensive incentive program. Recognition comes in many forms, from a simple “thank you” to flexible work schedules, employee events or career development opportunities.
They welcome diversity
Diverse companies have stronger cultures and are better positioned to overcome industry hurdles and capitalize on new opportunities and new ideas. Diverse backgrounds, experiences, ideas and approaches among employees all benefit businesses, offering unique perspectives and solutions that more homogeneous environments may not experience.
They foster teamwork
Collaboration is a key part of culture. Teamwork creates stronger workplace relationships, which in turn are proven to increase retention rates. That same dynamic also boosts productivity and job performance overall. Teams function best when there is open communication, clear leadership direction and strong adoption of company mission and values – so make sure you’ve checked those characteristic boxes as well. Assess how management can encourage additional collaboration within your organization. Are there opportunities for cross-team or inter-departmental projects? Would your workforce benefit from additional training on team collaboration strategies? Are their challenges that a cross-section task force of employees could tackle? There are numerous opportunities to make teamwork part of your culture; make sure they’re implemented at every level of your business for optimum benefit.
They champion integrity and respect
If employees don’t trust their employer, or respect the work you’re doing, then internal culture will suffer. Beyond that, many members of today’s workforce (as much as 75% of Millennials for example) are motivated to work for companies whose values they relate to and respect. When possible, embrace transparency and promote your business’s contributions to the community, social or environmental efforts. Those can be powerful attractants for job candidates, but they also instill a sense of pride and loyalty in current employees.
There’s no blueprint for a perfect company culture. To be effective, it has to be authentic. And that means developed specifically for your business. If you’re struggling to figure out where to start, or even if you need to start, take our Online Culture Assessment to diagnose potential problem areas within your company’s culture. Or, feel free to contact us to discuss possible solutions for building internal culture, employee engagement, recruitment/retention efforts and more: Contact Us.