Tips to Improve Your Company Culture: Get the Basics Right First.
By Carlann Fergusson, owner of Propel Forward LLC
We ask a lot of our leadership. We expect our leaders to create a compelling vision for the company, to create
an engaged workforce and to build a culture of accountability. These are key areas for 360 degree feedback as
well. When measures in these areas fall short, leaders looking to improve their company culture often erroneously
look for a training or engagement solution.
Training and employee engagement solutions can be helpful but they wonít make a lasting difference if the basics
are not addressed first. Likewise, researching best cultural practices of leading companies might provide insights
but if they donít fit your business they will be a waste of effort.
Here are three initial steps to improving a company's culture and making it stick.
- Make a direct link to your company's vision. Your vision will tell you what your cultural behaviors should focus on.
Are you an innovation company, or a customer service company? Are your key differentiators cost, quality, service, reducing
risk, or some other factor? Questions like these will help you decide which employee behaviors are most important for your
organization. Many times companies attempt to borrow culture from best in class companies. But if these companies donít have
similar visions, goals and measures they wonít work. When you define the culture you want, identify the most important
behaviors that will enable you to reach that vision. Our world changes quickly so double check your corporate values and
behavioral expectations against your vision and ask yourself what key behaviors are missing that are needed to reach that
vision in todayís environment.
- Check your power structure. Are you wanting a collaborative culture but you are experiencing infighting between major
departments? Are senior leaders in ego battles over decisions? Sending out new corporate value statements won't change the
company long-term if the power structure in the organization is not clear. At times, companies change their vision or direction
and forget to align their organizational structure to this change. For example, moving from a product centered business to a
market segment business may mean shifting the power from manufacturing to sales. Or expanding your definition to an innovation
company often means shifting the power to research and design. Make certain it is clear who has the power in the organization
both structurally and in decisions. Manufacturing may not be too thrilled to know they now have to be more responsive to Sales
when they used to be in-charge of key decisions, but if it is clear their role is to support Sales to reach your vision, the
behaviors will fall in line.
- Remember that what gets rewarded, gets repeated. Your employees are going to behave in ways that get reinforced by their
executives and managers. If you are a company that is highly regulated and needs to minimize risk, donít ask for a culture
of creativity when in fact you need attention to details. Ask yourself if the behaviors you are asking for are required to
be successful in your business. Then once you have those behaviors defined anchor them to performance measures. Measuring
employees on their accomplishments to both goals and behaviors is a great practice to ensure that you get results in the ways
you want them achieved. It sends a clear message of what is rewarded in the company.
The Booth Company 360 Solutions offers a framework for their 360 solutions, known as the Task Cycle® which encourages you to
focus on setting a clear vision and purpose before worrying about any other measurement factor. The same is true with
culture; start with your vision. If your culture doesnít fit that vision, you will only create frustration. Once you have a
clear, compelling vision, build the structure, values and behaviors that will support this vision. Then when those are
defined you can start aligning training, assessing the current culture through surveys, hiring to those behaviors and impacting
other aspects of engagement.
Carlann Fergusson is owner of Propel Forward LLC (www.propelforward.com
). Propel Forward LLC provides consulting, coaching and
learning solutions on vision, strategy, organizational design, culture and leader capability. Carlann Fergusson has twenty-five
years of experience with global Fortune 500 companies, privately owned businesses, state and federal governments, and non-profits.
She brings proven diagnostic skills and keen insights to deliver a solution tied to your desired business results.