How do you define and implement a culture that supports your company’s vision and goals, benefits your customers, retains good employees while also attracting new ones? In an ideal world, your company culture would grow organically, carefully cultivated by the people you’ve hired who have your organizations’ best interest in mind. But that’s not reality. Without careful consideration and attention to what you do, and do not, want your brand to represent, your culture could become more like a cancer. Here are five suggestions to help you create a company culture that your organization can be proud of.
Allow me to introduce myself.
The community that your company builds within is how your culture shows up in the world. It is how your company is identified and the reputation that precedes you. It is the feeling that people have when they hear or see your brand – from your employees to your clients, vendors, network partners, or someone who just knows of you. Doesn’t it make sense to intentionally decide how you want to be viewed? Ask yourself, your leadership team, your employees, and your clients – or better yet, have an outside person ask – what words come to mind when they hear your organization’s name? If the responses don’t make you proud, or are not what you want, your company culture is probably not aligned with your core values. And if you don’t have company core values that everyone knows– start there. It’s your job to set the tone in your company and model the behaviors you want to see in your team. Decide what the personality and values of your business are, and then show up as the embodiment of those values. Your culture starts and ends with you.
Sharing is caring.
Culture grows from a defined statement of shared values for your team. When you are clear about what you value as an organization, your culture becomes clear. Decide what values are most important to you and your leadership team and then simplify the language as much as possible so that the culture vision is clear to everyone. If you have a set of company values already, revisit them and ask yourself if they explicitly say what you want your company to stand for. Can everyone in your company explain how your values show up in your everyday interactions? For example, if you say that a company value is “We are Client Centric,” what does that look like for the accounting team? For the production team? For the CMO? Be clear in what “client-centric” means for everyone, how it is recognized or measured, and why it is important to the company. If your IT manager can’t articulate how their role supports that value – you aren’t being clear enough.
Repetition, repetition, repetition.
As we say at Sandler Training, there’s “Power in Reinforcement” and that’s as true with culture as it is with anything. You will need to communicate your desired culture over and over. For example, you cannot simply tell your team that you are a “Client-Centric” company and then hope that a culture grows around that. You need to remind your team regularly that your customers come first because they are what make your business succeed and that every team member has an important role in serving the customer – directly or indirectly. There should be regular discussions and meetings on how to make your client experience better and finding ways for your team to seek feedback from your clients. It should be ingrained in every employee that your company is invested in making your customers happy because it’s a core value. Model what you want to see from your team, and then routinely recognize and reward the behaviors and actions that exemplify that core value.
Again – culture must be reinforced from the leadership team and down.
Walk the walk. Talk the talk.
Culture needs to be cultivated. It’s not a one and done process. You do not announce what your company culture is once a year at the annual meeting and then hope your employees take care of building it. It’s a continuous, consistent effort by leadership of both modeling and communicating to your employees of “who we are” as an entity. It’s engaging with all employees to check in on how your messaging is being received, how it’s being processed, and how it’s being implemented individually. It’s looking for roadblocks and misinformation and disruption. It’s also staying involved in the hiring process with an eye on adding to the team from a culture and values perspective, not just a skill-set perspective. Culture may change as growth occurs, and you need to be aware of how your culture may shift and morph as that happens so you can prepare to keep or adapt your culture as makes sense.
What you ignore becomes more.
You can work really hard to create an environment that reflects your company values and is embraced by the majority of your team. But, if you have even one person that just does not seem to want to get on board, please remember my favorite quote: What you ignore becomes more. If may not happen immediately, but at some point, you will most likely look up and realize that the bad behavior or attitude you have tolerated from your “best salesperson,” your “loyal right-hand” or your “brilliant CFO” has permeated throughout your organization. If you want to keep a positive culture intact, keep your eye on how your team interacts; with each other, with customers and prospects, with the community in which you operate, and with your prospective new hires because culture is what motivates and retains talented team members. For those employees that don’t add or adapt to your company culture – you may have to make some hard decisions.
As a leader or business owner, you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your organization, including the environment in which you and your employees operate. When you decide, communicate, model and encourage the culture that you want to support your business success, you will attract and retain the right people who are invested in doing business the same way you do.