Organizational culture has an enormous impact on employee engagement, customer service, and business performance. There are many complex and sophisticated methods for analyzing organizational culture—I use some of them myself. But culture is an important business issue and leaders should be able to discuss it in everyday, normal-course, business language—relatively free of technical HR jargon.
Here are a few core culture questions in everyday business language. You can use them assess, define, and improve your culture in areas that really count:
- What do we stand for?
- How do we want to work together?
- How do we want our employees to represent us?
- How do we want our leaders to treat our employees?
- Which skills and values will most drive, reinforce, and support our vision and strategy?
- Why would really talented people want to work for us?
The decisions you make around these questions will have an enormous impact on the success of your business.
Prior to working on these culture questions, you can assess your “current state” by asking a large sample of your employees: “What is it like to work here?” It is usually valuable to have an outside consultant interview your employees on this current state question.
Obviously, getting good data from these open-ended questions depends on the quality of the interviewer or facilitator and the level of trust in your organization.
The risks of not discussing these questions are great, e.g., ending up with a culture you don’t want; culture not aligned with vision and strategy; difficulties influencing employee behavior; poor employee-management relations; weak bond as a team/community; damage to your reputation/brand; etc.
The data you collect should be reviewed and discussed thoroughly by your management team (not just by HR, but led by HR), and only then should decisions be made regarding the kind of workplace you need to create.
As in all of these people type issues, improvement goals will adopted most quickly when they (i) draw on your organization’s strengths; (ii) are perceived as meaningful by the employees (aligned with existing values); and (iii) are important for the company, i.e., genuinely helpful for doing business and doing it well.
Broad engagement in the discussion is the most direct and powerful way to build buy-in and commitment. Make your employees part of the solution.
See also this relevant blog: the role that culture plays in strategic planning and execution.
Advanture helps organizations align culture with strategy, bring core values to life, and improve collaboration and leadership practices for enhanced business performance. Performance by design!
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