- February 27, 2023
- Posted by: James Haggerty
- Category: Employee Development
Building company culture is more than the newest buzz finding its way to conversations among business leaders. It has become a living and ever-changing theme that has become an important part of the workplace environment. In fact, the energy of company culture can work its way into the core elements of any business, including the way employees work and interact, your client experience, and your reputation in the community.
While focusing on culture may feel like just another trend, nourishing your company culture can expand your organization’s opportunities and create a healthy and thriving business. By contrast, constricting it can suffocate your workflow and weaken your potential.
As we explore company culture with you, we challenge you to think about your unique business model. Learn how a few simple ideas can help meet your short and long-term goals for not only your bottom line but also for your employee, client, and community experience.
What Is Company Culture?
Most modern business leaders are understandably concerned with employee performance. They praise effective, long-term employees who not only improve their bottom line but also reduce turnover and pass their knowledge on to any incoming employees. However, far too many are seemingly unconcerned with company culture.
This seems contradictory because employees who stay likely enjoy the place they work and pass this enjoyment on to the next generation of staff. For many business leaders, this contradiction may be a reason they choose to let company culture “just happen.” As a result, company culture exists as a blind spot of opportunity that is often left underdeveloped.
Company culture, in a nutshell, defines the way your business does its work. It is the experiences that you choose to create for your employees and clients alike. These experiences should be developed carefully through the formal systems you create and the informal behaviors you encourage. A system is the routines you establish for completing the work effectively, while the behaviors are the ways employees interact with your business and, ultimately, with each other.
Suggested Reading: How to Build an A-Team
Why Is Company Culture Important?
As mentioned, company culture doesn’t end with your employees. The experience your clients will have with your business both plays a role in how your company culture is defined and is impacted by the culture you develop. For example, if your company culture includes a regular habit of making eye contact and greeting each person with a smile, that is an experience your clients will have, as well. Similarly, developing a company culture focused on teamwork or inclusion can make a memorable impression on clients regarding the values that are important to your business.
When company culture is clicking, you will find many added benefits to your business that include improved:
- financial returns
- employee retention
- customer service
- client retention
How to Build Company Culture
Your company culture starts at the top as you establish the direction you wish the company to go. More specifically, culture is first established in your mission and vision statement that explains the “why” of your business. Often, mission and vision statements are centered on values critical to company success, such as equity, inclusion, trust, and client satisfaction.
Rarely do they focus on the bottom dollar. In fact, mission and vision statements are often designed to avoid becoming too focused on the company ledger and forgetting the “why” behind your company’s existence. When you reverse the thought process and focus on the “why,” the bottom dollar can follow much more easily.
When you define your work through your “why,” you implement expectations that must be achieved from the top down and centered on a set of core values. These expectations can then be communicated to your managers and supervisors, who must, in turn, communicate them to your employees and hold them accountable.
Employees must understand not only the measuring stick you’ll be using to determine their success in meeting these expectations but also the consequences of under-performance. This becomes a shared set of values that explain your “why,” and the expectations become an agreement between your business leaders and your employees. As with all things company culture, there is now a shared goal in mind.
When your business has a strong foundation in core values and well-communicated expectations, every level of your organization knows exactly how the work they do improves company performance. Participating in demonstrating core values and meeting expectations as part of your team helps them feel valued and enables them to experience a sense of belonging, both of which are core elements of company culture.
How to Improve Company Culture
Take a moment to consider all the managers who knew they had great employees who were willing to stay long-term but an ignored company culture. They may already have a values-based mission statement in place but have shifted the focus away from it. They’re missing a variety of opportunities to further optimize the employees they have and ensure new employees are just as dedicated as their current group. Let’s look at a few strategies they could use to help build company culture and access the full potential of their existing mission statement.
Decide What Your Company Culture Should Look Like
The beginning of anything should start at the end. In other words, you won’t know where to start until you’ve determined where you need to end up. Take a backward design approach and think about what an ideal culture looks like for you, your employees, and your clients.
Consider the rehabilitation process: knowing the experiences a patient will go through and that the ultimate goal is recovery is what enables the care team to determine a set of therapies and compile the right resources to best support that patient. This stage of the planning process can be complex because you are ultimately defining a feeling you want those associated with your business to develop.
Establish Where You’re At
Once you know what you want your company culture to look like, you should evaluate where the company currently is regarding your cultural goal. While you may be the leader of the company, the culture impacts everyone and, therefore, should not be based solely on your perception of it. You have already communicated your vision, but what it takes to achieve it should be a collaborative discussion regarding how the company as a whole will work together in that direction.
Understanding where your business currently is should be based on multiple forms of feedback, which can include:
- Employee satisfaction surveys
- Client satisfaction surveys
- Developing a focus group of employees and managers from various departments
- Working with a consultant who can facilitate conversations with employees, managers, and stakeholders alike
As the leader, now is the time to prepare for honesty. You may be given feedback about your company that is more negative than you anticipated. You may even receive feedback from employees who don’t see the value in developing a company culture. As a leader, it is important to use empathy to understand employees rather than to respond. Your company culture hinges upon feelings and how they play a role in the success of your business, and you need to prepare to hear how people currently feel, even if you don’t like what they have to say.
To understand where your business currently stands through these multiple forms of feedback, you need to create a safe space that allows for the free expression of ideas. It must be a place where honesty is valued, not retaliated against. It also must be a constructive space that is free of blame and becomes a forum for growth.
Establishing honest feedback immediately enhances the company culture you’re building because it helps employees feel safe as they express concerns. This can benefit many areas down the road, including the reporting of safety concerns before they become bigger problems. Finally, giving your employees the opportunity to participate in developing company culture can give them a sense of ownership once that culture is firmly in place.
Suggested Reading: How to Lead with Empathy
Set the Expectations
Once you know where you are and where you want to be, set the parameters you’ll need to get there. The company won’t change overnight, but you need to take the first steps. By setting the expectations for implementation, you are outlining the goals, the procedures, and the timelines to help your company culture shift from what it is to what you want it to be. Your expectations and implementation should focus solely on how you want your employees and clients to experience your business.
Establish with your managers what support looks like for your employees as they work to meet expectations. Establish with your employees what accountability looks like from their managers. You are creating a mutually agreeable system for your organization to work together to meet business goals within the cultural expectations you’ve established. For many, company culture simply comes down to everyone knowing what the work is, how the work should be done, and why their individual work matters.
Set timelines that include checkpoints where you can gauge how the implemented changes are impacting employee work, client experience, and business growth. Be careful not to add too much too soon. Shifting the culture is about gradual growth.
Lead By Example
The most important step in implementing a new company culture is leading by example. Everyone knows you are at the front of the line, and you should be setting the path to success by forging the way for your employees. If you step left or right, so will they because your organization should be looking to you for the correct direction. You are the living representation of your business’s mission and vision statement, and it is up to you to show your employees what achieving it should look like. If you expect transparency, then you need to model transparency.
Suggested Reading: How to Lead by Example
Identify Growths and Opportunities
Remember: though you’ve established an end goal and set expectations, company culture doesn’t need to be static. In fact, you’ll almost certainly find ways to hone your system, so it will work better for you and your employees. As you continue to develop your company culture, return to the same measurements you used when you first evaluated your organization, such as employee surveys, client surveys, and small group discussions. When the voices of those most impacted by the implemented changes are given a forum to provide feedback, they are empowered to be part of the growth and can help identify further opportunities.
Improve Company Culture with Help from Apogee System Consultants
For some business leaders, company culture can seem like a distraction from the work that needs to be performed to strengthen the bottom line. To others, it may feel like a lot of work for little return. However, the reality is that when you have a strong company culture in place, your operations run more smoothly, and you will find many members taking the initiative to generate new ideas that can set you apart from your competition.
When people are passionate about what they do, they will put more into each day. Building a strong company culture for your business that your employees can stand behind can create that passion in your employees. They can believe not just in the work they do but in the values their work upholds.
Like any habit, culture develops over time. Just like the road to recovery, changing those habits must start with the first step, and Apogee System Consultants is here to help. Whether you want to take a small step forward or you want to jump all in and revamp your company culture from top to bottom, our team’s experience can help identify your organization’s needs and meet them in a way that will benefit all involved. If you’re ready to bring the “why” back to the center of what you do, contact Apogee consultants.
For helpful tips and information on a wide variety of aspects of leading your business, follow Apogee System Consultants on Twitter or connect with us on LinkedIn.
Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional
Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.