There is much focus today on organizational culture as ever as globalization and talent migration is reshaping the workforce as we know it. A recent study by Globoforce Workhuman Research Institute and IBM Smarter Workforce Institute (that included over 23,000 employees in 45 countries and territories) found when employees had positive work experiences, they were more likely to use discretionary effort and less likely to leave their company (Payne, 2016). Furthermore, a study by FTSE Russell discovered the companies found on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” List had three times greater stock market returns than the general market (Madhavan, 2017). As shown in these examples, having a defined organizational culture in alignment with business objectives and employee needs drives many aspects of the company from engaged and motivated employees to better working teams; creating better products and services for customers to greater overall financial successes. Given these benefits, it makes sense companies today are looking to shape their culture.
So how can your organization go about this? Here are 7 key strategies to creating, fostering, and sustaining a strong organizational culture:
- Assess the current culture and subcultures. This part is taking a look at what the organizational culture looks like today. What seems to be helping the business grow? Asking questions are a great way to start identifying the current state of an organization’s culture. The answers can be found through a variety of ways: individual or group interviews, surveying employees and leaders, workshops, observations. The key here is to gather information and organize it in a way to start establishing patterns and themes.
- Identify what the culture should look like to accomplish business strategies. Next, is to take a look at what the business wants to achieve. An organization needs to take a look at what behavior(s) is needed from employees at all levels of the organization to ensure success.
- Identify gaps between current and future ideal state. Once both we identify the current cultural state and what is needed to accomplish business strategies, the organization will be able to identify areas of opportunity (gaps), as we like to call them. One may notice that in some aspects the current state of the culture is in alignment with the business strategies and in other aspects, the culture is not in alignment.
- Changing behaviors. Changing behaviors takes time and consistency. It’s best to start with a few key behavior modifications that will yield the greatest impact towards aligning culture with the business strategies. Here, it’s not enough to tell employees and leaders how to behave but rather model the way.
- Utilize both formal and informal leaders. Something most organizations realize is that changing behaviors start at the top. Employees look to leaders to demonstrate the appropriate behaviors based on the organization’s values, mission, and culture. However, not all organizations realize the importance of informal leaders, those employees who are not in a leadership position and don’t have direct reports. However, informal leaders do have influence with other employees creating their own groups, even at times creating their own subcultures. It is key these individuals are involved and buy-in to the organizational culture and set the example for others. They make excellent employee advocates for change and will lead others through the process informally.
- Hold everyone accountable though metrics. Once the organizational cultural identity and strategy is defined and communicated to employees at all levels, use metrics to evaluate progress (or lack thereof) to hold everyone accountable for the changes. There can be an endless number of metrics and numerous ways to measure them. Some behaviors may even appear to look unmeasurable. This is where tying behaviors to business strategies comes more into play.
- Sustain the organizational culture. Holding employees at all levels accountable goes a long way for ensuring the culture changes but there are other tools that can be used to ensure sustainability. One method is to use a rewards system for positive reinforcement. People are motivated by a variety of reasons such as money, recognition, prizes, etc. Connecting a change with something positive that people want is a great way to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition for the new culture.
In all stages of organizational cultural development and sustainability, it’s important to have employees from different levels of the organization involved in the process, which helps create employee buy-in and ensure a smoother transition. After all, change, at times, can be difficult for most people but, communication, employee involvement, and letting people have a voice will help ease that difficulty. Of course, there will be times that even with the best communication and involvement from others, some employees (that can be in any level in the organization) will not change towards the culture an organization wants to achieve. It is at this point where both the organization and the employee should work together to asses any issues or perhaps take a look at healthy attrition.
These steps should not be considered as a one and done type of strategy. The world, people, and their wants and needs are constantly changing. In addition, businesses have different needs at different stages (when the business is starting out, in growth mode, or in maintenance mode) and what is best for the business today in terms of culture, may need to change in the future. So, it’s also important to build in times for periodic review of the culture and its alignment with business strategies. Repeating these steps periodically can be a simple way to keep up the changing business environment. This will also ensure that the business will be able to keep up with different market trends and it’s needs.
Payne, S. (2016). Globoforce Workhuman Research Institute and IBM Smarter Workforce Institute unveil a new employee experience index. Retrieved from Globoforce Workhuman: http://www.globoforce.com/gfblog/2016/employee-index-ibm-globoforce/
Madhavan, N. (2017). Good company culture, strong business results? Evidence points to a healthy bottom line, though one expert warns against tying culture solely to results. Retrieved from Workforce Magazine: http://www.workforce.com/2017/01/15/good-culture-better-results/?utm_source=MyEmma&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign =WF%20Tech
Thomas, R. (2017). Success comes from strong cultures and it starts at the top. Retrieved from TLNT: https://www.eremedia.com/tlnt/success-comes-from-strong-cultures-and-it-starts-at-the-top/
McCready, K. (2014). Organizational culture design: A service design thinking approach. Retrieved from http://culturelabx.com/organisational-culture-design/
Katzenbach, J., Oelschlegel, C., Thomas, J. (2016). 10 principles of organizational culture. Retrieved from strategy+business: https://www.strategy-business.com/article/10-Principles-of-Organizational-Culture?gko=71d2f
Weinzweig, A. (2016). Five elements of building an organizational culture. Retrieved from https://www.zingtrain.com/org-culture-steps
Gotham Culture. (2017.) Organizational Culture Consulting. Retrieved from https://gothamculture.com/services/organizational-culture-consulting/