Many years ago, in my first full-time office job with a family business I was being micromanaged by one of the CEO’s daughters. The work was fairly basic and repetitive, so I didn’t require a great deal of supervision, but that didn’t stop her from hovering over me as I worked. Each day I was summoned to the CEO’s office to take his lunch order. He never looked at me, greeted me in any way, or thanked me when I returned with his lunch. The family members came and went from the office as they pleased. Other employees were consistently overlooked for promotion in favour of family. No surprise that when I was offered a better position elsewhere I accepted it. When I resigned one of the CEO’s daughters stood over me at my desk in full view of all the other employees and screamed at me that I was ungrateful for the opportunity they had provided. I left the office and cried in my car. After I resigned, I found out that I was being underpaid against the Award.
This experience (and others unfortunately) taught me a great deal about poor workplace cultures. However, I have also experienced the positive power a good culture has on motivating employees to consistently overachieve and ultimately achieve better business results. Behind the best leaders you’ll find a curated organisational culture, one that motivates, inspires, and retains employees.
Building a strong culture in seven steps
Importantly, the building and ongoing management of your organisational culture can be systemised to ensure a consistent approach that pervades your business and is not completely reliant on you, which is especially important as your business continues to grow.
Creating a strong culture—one that encourages performance, contribution, fun and connection (or whatever other attributes you desire in your culture)—can be achieved through the following seven steps:
- Identify your desired culture based on your vision and values. Think about the type of organisational culture you will need if you are to achieve your business goals.
- Assess the current culture. There are tools you can use that will assess your current culture and compare it against benchmarks to provide you with meaningful and useful data. This information is a crucial starting point as you start to develop the culture you want or need.
- Measure the gaps between your desired and current organisational culture.
- Develop a plan to bridge the gaps in consultation with your people. Plan for the culture you want and need using your people and culture plan. It is very important that you do this with your team rather than imposing it on them.
- Implement the plan with your people. You cannot do it alone. Everyone needs to be involved. Communicate what you need, delegate to your talented team of superstars, and recognise achievements that contribute to the kind of culture you’re trying to build.
- Play your part. Leadership style is important here. Your behaviours and actions and those of your leadership team, need to reinforce the importance of building a strong culture. It must be reinforced at every level.
- Monitor the implementation and ongoing improvements aimed at improving the organisational culture. It’s great to measure your culture at least every year to check where you’re at and plan for the following year. Pulse surveys are a great way to check in on a more regular basis with employees, assessing how they’re feeling about the business, their role in it, and the culture. This enables you to manage the organisational culture in more responsive ways.
Like all good leadership strategies, this is not a process that has a definite end point. Culture needs to be first built, but then it needs to be nurtured. As the organisation grows and changes, the culture will naturally take new shape. Even when you are happy with the culture you’ve built, be sure to regularly review and make the necessary adjustments to keep it strong.
Contact Harrison Human Resources for further advice on how we can help improve your workplace culture.