The key to building and maintaining a successful organisation, lies in making sure that everyone in your business understands where you are heading (your vision), how they fit into that picture (your culture) and what is expected around behaviours (your values). So, taking the time to identify what culture your company should have – and to define the vision and values that will help you achieve it – will be one of the most positive investments you can make in your business.
Why Is Culture Important?
Culture is ‘the way we do things around here’. It’s how you work together, how you work with customers, and what’s important to people in the business. Creating a healthy, appropriate culture is also the key to attracting and retaining those high calibre people that are always in such high demand. Whether or not you take the time to understand and shape it, your business will still have a culture, and that culture will be affecting your business outcomes right now - for good or for bad. Left unchecked, an unhealthy culture can do significant damage to your business, so it’s vital to ask yourself, ‘have we purposefully designed the most appropriate culture for our organisation - or did it just occur by default?’
Recognising Unhealthy Cultures
Culture is reflected in key measures of an organisation such as productivity, engagement and customer satisfaction - so bear these in mind when considering your own company’s culture. Is there poor communication? Is morale or engagement low? Is there a lack of camaraderie? Is productivity low or declining? Do you have difficulty holding on to, or attracting, talented employees? Is there a disconnect between leaders and their teams? Is there a general lack of direction?
These are all common signs of an unhealthy company culture, and if they sound familiar then yours probably needs attention. But where should you start?
Setting Vision and Values
To shape a culture you need to understand all of the key drivers that impact it – and your vision is the starting point. Your vision is the aspiration for your business, capturing what it wants to become and where it wants to go. Having a clearly articulated vision will help employees understand the overall company direction and what their role is in getting the company there. Your vision is reinforced by your values.
A company’s values should be clearly reflected in the way everyone works as a team; how individuals behave; who and how you recruit; and how your organisation is led. Values should also be integrated into people management systems. For example, by recognising employees not just for meeting their objectives, but also for how they go about doing so. We’ve all worked with people who hit targets but leave a trail of wreckage in their wake! Getting your values right is the first step in eliminating such potentially damaging behaviour.
Getting It Right
One organisation we worked with was formed as part of a huge integration process. Following the integration, senior leaders were understandably more focused on getting the business functioning as a single entity, than turning their new culture, vision and values into reality. After speaking with over 150 people, we developed a series of recommendations, which included the sequence and timings.
The recommendations also included: further refinement of the strategy; the creation of a cultural roadmap (with clarity around what the senior leadership needed to focus on); initiatives to better leverage the new organisational design (with a focus on some areas of refinement); and significant work on leadership, management and people capability. As a result of the above focus and alignment, the organisation is now enjoying:
- Significant cultural change, clearer direction, and a more engaged workforce
- Enhanced leadership capability across the business to help embed the culture
- Clear responsibilities and accountabilities to drive business performance
- Enhanced communications to better support the change
Investing time in developing a positive culture, with a vision that is aspirational and values that employees can relate to, is definitely worth the time and effort. Involving all your employees in building a culture they can be proud of will reap huge benefits including increased employee engagement and happier customers - and the development of a working environment that actively supports commercial success.
This blog is written by Anna McNaughton, OD & HR Consulting Team Leader, Grafton Consulting. To learn more, contact me at Anna.McNaughton@grafton.co.nz or call me on 09 358 9751 or 021 588 456. http://www.grafton.co.nz