Many businesses will invest time and effort into defining their brand values – but will give somewhat less attention to shaping their organisational culture.
Is this true for you?
If you’re not nurturing a culture that promotes positive behaviours, habits and ideas in your team, your business is unlikely to be performing at its full potential.
Culture happens organically, but a healthy culture needs cultivating. I sometimes liken it to gardening. Positive aspects need to be tended and fed nutrients, so they grow and flourish, while negative aspects need weeding out before they have an opportunity to take root.
Part of developing a healthy culture in your organisation means identifying those great things that people are already doing in your business – whether intuitively or by ‘accident’, and adopting them across your business.
Although cultural health can’t be measured, it can certainly be felt, and it’s something I can usually pick up on very quickly on visiting a client’s premises. Key signals include the general atmosphere, whether I’m greeted with suspicion or welcomed, the way people communicate and interact with each other and whether they’re happy to speak openly in the office or prefer to meet behind closed doors.
Over many years of being called in to advise on issues that – superficially at least – appear to stem from an individual employee – but ultimately transpire to be deeper rooted, I’ve noticed common factors that give insight into an organisation’s cultural wellbeing.
Based on my experience, here are four questions which will help you to determine if your culture is in good shape, or in need of attention:
How Does Recognition Happen & Who Gives It?
Do you have a culture where people feel the need to ask for recognition from their manager? Or where they’re continually drawing attention to their efforts and productivity compared to that of their colleagues? Both can be indicators of an unhealthy organisational culture.
In the workplace, we all need to feel our contribution is valued. But in a healthy culture, where recognition happens naturally, the way employees are treated and spoken to will let them know that they’re doing their job well and are appreciated. This is as much about people being complimentary about each other as is it is about managers taking time to say thank you and give praise.
How Are People Judged?
In some organisations, the amount of time an individual spends working over and above their contracted hours is seen as a measure of their commitment and loyalty to the business. Early morning starts or late-night finishes – maybe even both, are taken as proof that they’re working as hard and effectively as they can.
But an environment like this is almost certain to be masking cultural problems in an organisation. There’s only one way to measure performance, and that’s by results.
A ‘presence’ culture takes no account of the fact that every organisation is made up of individuals who work differently and have unique responsibilities outside of work. Someone staying late in a healthy results-based culture won’t automatically be judged to be working hard, or working inefficiently. In this kind of culture, management will instead ask themselves what caused the employee to need to work the extra hours, what difference did they make, who benefited – and does it point to a problem somewhere else in the system?
In a results-based culture, values are observed naturally, assumptions are checked before conclusions are drawn, poor performance is explored and issues are addressed and resolved early, so they don’t have the opportunity to grow into more significant problems.
How Are Mistakes Dealt With?
In a healthy culture, people aren’t afraid to ask for advice for fear of being criticised or looked down on. Rather, they know that in raising an issue, an employer will recognise there’s a capability gap in the business – not necessarily in an individual.
In this kind of supportive culture, employees won’t be reticent to come forward if they identify a gap, will be more likely to propose a solution, and individual personalities will not be part of discussions.
Consider your organisation’s approach to dealing with a customer complaint. Is your initial reaction to look for shortcomings in your team – rather than in their skills, in your processes or systems? If so, it may be that you need to work on adjusting your culture.
A healthy culture is one where mistakes are accepted and learnt from. People will have clear ownership and responsibility, and if something goes wrong, processes and systems will be reviewed first, and blame will not automatically be assigned to an individual.
Are People Forthcoming About Difficult Issues?
Many of the issues I’m asked to advise on began as minor problems. However, because they arose in a closed culture, they were allowed to fester and grow, rather than (back to our gardening theme) being nipped in the bud.
A healthy, open culture leaves no space for rumour, gossip or suspicion. When all team members are fully informed all the time, changes don’t come as a surprise. Because they are anticipated and understood, even difficult decisions are supported.
How did you do? Are all the signs pointing to your culture being perfectly in balance, or do they indicate that you have areas to work on? Whether you need a cultural revolution or just a little evolution, Organic P&O Solutions can help!
We Can Help You Develop a Culture that Improves Team Engagement & Productivity!
Your cultural health needs to be a focus whatever the size of your business. The bigger an organisation becomes, the more complex its cultural dynamics, so the earlier you get the right foundations in place, the better:
We can help you to develop a culture where people intuitively behave as they should, recognition occurs naturally, performance is based on results and mistakes lead to change, not blame. A culture where there are fewer misunderstandings and disputes because all team members feel included and valued, confident in raising difficult issues and trust each other enough to have open and honest conversations
If this sounds interesting, get in touch and let’s arrange to have an initial discussion about your organisational culture!