Company culture. Every company has one, but what exactly is it? Company culture is what defines us. It’s the stories we tell and how we operate when nobody is looking, from the values we as leaders and employees embrace to the behavior we accept. If your company culture is good, then foster it by visibly living it and making your decisions in accordance to the culture. If the culture of your company is in need of change or even if you are unclear what it is, then there are simple steps to help achieve the environment desired. Employees can impact change in culture but leadership must take ownership. Change comes from the top down.
Implementing change begins with an apology from leadership. As a leader, you must stand up and tell what happened, where the company is now, and what is going to be done to improve it. Then ask for help from your team.
Create Rules of the Game. Basically, Rules of the Game boils down to the way we behave and treat each other. It’s all about relationships: how you are building them with your employees; how are you communicating; what things do you value as a company? Get input from your team by asking them to write down a simple set of rules. It’s best if the final draft of these consists of fewer than ten. Simple is good as is radical honesty. You get what you tolerate, so make sure the rules created by your team reflect the culture desired by leadership as well. Some great examples of rules that promote a healthy and happy company culture include “Going Direct” and “No Drama.”
It’s important to understand the gap between leadership and the team, and when implementing change, it is imperative for the team to know you are evaluating the culture because you care. There will be some employees who are uncomfortable with the changes and they will test you; you may lose employees unwilling to be a part of the revised culture, and that is okay. It may even be considered desirable because your goal is to foster a healthy environment that embodies a culture of trust and positive, cohesive energy.
The Art of Onboarding. Onboarding should never be overlooked. Having the right people and training them correctly is key to success. The more educated your team, the better they will understand the decisions made by leadership. And it starts at the beginning. When a new hire comes to work, it’s like high school all over. They are often left wondering who is their “go to” person, who will they sit by at lunch, and what is acceptable behavior? Company culture should be apparent from the start. Don’t hire them and then forget about them. Help your new hires prepare for success in their role by using the “Buddy System” and assigning team members to them for the first week or two as they gain stable footing. A packet of important company information that includes a quick bio of team members they will be working with and a checklist of things you would like them to do or experience in the first month can be a valued lifeline for new hires.
Life moves fast these days and today’s employees are programmed for immediate response. Their need for feedback is increased and we should respond by providing performance reviews more frequently. If you do not have a solid system in place for this, get one right away. Your employees will appreciate the continued feedback and your frequent evaluations will be a useful tool for consistently living the culture you desire for your company.
Some great books with information on this topic and more are Powerful by Patty McCord, former chief talent officer for Netflix, as well as The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham, internationally known speaker and acclaimed author. Change in culture can be challenging. It’s easiest with new and smaller companies but can be done effectively with businesses of any size if handled with care and precision.