Maintaining company culture

Leadership and Management Certification Series

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The most successful businesses align company culture with business strategy. Why? Because culture reinforces strategy—or detracts from it. Is your company culture setting your business up for success? If you’re not sure how to answer that question, you might be in trouble. Culture isn’t made just by establishing core values. You have to live them out.

Let’s consider an example. If you work in the healthcare industry, chances are your business strategy relies on reliability, efficiency, and precision. Lives are on the line, after all. Your company culture—your values and rewarded behaviors—needs to reinforce that. Without a concerted effort, your culture is likely to ebb, flow, and even deteriorate, driven by factors you may not even realize exist.

Below, you’ll learn how to reinforce your culture by rewarding behaviors that support your cultural values.

Understand your company culture.

Before jumping to improving or maintaining your culture, let’s discuss the specific culture types. Cultures can be defined by two major competing value propositions: 

    • Whether the company values stability or change. 
    • Whether the company is internally focused or externally focused. 

Based on those values, an organization will fall within one of the four organizational cultures:

Try it out! 

So, which culture is right for your organization? To best answer that question, you’ll need to consider your business strategy. A tool like the PI Strategy Assessment will define the quadrant your executives believe is best for the company currently.

Once you’ve identified your company culture, you can assess how your current culture stacks up to the one you want. Go directly to the source of your culture–your people–and poll how you’re doing. Engagement surveys are a great way to take a magnifying glass to your organization. Engagement surveys allow employees to provide confidential feedback that can identify how aligned–or misaligned–they are with your business strategy

Consider the question, “I feel I am recognized for the work I do.” If the results come back and many responses are lower than expected, perhaps your values don’t align with your actions. For example, perhaps your organization is promoting improved teamwork but at the same time is praising employees based on individual performance and encouraging competition against one another.

Strengthen values and norms.

Culture can’t just be set once and then left alone. Many factors impact a culture, including changes in leadership, company acquisitions, and even day-to-day decisions. It’s up to you and all employees to help maintain the culture you want.

Communication is key to maintaining your culture. Let your organization know the cultural values everyone should be striving for and why it actually matters in relation to your business. Without clear expectations, how will employees know what actions align with the culture? Leverage existing communication mediums to promote these values. If your organization has company-wide meetings, use the start of each meeting to highlight a recent example of someone exhibiting desired values

It’s nice to say you have a team-oriented culture–or whatever type you desire–but you also need to make sure you practice what you preach. Cultural values that compete with one another can send mixed signals to employees and hinder performance. The organization mentioned earlier is one that’s trying to cultivate but is rewarding actions more associated with a producing team. Define processes in your organization that foster a team concept, such as how people are evaluated and how assignments are delegated to avoid your culture working against itself.

Try it out! 

You should consider culture when creating objectives for your team. Using the Explore Team Alignment tool, you can map the type of objectives your team currently has. These objectives should match your company culture. If you find gaps in your objectives and culture, take some time to decide if these objectives are what’s best for the company at this time. Sometimes they might be. Sometimes you might have a team with roles that need to be a certain style because of the nature of the job. For example, an exploring culture might still need a legal team that’s more aligned with a stabilizing strategy.

Next, the tool will allow you to see the team’s behavioral tendencies as they apply to those objectives. If you find gaps in their behaviors and objectives, define goals to align with cultural behaviors before issues arise. For example, if your company values stability for the current objective, but some employees have more venturesome drives, consider training strategies around processes and procedures to help them during this objective.

Remember, sometimes team objectives might be outside the normal culture of your organization—and that’s okay. What’s important is that you’re aware of these differences to determine solutions that are best for the team and organization.

Reward and recognize employees.

Reinforcing your values will increase employees’ belief in the culture you’ve created. Determine which behaviors should be rewarded and which should be discouraged. For example, the company pushing for improved teamwork could create a rewards system that recognizes individuals who exhibit team collaboration. 

What about addressing a behavior that’s NOT aligned with the culture? What if you have a top performer who’s CRUSHING their goals—but doing so by completely ruining interpersonal relationships and walking all over people? If your organization requires teamwork to be successful in the long term, you can’t allow that kind of behavior and need to address it IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise that person can single-handedly bring down the culture.

Make this recognition visible. The organization should know that members are being rewarded and why those behaviors are important. Company shout-outs or newsletters can promote employees showcasing desired behaviors. To the right are additional ways to reinforce your culture:

Activities to reinforce culture
Offer job specific training.
Create career development plans to motivate employees.
Provide internal promotions to high-performing employees aligned with your culture.
Create rewards systems around when employees act in ways that align with your culture.
Ensure managers and leaders act as cultural role models for your employees.
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Keep in mind: Not all employees want recognition the same way. Having your employees take a behavioral assessment will provide insight into how they prefer to interact with others

Promote leaders at every level.

A culture is not defined just by those at the top. Every person in an organization has the ability to impact the culture. That’s why it’s important to support culture leaders at every level. Sometimes, even those with the least amount of formal authority can play the biggest role in culture. Give employees an opportunity to recognize other employees through surveys or quarterly awards. Recognition doesn’t have to come solely from leadership; in fact, it should come from throughout the organization.

You’re only as strong as your weakest member. Make sure the organization believes in your vision and let the members throughout the organization carry the torch. This can keep your culture healthy and thriving.

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