Company culture

Company culture: how to create, communicate and improve it

Looking to create, communicate or even improve your company culture effectively? You can build a happier, more inclusive culture within your organisation by following these five basic steps!

The 5 steps to a better company culture

 

Step 1: Identify the company culture you want to create

Perhaps before identifying what kind of culture you want, it is best to determine what you think you have now. The best way to do this is to involve the organisation by asking everyone within it. A simple electronic survey is an easy way to administer this; care must be taken to allow for anonymity, otherwise people may be afraid to say what they really think. However, in a high trust environment, and perhaps in a small organisation, simple face-to-face conversations could be the best way. This will lead to an understanding of what your employees/colleagues need/want and what your company or organisation actually provides.

You could also take inspiration from companies you admire. What values from them do you would want to instil within your own? Again, involving different elements of the organisation in the conversation will provide a richer answer as well as help to create buy-in for the final solution. This should lead to a short list of values that the organisation will use to provide boundaries and guidance for behaviour and company culture.

Step 2: Communicate values relentlessly

Communication of your values is key. This needs to be to all staff, using language that is understandable. It could involve in-house newsletters, cascaded briefings down through the organisation, personal emails, face to face conversations, short films, or social media. Communications needs to include what the values are and explain what they mean in practical terms. You also need to include the justification for the chosen values, which should be transparent, and allow employees to feedback their thoughts. This will ultimately assist the process by understanding how the values are received throughout the organisation.

Performance appraisals can be tailored to review employees against the stated values. This helps to promote what is desired and demote unhelpful behaviour. If the appraisal is linked to a performance related pay scheme, then the desired culture is rewarded directly.

Step 3: Instil company culture at the management level

To embed the values into the organisation, it is vital that the management team is on board. Their actions must be consistent with company values in all that they do. This includes the way they relate to staff, what and how they communicate, and their own personal behaviour. For example, if a culture of long hours is to be replaced with an emphasis on work/life balance, then management must be seen to take holidays and leave the building at an appropriate time. This means setting the example.

However, as the primary influencers of a new culture, it is critical that the management team agree with the revised values and will work with them. Otherwise they will knowingly, or unknowingly, sabotage the exercise.

Step 4: Be patient and persistent

Edgar Schein suggests it takes around three years to change the culture of an organisation. It is not likely to be a quick fix, so it is imperative to be patient and persevere with the planned action. Therefore, repeated demonstrations of company values are an ongoing task. Gradually the culture will permeate throughout the organisation; those at odds with it will be less comfortable and either adapt or leave.

Step 5: Passing the culture to new hires

As you recruit more people into the fold, make sure they know and understand the culture you are creating. They will most likely be your quickest converts! New starters will sustain this new culture and pass it on in turn to the next generation as well. They can be your strongest advocate and really help the new culture permeate through the workplace.

 

To truly change company culture, leaders need to step out of the norm and demonstrate something different; if it is successful, it may then become accepted. This is an important principal for leaders to grasp. They need to develop the ability to step out of their own culture and look in from the outside. However, this means dropping their current assumptions, which can be an anxiety provoking and stressful task! Nevertheless, the impact of a poor performing culture can be much more demotivating. Leaders need to decide whether to manage the status quo or lead the change.

Picture of Fiona Sanderson

Written by Fiona Sanderson

Fiona is Marketing Manager at myhrtoolkit. Her areas of expertise include HR systems, productivity, employment law updates, and creating HR infographics.

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