Now more than ever before, many leaders are realizing how crucial it is to have a healthy company culture. It’s becoming more evident that companies will not reach their maximum potential without effective leadership, strategic planning, and most importantly, engaged employees. It’s great that companies are starting to take their culture seriously, but what about those who have tried to do so and failed?
Leaders have attempted to make culture building a priority, but their employees are not buying into it. The attempts to get everyone on one accord are backfiring and employees end up even more annoyed and unengaged than when they started. This happens when you try to (re)build your culture without fully understanding the current status of it in your workplace and where your employees stand. This post will help you avoid those culture building ruts and uncover how your employees view culture. When you know what’s happening with the current culture, you can address the specific problems that are causing it to fail.
Why is Culture Detection Important?
A doctor who prescribes medication to a patient without reviewing their symptoms or the source of the pain would be guilty of malpractice. There are certain steps and practices that are critical to diagnosing a condition in order for the treatment to actually solve the problem. The same concept of diagnosing also applies when it comes to company culture. Your efforts to build or rebuild culture will not be successful without diagnosing its current condition first.
Culture is essentially the lifeline of a company; if it isn’t healthy, nurtured and made a priority, it will start to decline.
Culture majorly impacts employee engagement and satisfaction, employee retention, performance, growth and sustainability, competitive advantage, and customer satisfaction. The common denominator of each area mentioned is people. The moment your people – employees and customers – are made a priority and served effectively, your culture is in a healthy state. As you can see, culture is essentially the lifeline of a company.
There are 5 elements that shape company culture: norms, collisions, assumptions, influences, and values. As a consultant and coach, I work with organizations to help leaders and employees build a more engaging culture. One of the questions I ask at the start of the process is “If your current company culture was an actual person, how would you describe it?”. I usually get a few raised eyebrows and a chin rub when I ask this question, but the responses vary and are definitely revealing. Here’s how you would begin to describe your culture as a person using the 5 elements given:
- Norms: What habits and behaviors does C.C. (company culture) have?
- Collision: Do you notice incompatibility with C.C., workflow processes, and policies? Is C.C. aligned with the mission of the company?
- Assumptions: Are your employees assuming what C.C. is?
- Influences: What influences are affecting C.C. positively or negatively?
- Values: What matters the most to C.C.?
As you can see, company culture as a person impacts many areas in the workplace. This approach helps you shift the perception of culture from a concept or task to a living being that has the power to make or break your company.
Leaders and employees both have a part to play in company culture. Understanding culture helps you know what to look for so you can focus on the correct areas to begin your culture building initiatives.
Characterize & Document What You See Happening
Now that you understand what culture is, it’s time to outline your observations on the 5 elements we’ve previously reviewed. What are you observing about the current state of your culture? What do you see happening with your employees? Are the values of the company evident among your employees and how they are treated? These types of questions help you to review important factors of your culture.
This workbook gives you additional questions and exercises to help you uncover what’s currently happening with your company culture.
Obtain Employee Feedback
Culture detection would not be accurate without getting employee feedback. Employees see and hear what management may not and in many cases, they can offer better insight on what the best approach may be to fix problems in the workplace. Company culture thrives when employees thrive; but what if you’re noticing behavior that is the opposite of thriving? It seems like you’re having a hard time connecting with your employees, they aren’t pleasant or enthusiastic, nor are they performing at their best. These behaviors are a sure sign of a negative culture and poor employee engagement.
As of January 2017, Gallup reports that 35.3% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. This is a (very) slight increase from the 31% of engaged employees that Gallup reported in 2014. This means that there are over 60% of employees who are unengaged at work and have lost the desire to put forth their best effort. These employees aren’t motivated to apply or offer creative ideas or solutions to the team and essentially, they’re only doing the bare minimum just to get by.
Employee engagement has a major impact on company culture. Listening to your employees’ thoughts and considering their feedback on what’s happening at work is key when building culture. It eliminates the guessing game about why employees are dissatisfied and it also helps you approach employee engagement more intentionally. In short, you’re able to hear what’s wrong and what’s not working directly from the source.
The How to Detect Workplace Culture Workbook includes an email template along with an electronic survey link that you can send to your employees to collect their feedback anonymously.
Summarize The Results
Understanding the reality of your company culture and how your employees feel about it lets you determine which problem areas should be addressed first. Review and compare your findings with the feedback you receive from your employees. Then outline the similarities and the differences from your perspective as a leader and most of all, your employees’ perspective. Doing this will set you up to build company culture from a more relevant and intentional standpoint.
Once you know where company culture stands, you will know what it takes to make it better!
FREE Culture Detection Workbook!
You can't build your ideal workplace culture without knowing where it currently stands.This work. This workbook gets you started!