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November 12, 2021

Best Practices: The Culture Challenge

Company culture can help build a solid organization and create significant change during even these trying times. Research finds that a strong culture can drive positive organizational outcomes, create long-term value, and prove a significant liability when out of line with legal responsibilities.  

Company culture is more than just a fancy marketing slogan or inspirational words printed in the company’s handbook. Culture is goals expressed through organizational values, beliefs, and shared assumptions. Culture is elusive in that it lacks the concrete precepts that guide successful leaders; strategy formation and growth fundamentals. Culture lives in the silent behaviors, mindsets and social patterns that permeate the workplace. What starts off with the best intentions over time is shaped and reshaped through both conscious and unconscious actions. Many times, these actions have unintended consequences as they are diluted and influenced by shifting priorities and workforce turnover. But, what if culture can in fact be measured; used as a framework to create, manage, and encourage realignment when it starts to go awry?  

Below are a few tips for maximizing cultural value and minimizing its inherent risks. 

Understand what culture is and what it is not. A businesses culture reflects its values, ethics, visions, behaviors and the overall work environment. It is what makes each company unique and impacts everything from retention to public image. Culture is not a checklist of stagnate ideals expressed but not pursued or ever realized.   

Culture is the silent language of the corporate environment. There is purpose and energy in pursuing a common goal. Whether the goal is creating higher sales or a more diverse workforce, aligning inherent values, drives and needs can electrify internal strategy changing opportunities and demands and enhancing the work experience for all employees.  

Focus and then prioritize the company’s cultural emphasis. An organization that can harness the collective focus of its workforce in developing a cultural focus has a greater likelihood of building a solid organization and creating significant change. Start by looking beyond the nature of the business (e.g., type of business, its size, industry, or location) and think about what drives your workforce. Is it creative innovation, collaboration, diversity, flexibility, or a need to drive change and find purpose? Use this knowledge to focus and then prioritize your company’s cultural agenda.  

Top-down integration drives accountability and can minimize risk. A perception that company policies, processes, and procedures do not apply to upper management can have a domino effect on everything from accountability to enforcement. When the implementation and preservation of corporate culture is relegated down the corporate chain it can easily and quickly become secondary to business concerns. The risk? Culture at its lowest and most disinterested level. 

Creating a lasting and effective workplace culture requires buy-in at the highest levels, persistence, guidance, and enforcement. Workplace leaders at every level can drive and, in some circumstances, realign positive cultural changes.