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Today, companies are evolving, growing, and changing faster than ever. Whether this is in the form of expanding markets, becoming more digitally focused, or a myriad of other reasons, people sometimes forget that a company’s culture always has to change along with it. While attention might be more readily externally focused, research is showing more and more that equal, if not more, attention needs to be placed inward, especially in times of change. The best way to do this is through creating a positive and inclusive company culture. So…what does that mean, and what does it look like?
1. Actively Engaged Leadership
For starters, it is key to realize WHO is in charge of creating a truly amazing company culture. While the Human Resources department plays an important role, the main responsibility will always fall on the leadership – the CEOs. It is their job to make sure that managers and employees are living and inspiring the culture, but it is also key that the CEOs themselves play an active role if a company culture is going to be truly successful. In other words, they have to lead by example. For some, this means making sure employees know they care, and they are available to engage, about work and life in general. For others, that role might fall more on the upper management, but the CEO must still be well-connected with the upper management to help them maintain that sense of team unity. The role of HR is more of a supporting role – they are the ones keeping everyone on track with the desired culture. They are there onboard new employees, and make sure that everything the company does, from raises to bonuses and more, promotes the collaborative and inclusive culture that leads companies to success.
This is a change in perspective that many business owners miss. For a long time, it was believed that a more cutthroat competitive culture was best for business, and ultimately for employees since it had a financial impact on them. This has however been proven false by recent data. While the hardnosed environment might seem more productive at first, over time it has far greater costs, and negative impacts to the bottom line. According to studies mentioned in the Harvard Business Review (Emma Seppala), some of the costs associated include: 50% greater health care expenditures and workplace accidents; disengagement that leads to more accidents, errors, and work days missed; increased health risks such as heart disease and far more employees who miss work due to illness; lack of company loyalty and more. These reasons are some of the motivating factors behind the culture change we are seeing in the business world, particularly with large companies like Google.
So, what does successfully changing company culture look like? The answer varies, depending on the type of company, number of employees, etc. However, a positive work culture is usually based on the following characteristics: “caring for, being interest in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends; providing support for one another, including offering compassion when others are struggling; avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes; inspiring one another at work; emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work; treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust and integrity” (Emma Seppala, hbr.org). As you can see, the common thread throughout all these characteristics is genuine connection. When employees believe in the impact their work has, the feeling of being a valued member of a team and knowing that people have their back, inspires to do their best work, which in turn benefits the company. It gives people a feeling of safety and lets them expand their own skills. It is the boss’s job to help foster a work environment that encourages the characteristics that lead to success.
2. Diversity and Inclusion.
Two other important elements in a positive company culture are diversity and inclusivity. Research, both past and current, shows that having a diverse employee base benefits companies in many ways, including “higher company profits” (Petal Walker, lexology.com). But, diversity alone doesn’t bring about these benefits – it is the combination of having a diverse employee base, and an inclusive company culture. As Petal Walker puts it, “Diversity is getting people into the space, but inclusion is actually using the full range of their talents to inform the organization so the organization grows…If your organization isn’t inclusive, (it) is not as profitable, powerful or long lasting as it could be, because it has all this wasted talent” (lexology.com). Instead of having employees think on a singular basis, i.e. how they can get a raise, make more money, etc., it is encouraging people to work by a philosophy based on the collective “we” and how the company as a whole can make money and expand.
3. Effective Change Management.
During times of large-scale transition, it is more important than ever to effectively manage change. Sadly, this is where it is most often overlooked. Having worked with organizations for more than 30 years to create positive and sustainable company cultures, this issue is especially vital to QuantumMark. In order for change to be effective, it is crucial for employees to feel safe, valued, like their opinions matter, and that they get a big picture overview from the higher-level management and CEO. Anytime company culture is not a central focus, changes have a high risk of failure, because the employee base implementing and living with the change did not have ownership and buy-in of it. Alternatively, making culture a pivotal focus means that change is not only accepted, but embraced.
4. Customer Satisfaction.
A last reason why it’s beneficial having a positive company culture at the center of attention for businesses today is that the internal culture affects the outside – your customers. As Alex Tate put it “your front desk is you,” your front desk is not just a physical desk where a receptionist sits, it is any type of initial interaction a customer has with your company. When employees are happy, and feel they add value to the organization, they will provide far better first impressions than those who are doing a job “just to work.”
While these elements may seem monumental and time consuming, it is important to realize that placing emphasis on building and maintaining a positive company culture is no longer an option, but a mandatory element for running a successful business. This however, should not be a scary thing. If CEOs truly are living by example and investing in their company’s success, the company culture should happily reflect that as a natural byproduct. Companies can focus on hiring employees who fit well with their existing culture and invest in those employees. With the right mindset – and sometimes a little help from a neutral third party – living by example can become second nature. Creating an environment that invites individuals to come to work and be part of a thriving team allows companies to realize a host of benefits. The payoff for creating, fostering, and living in a positive company culture is priceless, in more ways than one.
Your Front Desk is You | EMRandEHR.com
Corporate Culture is not the HR Departments Responsibility | Brian Eager
The CEO’s Role in shaping the Organizations Culture | Brigadier General George Forsythe, Karen Kuhla and Daniel Rice
How To Keep Your Company Culture After Major Corporate Changes | Jeff Weber
Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive | Emma Seppala & Kim Cameron
On Diversity Panel, Petal Walker Emphasizes Importance of Inclusive Company Culture | Wilmer Cutler