A few weeks ago we started our discussion about culture by examining its importance. A healthy culture drives all aspects of an organization including high performance and low turnover. “Culture is everything, “ said former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner.
In our last blog, we defined culture. It’s the way employees act and feel. Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, put it this way in a December 2014 blog entry titled “How Much Does Corporate Culture Matter?”:
“Culture is the energy field in an organization. It’s real, but
way too often we pretend that we don’t see it.”
Liz went on the say:
“That’s the elephant in the room – the issue that doesn’t get
discussed. Fear keeps us quiet when we should [be] jumping
[up] and down and hollering about what’s broken and how to
So how do you fix culture? Can an organization really build a healthy culture? Absolutely! Just follow these five easy steps.
Step 1: Be focused.
Organizations that want to build a healthy corporate culture must fully commit to doing so. “Fully” committed means using strong words such as:
- Attack your culture.
- Be fanatical about culture.
- Enthusiastically build your culture.
- Aggressively address your culture.
- Be obsessive about culture-building efforts.
Building a healthy culture takes time and effort. To see success, an organization must go “all in” with their culture-building activities.
Step 2: Define what your culture should be.
Does your organization have mission and vision statements? Does it have stated values? Mission and values are the beginning of your culture efforts.
The step many organizations miss is defining how that mission and those values will be carried out. In other words, what actions and behaviors must employees display in order to carry out that mission and those values?
For example, if one of your values is “Respect”, how does an organization demonstrate that value? Show up on time to meetings? Return phone calls and emails in a prompt manner? Resolve conflict quickly and privately? Yes, yes, and yes!
Step 3: Communicate the culture, particularly from the top.
There are numerous ways of communicating culture. On the corporate website, internal employee portal, newsletters, during training sessions and team meetings.
One area where many organizations fall short is getting executive management involved, specifically the CEO. While culture changes from the bottom up through daily interactions among employees, culture change is modeled from the very top. Employees want to see the CEO and other top executives as part of the overall team and that they believe in the culture. So be sure top execs are communicating the culture by walking around and visiting with employees, delivering regular town hall meetings, and sending email updates from the executive suite.
Step 4: Invest in your culture.
There are many great ways of implementing this step including parties, luncheons, employee celebrations, making sure all facilities are enjoyable and inspire great work. You might even include a few foosball tables and strategically located beanbag chairs. And don’t forget about rewards and recognition!
Step 5: Train supervisors to promote the culture.
This is another form of investing in your culture. Make sure supervisors across the organization are equipped to both model and manage to the culture you are trying to build. Your mission and values may say one thing but if your supervisors are acting counter to your “Respect” value, well, your culture-building efforts will struggle.
That’s it – five easy steps! Okay, these steps aren’t easy but they aren’t complicated either. If you start with Step 1 and whole-heartedly commit to building a strong, healthy, and engaging culture, steps two through five will fall into place.
Want to explore culture further? Send me a note, call, or start a discussion here!
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.