There is a clear path to healthy culture, and you achieve this one step at a time. Let’s look at what it takes to get there.
Begin by reflecting on and prioritizing the values your company stands for and the beliefs you hold about how people work best.
• Why these principles?
• What sort of environment will they construct?
• What sort of people will thrive in this environment?
• What concrete behaviors are associated with these beliefs?
• How can you encourage them?
In order for culture to be more than lip service, it must be used to guide decision making and design policy. It is through the implementation of cultural preferences that you create an environment that will retain the people you want to keep.
Implementation also acts as a means of communication, demonstrating the culture by providing a host of daily, action-based reminders of organizational values. Cultural preferences can guide the design of a workplace that caters to the type of employee you want in insightful and unexpected ways. For example, Exxon Mobil—with a culture that tends toward the extremes of rigidity, formality, and systemization—was considering switching from a defined benefits plan to a defined contribution plan (more commonly offered by companies today). They decided against it, concluding “the security the defined benefits plan provides is more in sync with the values of the employees the company hopes to retain.”
Filter for a Cultural Fit:
A formal cultural assessment is an invaluable tool; it allows for statistically valid measurements of cultural preferences. Another common practice is requiring prospective employees to specifically address your core values during the application and interview process. Asking for the applicant’s take on core values (or inviting them to share how they embody these values) gathers relevant information about cultural fit and sends a clear message about the kind of person who will be successful in the organization.
Filter for Passion:
In addition to cultural preferences, the interview process should assess an individual’s passion. Passion motivates individuals to add value to the world and themselves beyond the confines of their daily duties. The subject of one’s passion doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of one’s job, but often in creative spheres it can be. Whenever possible employees should be empowered to bring their passions into their work in creative ways. People are more engaged when the subject of their passion can be incorporated into professional projects, and this encourages a culture of high involvement and personal ownership.
Assessing Your Culture:
Not sure where you stand? Ask yourself and your team these questions to ask to assess your culture:
• Can you concisely define what you stand for, believe, and value? Can your employees?
• What concrete policies are in place to foster these values?
• Are you filtering new hires based on cultural fit?
• Do your workers have opportunities for growth and development?
• Are passion projects optional? Are they encouraged?
• How do you foster a sense of ownership?
• Does everyone in your organization have the same definition of success?
Depending on your answers to the above, you will have an idea of where to add detail or shift. No matter where you land, remember that everyone has a culture preference. If you don’t understand that, you are doomed to frustration. Remember, if you filter for the culture you need at your company, you’ll be much closer to the successful outcomes you desire.