How do you define something that you can’t see, hear or touch?
It may be tricky, but sometimes the intangibles are the most important things because even though they may be tough to describe, you definitely know when they’re not right or when they’re lacking all together.
That’s the case with a company’s culture—it’s essentially the personality of an organization. And it’s more important than ever as our always-on society is seeing the barriers between work and the rest of our lives diminish. Our increasingly diverse workforce also has changing expectations for their careers. Millennials, who now make up the largest share of the workforce, are particularly focused on being part of an organization that features an excellent culture and that aligns with their values. They increasingly want a company culture that focuses on diversity and brings out the best in themselves and their coworkers.
But culture isn’t something you can create overnight. Nor can it be imposed or simply announced; culture is truly organic and is developed over time with all of an organization’s employees. As HR leaders, we have an important role to play in guiding culture and helping our organizations to foster an intentional culture that leaders and employees can believe in. Maybe you’re at a start-up that’s just defining who they are, or perhaps you’re seeking change to invigorate an existing culture. Once you’re comfortable with the idea that creating an intentional culture is a long-term process, you and your teams can begin taking steps to develop the culture that’s right for your organization.
Where can you start? Try these three strategies:
- Begin by listening. Even if your company is relatively new, there are still cultural factors in place. For more well-established organizations, culture may even be very ingrained. That’s why it’s important to learn what your employees at all levels are thinking and feeling about the organization. Are there defined hierarchies of leadership, or is it more of a flat organizational structure? Are new ideas and challenging opinions welcomed, or maybe consensus and stability are prioritized? There are no right or wrong answers, but you have to understand what your culture is before you can decide where you want it to go. Once you’ve talked with your employees and have gained an understanding of your current culture, you can then articulate your vision for the future.
- Get buy-in from leadership. This step is related to the previous one because connecting with the entire leadership team is vital for gaining their support. For cultural change or creation to be intentional, leaders must embody the traits and attitudes that foster that culture. If leaders don’t “walk the talk” employees are less likely to get on board with any cultural changes or believe in the culture being developed.
Hold meetings with senior leaders early and often to help them understand the value of a culture initiative and to feel that they’re part of the evolution. These can be group sessions or one-on-one meetings, or likely a combination of both. As an intentional culture is shaped, encourage leaders to identify business goals that may be shifting with the cultural change, such as seeking new ideas rather than emphasizing profit margins in a particular quarter. That will give a new culture tangible pieces that leaders can impart to their teams.
- Bring new hires on board. If culture is a company’s personality, then onboarding is its first impression, so make it a positive one. Examine your materials, like landing pages and welcome packets, with an eye towards imagery and language that exemplifies what your organization wants to be. Also consider how your practices may change. Should onboarding and new hire training be a more thorough process so new employees can take a deep dive into your company’s goals and activities? Should mentoring or collaborative approaches be implemented, such as cross-team training or rotations? Getting things started on the right track with new employees will demonstrate that culture infuses all areas of your organization, and that it’s being intentionally fostered from the first day on the job.
Benefits are a major factor to your company culture. Learn how you can connect the dots and increase employee engagement with your benefits and company culture below.