HOW ENGAGED your employees are goes beyond offering a great benefits package, competitive pay, flexible work schedules and challenging projects. Your company culture is truly your competitive advantage.
Most leaders want a collaborative and innovative workplace, but accomplishing this can be elusive. The following eight steps are tried-and-true strategies to creating a great place to work.
1. Understand the organization is a “human” system, made up of many different people with different perspectives, beliefs and preferences. In a constructive corporate culture, the business as a whole empowers employees to fully participate with one another outside the limits of personal agendas and egos. It inspires people to collaborate and contribute to the group cause. When leaders better understand this human operating system, they can proactively intervene and create an experience for people to thrive.
2. Start the conversation. Reach out to your employees and let them know you want to have a conversation, or send them a survey asking about the culture of your workplace. Share the purpose behind your curiosity. Before you begin your inquiry process, ask yourself what you really want to learn and what you’ll do with the information. As you speak to people and review the results of the survey, embrace your most curious, non-judgmental, non-reactionary self. Staying in the neutral zone during your conversations allows you to sense patterns and discern systemic organizational themes.
3. Take a real look. The first step in any positive change effort is getting real — accepting what needs to change and what needs to happen for the change to last. Make a list of the areas uncovered in the data-collection process (interviews, focus groups, surveys). Prioritize the highest impact areas — those that, if improved, would give the highest return on time, money and effort. Next connect the underlying behaviors and organizational processes that constrain the overall performance, collaboration and innovation among your workforce. Once you have a handle on what is not working, allow the impact of this unworkability to move you into action.
4. Own the impact. The most senior executive is the ultimate guru as to how the organization operates. They decide what behavior is tolerated and how people treat each other. Introspection and self-awareness allow you to get real with yourself about what is really going on in the organization. If you are able to let go of self-judgment and defensiveness, you are much more able to see yourself as the source of the unworkability. It is not about accepting blame or feeling guilty; it is about seeing how you as the leader set the tone and create the space for constructive or destructive behavior in the workplace.
5. Create an inspiring vision. A mission statement helps employees understand how to work in sync with one another to accomplish the collective goal. In the absence of a grounded, motivating mission, people naturally focus on their individual experience and personal goals. This produces a silo mentality and unnecessary competition throughout the organization.
Every person in your workforce has a unique perspective and way of listening.
6. Involve others. Once you gain clarity of your mission and vision, communicating the message to the workforce is essential. Realize that every person in your workforce has a unique perspective and way of listening, and target your message accordingly.
7. Design and follow a road map. Once you have inspired the troops and promised a bright future, it’s time to formulate a specific action plan. A cultural alignment road map includes desired outcomes, initiatives, programs, training, projects and timelines.
Each person involved in shaping a constructive corporate culture needs to understand their specific role, the amount of effort required outside of normal responsibilities, and the desired organizational outcomes. Laying out a plan for what comes first, second and third, as well as who is ultimately responsible for keeping the individual items and overall initiatives on track, is necessary to move forward. Meeting regularly, tracking progress and publishing results will empower forward movement.
8. Measure what matters. Now that you know the why, what, how and who, it is critical to measure the benefits of the changes you are making. Articulating and tracking the key result areas gives insight into what is working and what is not, what needs to pivot or realign, and what needs to stop. Without systemwide accountability from the top to the bottom, your organization won’t flourish. Through accountability and transparency, people get to see their impact, how the team is doing and how the culture changes are elevating the organization’s effectiveness.