Today we wrap up our discussion of corporate culture with a practical application. In Part 1 we explored the importance of a positive corporate culture to the health of the organization. Then we examined why progressive corporate cultures enhance the inner workings of a company in Part 2. Next, Part 3 focused on how to spot a toxic corporate culture. In Part 4, the last post in the series, it is time to explore the evaluation process and create a plan of action to purposefully shape a positive corporate culture.
Like the fish in the water, we often don’t notice culture because we are immersed in it. It simply seems “normal,” that is, at least until we move or visit somewhere with a different “normal.” All of a sudden we realize culture is not universal. In the same way, corporate culture varies by organization, and it may seem “normal” until we get a new job at a different company.
One company I worked for had a particularly toxic corporate culture, yet several employees had been there for decades. One of my co-workers was about my age and noticed many of the same problems I noticed for how communication happened (or didn’t happen), how managers behaved, and how decisions were made. However, he acted as if these issues were simply normal for any work environment. He started working for the company when he was only 18 and had been promoted through the ranks. It had been his first and only job, so he didn’t know any other corporate culture. This co-worker and several others had accepted the corporate culture as normal instead of recognizing it as toxic. Those of us who had worked elsewhere had a very difficult time adjusting to the culture, and most of us left after only a year or two.
The ability to evaluate an organization’s culture empowers us to begin working to change it. The goal is not to criticize or be discontented. Every corporate culture from the most toxic to the most progressive has room for improvement that will enhance the overall health of the organization and make it a better place to work. The goal is to take stock of what aspects of the culture are good and what aspects need tweaking so we can be instruments of positive change.
Evaluating Corporate Culture
1. Employee morale. Do you like going to work? Is the environment a place you want to be? Are your interactions with co-workers mainly positive?
2. Communication processes. What gets communicated, to whom, and how? Are there channels in place to invite feedback? Do employees feel “out of the loop”?
3. Mission and values. Are employees truly living out the mission and values of the company in their work? If not, what needs to change so they can?
4. Rewards and Reprimands. What behavior gets rewarded? What gets reprimanded? Is it consistent? Is it fair?
5. Leadership. What tone and example is being set by the leadership? What is the leadership’s attitude toward work? What expectations are being set?
These five areas will provide a snapshot of the corporate culture. They offer a good starting point to determine what areas are on track and what needs a closer look.
Once you have finished an evaluation, it’s time to implement some changes. Remember, change often happens slowly. The bigger the organization, the slower the change will happen. Still, it is worth the effort to begin making positive changes. Here are three areas to get started:
1. Constructive communication. Culture can only change when new messages are communicated. Creating effective communication channels and keeping everyone engaged through regular communication is the key to developing a positive corporate culture. Feedback should be encouraged and welcome.
2. Proactive policies and practices. Ensure that policies uphold the vision and direction of the company. It’s not enough to put policies and practices in place; you must also take steps to share them through constructive communication and apply them to the everyday functions of the company.
3. Positive people. People make up the organization, so it is vital that executives and employees are on board with the company’s mission. Sometimes an individual is not a good fit for the company. In these cases, the employee may be re-trained, moved to a position that is a better fit, or released to find a situation that better suits the individual. This principle can be applied to some clients as well.
Share your insights and ideas by adding a comment! What changes do you want to make in your corporate culture? How do you plan to make those changes?
This was the final installment of the 4-part series on corporate culture. If you missed the first three, you can find them by clicking the links below.