If you are in management, you are tasked with the never-ending job of coaching employees, guiding their behavior, and helping employees perform their best. When employees are in a workplace with a well-defined culture, your leadership tasks become immeasurably easier; in an environment with a strong culture, people have a more defined path of expected behavior.
So what do you do if you’ve had a cultural breakdown? How do you guide employees if there is no clear company culture for them to reference? Often cultural breakdowns happen when there are big shifts in a company – such as a merger or top leadership changes. If your company is facing a crisis of culture, it is possible to rebuild your company culture and rally your employees behind it. We’ll break the process down into four steps.
Step 1: Define your company culture
What is culture, exactly? An informal way to define company culture is simply: “The way things are done around here.” In other words, culture may not be spelled out in HR manuals, but it’s an understood ethos that defines people’s motivation, attitude, and work style.
To rebuild your company culture successfully, you need to have a solid definition of what your company culture is. Articulate it and give your employees a frame of reference. Employees may have their own definition of how they see the culture, but everyone needs to be on-board with the same definition. Is your company culture one where people are expected to have a relentless work ethic, put in 12-hour days, and strive for perfection? Or perhaps your company culture is driven by going and above-and-beyond in customer service? Define what your culture is and what it’s not, and educate your staff accordingly so that everyone has a common definition of what your company stands for.
Step 2: Establish a way to “measure” culture
Culture may seem like nebulous concept that escapes any type of quantification, but in fact, culture can be quantified, and you should develop tools to track and measure it.
A company’s culture should be linked with performance. Is your company primarily about sales? How does your culture reflect sales, and how do you measure progress? Does your company pride itself on retaining employees and being a coveted place to work? If so, track your progress by turnover numbers. Your culture will have some aspect that can be quantified, and it will have aspects that can be best told through dialogue. Use surveys to get input and track progress from your employees on the parts that can’t be distilled down to cold, hard numbers, and use numbers where necessary to paint the full picture.
Step 3: Create processes to maintain your company’s culture
You can have a terrific definition of your company’s culture, and you can even have the best tools in place to measure it, but if you don’t have processes in place to guide and maintain your company’s culture, it probably won’t last.
Everyone in the organization needs to be aligned with the company’s cultural definition – particularly your leadership team. Educate your team on how they can coach their staff to think about how culture affects business. How does culture propel or hinder performance? What can you be doing to constantly shape and improve behavior to fit into the culture? Create a framework that your company’s leadership team can use to ensure that the company culture is reflected in all aspects of your business.
Step 4: Don’t give up
Finally, keep in mind that creating a culture is a process that takes time. This is particularly true in larger organizations, or places where a negative, toxic culture has taken root. Don’t give up in working at improving the culture, and be persistent until you start to see real, actionable changes. The good news is that people (the majority, that is), will prefer a positive culture over a negative culture; a productive culture over a stagnant culture; and a driven, focused culture over one without clear goals. Once you start to turn the tide, your employees will start to embrace the new.