Image credit: Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash
We hear a lot about company culture these days. It’s becoming an increasingly important part of hiring and retaining top talent. GreatPlacetoWork.com points out Millennials are 11x more likely to leave a toxic work environment than Gen Xers. But, it’s not company-sponsored happy hours that create an impressive culture at work, although many would consider them a bonus! A positive and attractive company culture is about a community of people who share beliefs, work ethics, values, goals, and expected behaviors.
“When I cut through all the noise about company culture, it is all about the environment created in the company that fosters behavior. Culture is your values in actions,” says John Trakselis, Business and Executive Coach and Chairperson with Vistage, International.
Symptoms of an Unhealthy Company Culture
- High turnover of employees
- Employees can’t state the company’s values
- Leadership fails to model company values
- Unhealthy work-life balance
- Poor communication efforts throughout the company
- Bad work practices build up
- Employees regularly feel the need for a mental health break
For Trakselis, a company’s culture is rooted in its values or lack thereof. If a company’s values are convoluted, not written in common sense terms, or can’t be demonstrated through desired behaviors, then they’re likely not contributing positively to the work environment.
“The second thing that I look at is the company’s principles or code of conduct. You obviously have some sort of behavior going on in the company. Is that behavior consistent with the company’s stated values?
Here are two interesting questions to ask company employees:
- Can you list the company’s values?
- How does the company live out each one of its values?
This is not about embarrassing someone. It is more about how ingrained a particular value is by the specific behaviors witnessed in the company. The height of hypocrisy is to say one thing and do another. This destroys leadership’s credibility with its employees,” states Trakselis.
The Cure Takes Time, but It’s Worth It
All of the unhealthy examples above can be cured; that’s great news! It will take time, commitment, and action by company leaders. Trakselis says leaders need to step up at every level.
“It always starts with leadership—at every level of the organization. One definition of a leader that I like: ‘You are a leader if you influence someone else.’ It is not only top management, but every level of management in the company that sets the tone for behavior.”
This linked Forbes article gives ideas on ways to create a positive culture. Tips include demonstrating respect, having a customer-first attitude and do-it-now work ethic.
Trakselis says building a better culture can start with your next hire. Make sure the talent will mesh well AND even boost the culture with his or her shared values. Other tips to consider:
- Reward positive behaviors that highlight stated values – share them publicly
- Discipline the bad ones, privately, and offer constructive advice on how to change behavior
- Repeat company values often in meetings, events, departments
- Survey the personnel to get a read on the working environment, follow-up regularly
- Listen to understand, not to argue or interrupt
- Address subcultures that undermine the culture you have created in the company
- Encourage humility, curiosity, and teamwork
We recently asked our LinkedIn followers to give us insight into their most valued element of company culture. The overwhelming answer was having a positive work environment. Having your employees want to show up each day, contribute positively and achieve company goals is positive company culture 101!
Keeping the Culture Healthy
Continuing to foster a great company culture requires active check-ups, tweaks, and perhaps a shot in the arm now and then. Be sure to look at how you reward and recognize the people who help create the culture you desire. According to Alta Metrics, not using incentives for your best performers can lead to a toxic environment. If you need any advice on this aspect of company culture, please visit our website, MotivationExcellence.com. We help a wide variety of companies Inspire Extraordinary Performance every day!
Here are a few final thoughts from our passionate advocate this month, John Trakselis. He wants to drive home the fact that a great company culture leads to success on many levels.
- “A positive culture creates trust in the company and, as Stephen R. M. Covey pointed out in his book titled The Speed of Trust, the company thrives because there is more “flow” and less resistance.
- People have a sense of belonging and being part of something bigger than themselves, thereby reaching more of their potential while serving the company and themselves in much bigger ways.
- The company is more likely to achieve its mission, go where it wants to go, service its stakeholders, and promote standards of excellence.”
Now, it’s time to get to work. Even if you think your culture is AOK, be sure to take its temperature now and then to maintain a healthy environment.