How to change your business culture

Employees putting their hands in a pile on table

An excellent business culture can attract, motivate and retain employees. Here are four ways to improve your business culture.

Most businesses struggle to articulate their culture because it’s so intangible, hard to describe and often you need to ‘see it’ or somehow ‘feel it’ to truly understand it.

Customer focused. Work hard/Play hard. Team focused. Love to learn. Transparent. Fair. These are common words used to try to explain a culture, but really, what do they mean?  Each of these words is open to interpretation and our interpretation of them will depend on our belief system and upbringing. Furthermore, if it’s hard to articulate or describe ‘it’, then imagine how difficult it can be to improve, change or make a shift to your organisational culture?

In basic terms, workplace culture is ‘the way we do things around here’.  A great way to start thinking about culture is through a defined set of ‘shared’ values and attitudes. The key word here is defined – eg: more than just a word, an explanation or interpretation of what that means in your business.

So how can a business agree or improve their values? How do you get a large (or even small) number of employees to live and breathe through those values and practices? The answer is that changing cultures can be extremely difficult and take a long period of time, because it often lays in a non-mandated format.

Here are some tips on how to review, improve and shift the culture within your business.

Don’t try to change, try to influence

While it’s extremely difficult to change workplace culture, leaders can influence it for the better in several ways – from the owner/CEO level right down to a team leader/supervisor.

Ideally, your culture should be one that produces happy and productive employees who work towards the business’ goals, something that is by no means an easy feat to influence. Leading by example is extremely important, as people find it easier to believe and understand what they see, not what they hear, particularly when they can see the success and its outcomes. And even if it’s not successful, use and link those visuals to words and explain the purpose. Success will help you demonstrate and reinforce why these concepts are important. Then, once you’ve defined those, allow the team to brainstorm and work out how to apply them to a specific project.

Communicate your vision

Think about what your workplace culture would be like ideally – what would be different and how will it contribute to the success of the company? To define a vision, look at the critical behaviours that will characterise success and let those define the culture. Be as specific as possible – use both positive and negative examples to define it, rather than vague concepts.

Live your business mission, vision and values.

Use the business’ mission, vision, and values to provide a framework for your external and internal activities. Link those words and definitions to day-to-day tasks and explain to employees how they link to business outcomes and success. Don’t assume anyone understands your interpretation. The more you talk about it, the more it will sink in.

For example, Apple’s culture is renowned for attracting, motivating, and retaining employees. With a simple value and tag-line, Think Different, Apple’s culture and passion for innovation and creativity is reflected in everything they do both internally and externally. This inspirational vision shows employees what they can do to make Apple successful – and how to be personally successful in the company.

Put culture into everything you do

Add workplace values into everything you do from a people management perspective – into hiring, promoting, rewarding, developing, managing and leading. People tend to do what’s rewarded and measured. Linking your values into everything including measuring their success is another great way to demonstrate that they are important. Think about client surveys and peer surveys, obtaining measureable data on how you are living the values. Then brainstorm them as a team and work out how you can improve stakeholder experiences.

Recruitment Coach is a unique coaching and consulting firm for small-medium businesses, specialising in simple, effective human resources strategies. Contact us for more information.

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/steve-bannister/13/917/2b2 Steve Bannister

    A great article Paula that confirms that whilst you can change all the mechanisms (structures, processes, systems etc) you have to influence the people.

  • http://youroutsourcedmarketingdepartment.com.au/ Denis The Marketing Expert

    Very nice article, great stuff! Showing you different techniques and approach. very informative.