The Business Leaders Guide to Cultivating a Strong Company Culture
There is no such thing as a culture-less organization. Every business has a company culture, whether it was formed deliberately or not. Of course, not every culture is positive or effective, and when they are neglected it often leads to disaster.
What’s more, because the business world is so concentrated and competitive, culture tends to be one of the few, if only, unique identifiers that help a company stand out. That is precisely why it’s imperative for company leaders, executives, and managers to invest time and resources into the development of strong company culture.
But just in case you need more motivation, let’s dig into why a strong culture is so instrumental to success.
Culture is Crucial to Brand Identity
While major elements like product and service offerings, marketing campaigns, and core values are the more obvious facets that tend to shape the way people see a brand, culture is another contributing factor.
Just look at Amazon and some of the more recent things that are happening culturally and socially, with the company. Without diving into the particulars too much, some negative press recently has soured consumer sentiment. It may not be at a major tipping point just yet, but if the company doesn’t work to turn things around culturally within its operations the situation is going to get much worse.
An insolvent culture is a systemic problem that can lead to serious repercussions, like lower profits, poor company buy-in, terrible employee satisfaction rates, and negative consumer sentiment. And since culture is a strong representation of brand identity and image, a bad one is going to determine how dire employees, partners, and customers feel about your company.
Culture isn’t about any one process, element, or ideal. It’s a collective concept. For instance, messaging, in all forms, has a lot to do with positive sentiment and healthy culture. Even something like large format wall graphics, within the office, can have a direct impact on the positivity and productivity of a business. It’s these outliers that also play a role, alongside some of the major cultural components.
The Benefits of Strong Culture
So, a strong culture is necessary to build a positive image, that much we know at this point. What else can a strengthened culture provide to the average business? What kind of transformation(s) will a company see by repairing or building a better culture for their employees?
- A boost in employee satisfaction ratings
- Increased levels of employee engagement
- Decreased turnover rates
- Better access to high-level talent and support
- More effective onboarding processes
- Strong brand identity with more ethical values
- Healthier employees
According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, highly-engaged businesses have 59% fewer turnover rates. Moreover, employees that feel more engaged are 125% more productive than just normally satisfied workers. With this information, it is not inconceivable why strong culture can lead to a successful business, better output, and higher profits.
How to Build and Cultivate a Strong Company Culture
The writing is on the wall, but that doesn’t make the process any easier. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that cultivating, and maintaining, a strong culture is a never-ending task. In most cases, it’s not something that’s just going to happen overnight, and the benefits will also take some time to propagate.
That said, what are some reliable ways to build a positive and healthy culture? How can business leaders and executives contribute, and what should they be focused on?
1. Define Your Culture
Chances are, your business already has some form of culture in place. What is it? How is it different from what you would like it to be? What kind of changes do you need to make to achieve the ideal culture?
Basically, culture includes the tacit social order, general behaviors, and operational attitudes of your entire organization. To understand it, you will need to conduct some internal research, if you haven’t already.
Start by defining your company’s core values, including the general purpose, a mission statement, beliefs, goals, and standards. Then work with your team(s) to enhance and optimize those ideals. A strong and successful way to do this is through constant communication and feedback, which is outlined in the step below.
2. Communicate and Collect Feedback
The voice of your business has everything to do with the satisfaction of your employees, as it does your customers. Clarifying and defining your culture is step one, but you can do that with the help of your workforce.
Be sure that everyone knows what the company stands for, what standards they are being held to, and what that means for the entire operation. Moreover, this should be a point that’s hammered home throughout the lifetime of the business — not just one time and done. Sometimes, people need reminding, and that includes your workers, your fellow executives, and even you.
You should also have a system in place to collect feedback constructively and satisfyingly for those involved. No one should ever be punished for coming forward or speaking up. Nor should voices be stifled. In a strong culture, everyone has value, and everyone has something to contribute.
3. Live it
One of the biggest mistakes that any leader can make — management too — is to ignore or step outside of the promoted culture. You must lead by example. It starts at the top and trickles down, and that’s true of both positive and negative attitudes.
That’s not to say that practicing integrity is easy, or that hypocrisy will never happen. What’s more important to understand is that we all make mistakes, and that means owning up to any mistakes that you do make. Also, you must publicly announce these things, including your intent to change or do better when the opposite happens.
Are you holding yourself to the same standards and requirements as your employees? Are you making an effort to listen to their concerns, and using that information to inform action? Do you pay attention to employee health and well-being, and do you continue to make sure they have everything they need?
Whether your original plans are implemented in full or not, cultivating a strong culture is a continuous process that may change in scope over time, especially as your business and success grow. It is up to you and your colleagues to ensure the culture remains in place and is properly maintained. Yes, this becomes increasingly difficult as the organization sees more success and scales up, but that’s precisely why it should be an ongoing effort.
A best practice is to establish a team dedicated to internal culture, who can spearhead the development and deployment of internal programs. It’s not something that should be rolled into HR or existing departments, but they should definitely be allowed communication and collaboration opportunities — no siloes! Don’t forget to check with your team, to assess the ongoing support and development of the internal culture.
Building Momentum: Stronger Together
A strong culture is necessary to thrive and ensures the health and happiness of nearly all employees within an organization. Benefits don’t stop there, however, they ripple outwards to improve support and sentiment for a brand. When customers have faith in a company, and its general operations, they’re more likely to spend. That leads to higher profits, greater success, and a cyclical boon for the company.
Of course, stronger loyalties, happier employees, and better productivity, alone, are worth the effort. Wouldn’t you agree?