Culture is the personality of every business – it shapes how you do things and influences your external brand image. In times of change, culture is especially important for keeping people engaged and connected to your business vision.
But how well do you really understand yours?
We don't see the world as it is, we see it as WE are.
Looking objectively at your culture can be difficult when you're embedded in it every day. So don't just take YOUR word for it – ask you team, clients and partners what they see, feel and experience. Making a deliberate effort to understand your culture is crucial for being able to benefit and grow from it.
The 3 positions
But how can you make sure you’ve got a truly objective view? Look at it from the 3 positions:
1. Observe- what can you see occurring day-to-day?
Culture is essentially common behaviours that are shaped and embedded over time as a result of a complex number of variables all interacting with each other: habits, emotions, beliefs and relationships. As a first step to understanding culture, spend time observing what’s going on day-to-day. For example, how do managers tend to talk to team members? How do meetings generally run in your business? What do people seem to value, and what sometimes gets overlooked? What do people talk about most? What do they tend to complain about? Begin to notice how daily interactions take place, along with the stories people share in order to build a picture of the observable aspects.
2. Ask- what do people feel and experience?
Build on your observed view by asking employees to actively share their perspective and experiences, for example…
What is it like for you working here?
How would you describe this organisation to your friends?
What is your favourite thing about working here?
What would you like to change most about this organisation?
What does it take to succeed around here?
Consider supplementing these conversations with a cultural diagnostic survey to give people the opportunity to speak up anonymously- this can also help you gather lots of input from across all levels of your organisation easily and efficiently.
At Proud Consulting, we developed the WayFinder culture diagnostic to facilitate the objective and comprehensive measurement of culture- taking into account a holistic view of ALL the elements. WayFinder reflects our experiences of helping clients think through the essential building blocks of culture, as illustrated below:
3. Compare- what does existing data tell you?
Finally, ensure you’ve considered what your existing data call tell you. Some notable data points to examine include:
Sickness and absenteeism rates- a good indicator of engagement and wellbeing
Turnover rates- are you recruiting the right people?
Performance and promotion trends- to help you discern whether performance is judged fairly, and whether you’ve articulated the expected standards
Exit interviews- why are people leaving?
Customer complaints- what do your customers think?
And remember...don’t underestimate the role of leaders!
Culture starts at the top – while everyone contributes to the formation of your business’ culture, leaders have the greatest impact on it. Leaders act as behavioural role models, setting the tone for what is acceptable, and what isn’t. If leaders in your business fail to consistently uphold your business purpose and values, disengagement and inappropriate behaviour can follow. Managers are just as important, as the link between both parties. Be sure to consider these dynamics as central influencers on any efforts to understand or change culture.
Culture can make or break a business – make sure you understand yours, then nurture the hell out of what works and explore the things that may need development.
Take the first step – get in touch with us today to find out how we can support you to reach your business growth aspirations though the power of culture.