What the heck is company culture? SO MUCH has been written about it… so many people are talking about it… but what is it? And more importantly, how do you get the culture you WANT in your company??
Our first order of business is to establish this fact: every business HAS a culture. You already have an accepted way of doing things… it just may not be the way you WANT to do them.
So instead of trying to create a culture, you should probably be focused on changing the culture – which is ultimately more difficult, but not impossible.
If you went to the IAAPA Attractions Expo (#IAE16), you noticed a culture. Remember that feeling when you walked into an education session or onto the trade show floor? That palpable feeling of excitement, anticipation, and camaraderie, that you were sharing this experience with 30,000 of your closest friends? That’s the “culture” of IAAPA, and it didn’t happen overnight.
And your current company culture didn’t just appear overnight, either. It has taken years of influence from you, previous leaders, and unofficial leaders (those without a title, but with plenty of influence). Notice I said influence, but didn’t assign a positive or negative spin to it. The fact is that company culture is driven by both.
And here is the problem I have seen over the years… leaders start out with every intention of creating (or changing to) a positive culture, and they define the actions needed to get there. Unfortunately, what they overlook is how to deal with the negative influences that creep up… the people who are not fully bought in… the curmudgeons who would rather see things stay the same (no matter how dysfunctional), and time. The true time investment it will take to change the way people think, act, and perform their jobs.
Hopefully if you were at #IAE16, you took advantage of some of the educational sessions put on by the HR Committee. Each of the sessions we planned had “culture” as our over-arching topic, then we divided it into subtopics, such as:
- Leadership/Supervisory development
- Front line staff development
Even if you didn’t get to these sessions, the above topics can serve as a road map to changing your own culture. Think it’s just about leadership? Nope. Gotta have the right people on board. Think it’s just about proper training? Nope. Gotta have the right people processes in place. It’s all connected.
It goes back to something you have probably heard me talk about before… the Employee Lifecycle. Thinking about ALL of the factors that influence an employee’s experience (from recruiting to termination) is a necessary part of creating, defining, establishing and altering your company culture.
The Employee Lifecycle. Don’t leave home without it.
So where does this leave us? If you are trying to change your culture, know that it’s not going to be an overnight process. Know that you are going to have stumbling blocks along the way (like people who don’t want to change). Know that it will not come from a wall poster or new fancy set of values that you come up with but don’t uphold with your actions. That’s the biggest culture killer of all… mixed messages when it comes to what you say you stand for.
Case in point – Over Thanksgiving, I was talking with my 26-year-old niece, Samantha, who works at a social media tech company in Austin, TX. At one point, she said she really liked the company culture. So I had to ask, what is it that you like? She mentioned two main things:
- The values of the company were widely accepted by the employees, and those who didn’t fit with the culture didn’t find themselves employed very long. One example was that it’s an expectation to seek help when needed, to find ways to better yourself with the assistance of others on the team. Those who felt they were the smartest people in the room, or that didn’t accept coaching or feedback, ultimately didn’t grow or build the right kind of relationships with those around them. This is a case of the culture taking care of those who don’t fit the culture.
- She knows what the values “look like” and how her daily actions uphold the company vision. This is why fancy posters with verbose mission statements don’t work. Without the right kind of reinforcement, people don’t even know what they mean, let alone know what they would have to DO to uphold or achieve the mission. If an employee can’t see how their daily behaviors impact the bigger picture, they will never understand, nor buy into, the culture you are trying to create. They just won’t.
Related: 3 Ways To Improve Company Culture
Here are my bottom line must-do’s when thinking about changing your culture.
- Decide what culture you want
- Figure out what it takes (behaviorally) to get there. Do that. Everyday.
- Pursue your cultural goal relentlessly – DO NOT LET UP!
- Hire people that will support your culture
- Fire people who won’t
- If something doesn’t fit your culture, don’t do it – no matter how expedient it might be. You will only be hurting yourself.
Ultimately your culture will be what you decide it should be minus what you allow that it shouldn’t be.
Thanks for reading!!
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