Workplace Culture and the Signs of Change
At the beginning of my career, more than thirty years ago, it was enough to describe a business in terms of the quality of products produced and services rendered and there was no talk of company culture. Command and control management ruled the board room (and everywhere else in the organization). The boss was emulated and to climb the corporate ladder you strived to be just like him. Diversity schimerschity.
Then came the Quality years. The focus turned to the HOW. Processes came under a magnifying glass and received certifications and ISO became a sacred defining label. Command and control still ruled the day but shifting workplace behaviors and diversity weren’t just outliers anymore. Challenges to “my way or the highway” spawned collaboration and better decision making. The culture of Everyone Be Just Like the Boss was shifting to Self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence.
Today how meets why.
Galapagos or Bust
Darwin must certainly be smiling down on our workplace evolution. Back legs are pushing us up onto dry land. Company cultures are demanding a deeper level of employee engagement and a stronger commitment to diversity and team decision-making. Leadership is not an exclusive club anymore and productivity is not defined by time served. Today’s workforce wants everyone to be able to earn an opportunity to lead and develop the best version of themselves. Understanding the WHY of an organization is key to this level of engagement and a corresponding level of commitment. Another key is being open to where it might lead.
Recently, one of our global clients with a rich history and proud legacy began the effort to better articulate why it exists today, what its vision is for the future and what distinguishes its corporate culture. To their credit, the executive management made a strategic decision not to make this a backroom initiative. Instead, listening sessions were conducted all over the globe to ensure employees at all levels of the business had input, and the effort resulted in gathering information from all business segments and work communities.
Digesting all of this data is no small task but it will produce an authentic Mission, Vision and set of Values to guide the company’s culture and future.
Get Started Evolving Company Culture:
The Mission clearly states why the company exists. Creating a clear concise statement may be a lot harder than it first appears. Conflicting priorities may muddle the process, but don’t get discouraged. Remember in school how it was easier to write three pages about a topic than a concise paragraph? The same applies to this exercise. Invest the time to get it right. Whittle down to the core of why your company exists and you will create the “elevator pitch.” Imagine the power of everyone in your organization saying the same thing when asked about their company. That kind of alignment is priceless.
The Vision defines the company’s future state and includes tangible goals to be achieved. This vision should be so clear the whole team can easily share it and use it to guide decision making—your company’s north star. The target date needs to make sense for your team. Can you rapidly make adjustments or do your processes take more time? This may dictate a target date for your vision of a year or ten years into the future.
Values are the expected behaviors that support the desired workplace culture. Stay away from glib phrasing that makes company values sound like common marketing slogans. These values need to speak uniquely and authentically to your organization and align the way the team behaves and approaches decision making – that’s company culture in action. If clearly stated, these values will function as a filter in the hiring process determining whether a person is a right fit for the organization. Values set the tone and attitudes of the workplace, in other words, the culture.
Regardless of where your company culture is in its evolution, how do you begin?
Focus on these four elements:
1. Embrace change. Learn to love it.
2. Make listening a core organizational strength. This will require teaching soft skills and showing appreciation.
3. Encourage discussion especially when it allows norms to be challenged.
4. Be patient with new processes and enjoy the stretch.
Is this quest in your 2020 priorities?