There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that improving the culture in a business creates positive business outcomes*. Having a great culture is not just a “feel good” factor. An engaged culture can deliver:
- 26% less employee turnover
- 20% less absenteeism
- 15% greater employee productivity
- 30% greater customer satisfaction levels
How to improve your company culture
You may have heard the saying in business that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. But what does that really mean? What is culture in a business? And how can you improve your organisations culture?
Firstly, that saying comes from the famous management consultant and author Peter Drucker (1909-2005) and emphasises the dominant influence of culture over a company’s strategy in determining the success of a business. No matter how good your business strategy is, nor how effective and well documented your processes and systems are, if your employees are not behind you and fully engaged (which is a result of the culture) the performance of the business will suffer.
Although Drucker’s work mainly focused on what happens in large-scale organisations like automotive manufacturers during the last half of the 20th century, the impact of organisational culture is even more important in these days of remote teams, workforce casualisation and the increasingly shorter average tenure in a job for experienced workers.
People often talk about the culture of a company, but what exactly is ‘culture’?
I’m not going to give a long-winded explanation here, however one definition of corporate culture is:
The beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.
Hmm, that’s not particularly helpful in managing culture in your own business. “How employees and management interact”, “culture is implied”, “from the cumulative traits of the people” – may be correct but it’s not very precise.
Another famous quote on the topic of business culture (from the 1982 book Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life) is, “It’s the way we do things around here”.
“Yeah, that’s right” but so what?
Once again, it sounds pithy and we can all nod our head and say “Yeah, that’s right”… but what does it mean for you in your business?
How can you improve your culture if you don’t know what it is?
Having a Vision for your business is a great start as it defines what you’d like to achieve. And establishing Values within the business is even better. But the best approach is to define the actionable and identifiable components under what I call the ABC’s of your company culture – Affirmations, Behaviours and Customs.
Affirmations are expressed in words, either verbally or in writing. It’s what we tell ourselves and others about how we are and/or how we want to be. Many companies have posters or signage around their premises with sayings or quotes that are often based on the values or beliefs of the company, or words from the founder the company lives by – that’s an example of an affirmation. Or it could be displayed on posters or screensavers, or it may be phrases to be used in conversation.
Behaviours are how we act as individuals. How do we want staff to act with customers? How should managers interact with staff? How should we communicate to each other? Behaviours are specific things we can do which may include simple actions such as greeting fellow team members in the morning, showing courtesy and patience such as not criticising others when they contribute during meetings, or demonstrating initiative by taking an innovative approach when handling an issue.
Customs are things we do to celebrate or to recognise achievements or milestones. Examples could include the birthday person cooking a cake to bring in for sharing, holding social events outside of work, recognising significant wins or learning outcomes (e.g. qualifications achieved), or having internal company awards.
Values come first
Importantly, establishing the ABC’s first requires the company to have identified its key values. For it’s those key values which underpin the affirmations, behaviours and customs within that particular organisation.
For example if one of the company values was ‘teamwork’ we could identify the affirmations, behaviours and customs that would support the intentional focus on teamwork within the business.
Additionally, the ABC’s can be incorporated into performance reviews through the use of Behavioural KPI’s which apply the desired ABC’s to the role each person holds. The ABC’s can also be used at a team level to encourage greater team cohesion and productivity.
Having a great company culture is essential for continued success. And the definition of what your culture is must be granular enough to be actionable. It must be relevant and specific for your team to clearly recognise, believe and implement in their workplace, and for managers to apply when assessing business performance and discussing individual contributions through the use of Behavioural KPI’s.
The adoption of Affirmations, Behaviours and Customs as part of the Business Success Ecosystem provides a direct link between the company values and the expectations of all employees, based on the overriding growth goals of the company.
If you would like to discuss how to improve the culture in your business by creating customised ABC’s, or how to adopt Behavioural KPI’s within your development review structure, you’re welcome to get in touch for a complimentary consultation.