Organizational Culture is a powerful force that determines what you and your team can accomplish. Organizational Culture is the combination of values, vision, policies, procedures, and interactions among the people who make up the organization. It’s more than celebrating birthdays each month. It lets employees, partners, and customers alike know what is acceptable and what is not. And after experiencing the great resignation, organizational culture is a key factor as employees make decisions about where to work next.
Some organizations, no matter what words they put on the wall in the lobby, have cultural practices that are full of judgment, gossip, and punitive consequences for going against the status quo. These cultures create complacency, toxic engagement, and inequities either intentionally or unintentionally.
Other organizations seem to be a dream place to work because they are flexible yet hold teams and leaders accountable. Their values and practices match and create transparency in the organization’s day-to-day and strategic decision-making (i.e., people know what is expected), there is consistency in the application of policies, and a practice of truth-telling.
We all want a positive organizational culture that makes work a joy and the workplace uplifting, especially as high-performing employees are hard to find and harder to retain.
So, how can you create a positive organizational culture that attracts top employees?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Leaders, work on your own personal and professional development. This enhances your awareness of things you may be unconsciously doing that negatively impact the culture.
- Leaders, share your vision and the things in the environment that are influencing your decisions.
- Include others in the conversation about shifting the culture. Then they too become responsible for the organization’s culture.
- Hire for cultural fit.
- Review your policies and procedures for unconscious bias, and unintended negative consequences or impact.
- Evaluate your practices to be sure they are having the positive impact you intend. For example, going out for team beers on Friday nights might be fun, but who does that leave out? What hardship does that put on some members of your team? Perhaps, parents who need childcare coverage, caregivers of elderly parents, or moonlighters (2nd job) discreetly trying to make ends meet. This is just one example of unintended consequences.
- Ask for suggestions from employees and take an experimental stance to see what works.
- Reward the behavior you want to see more of and discourage the behavior you want less of, like gossip.
This topic brings to mind a past experience with one of my clients. When I looked under the surface of what was going on in their organization, we discovered a culture of gossip. With political tensions already high in the culture, adding the gossip on top made the work environment difficult for both team members and leaders to navigate. Gossip doesn’t need facts to flourish, untrue rumors live next to factual events equally. You can begin to discourage gossip by pulling away from your own participation in it and calling it out as unacceptable when you hear or see it . Add a positive spin or reward the positive discussion of others and move away from destructive gossip.
Intentionally building a positive and powerful organizational culture that both feels good to you and your employees and inspires excellence, innovation, and results, takes discipline. Putting in the effort is worth the investment in yourself and the organization.