Do you love where you work? Whichever way you answer, in most businesses, your answer will be determined by how much you enjoy your co-workers. How people work together, the underlying conversations and regular rituals that we engage is all part of workplace culture. It’s just like different families celebrating together in different ways, each has their own style. No one is right but when you are part of it, there is a right way to act and be.
A workplace culture can be a fragile thing that can make a place that was once a dream to work for becomes a motivational sink hole.
Cultures are mostly created spontaneously without design. That is to say that it’s based on an amalgam of management’s personality, the residual work habits of previous team members, and the unwritten ground rules between management and the team. The downside of spontaneously arising cultures is that without design they can corrupt the success of both team members and the business.
You’ve heard of cases where a culture of bullying has led to mistreatment of team members, or a culture of “whatever it takes” has led to corruption, or a culture of criticism has led to a high worker turnover.
So how do you engineer a company culture that helps rather than hinders?
Start by looking at 3 main areas:
Intra – This is the existing conversation inside the head of your team members. If your team has the picture in their head that your workplace is “cheap and nasty”, “doesn’t care about customers” or “management is slack”. These hidden attitudes can be the symptoms of pervasive unstated agreements between team members that can lead to mayhem. The aim here is prevention before cure.
Ensure that when you recruit you are looking for the right attitude before the right skills. It is easy to show someone what to do, harder how to be. Also anonymous team surveys with open ended questions are a good way of drawing out this kind of information and finding out how team members really think and feel about the business.
Inter – These are the conversations between individual team members in the workplace. This is where individual beliefs start to have a compounding effect. Where “don’t worry about what the boss said about the safety stuff, just get it out fast” sort of conversations happen. Are those conversations in line with how the business seeks to run? The aim here is aligning these conversations with the culture of the business. How do you do this?
Firstly you need to have a clearly stated code of values that your business stands by. It’s hard to discuss what an appropriate attitude is if you haven’t defined it. Then run 360 degree reviews that allow team members to rate the performance of other team members. This will help highlight if people are on track.
Conduct performance reviews that not only look at performance but also look to see whether people are embracing the culture or rubbing against it.
Extra – This is the communications cycle between the whole team. Here the focus is on the social operating systems of your team. Meeting structures, what is met over and who is included. Reward and recognition, what is looked up to and what isn’t.
All of these conversations impact one another. When they’re aligned, you end up with a culture that helps to bind your team closer, increase their performance and retains them for longer.
Article By: Steve Smit – Reality Consulting