Addressing the Corporate Culture Conundrum

Important Steps for Affecting Your Company's Culture

Ask any financial planner, and they’ll tell you that they can see what is important to their clients just by looking at where they spend their money. People tend to focus their resources on what matters most to them – do we do the same for the culture we want to have in our organizations?

An interviewer at a large corporation was telling a prospective employee about the culture of the organization. She told him about the importance of family, work/life balance, and vacation. The organization’s culture, she continued, was one that prioritized employee well-being over profits. The employee, she finished, is the company’s most important resource.

Excited about the prospect of working for a company that would prioritize such things, the gentleman accepted the offer. After all, the position was a lateral move from where he was leaving, the money was only slightly better, but the culture was worth making the transition to a new company and losing his seniority with his old employer.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that the culture of the organization wasn’t at all what the interview told him. The expectation was for everyone to work extra hours into the night and weekends, as needed – which was always. Approved vacations were canceled or cut short with an expectation that employees were checking and responding to emails during their vacations. The culture was not one where employees were a valued resource. They were more like a commodity – used until they weren’t able to perform at peak and then discarded for a newer version.

Simply put, you can define the culture as “the way things are done around here.” It’s a crude but accurate summation of culture, especially in the workplace.

Affecting the culture of your organization, department, or team starts with you – the leader. Your leadership gives direction to your sphere of influence. If you want to change the culture, then you must lead the change by what you do more than what you say.

Reward behavior that fits the culture you want. Do you want a culture that values integrity, ownership, and quality products? Then, you must reward when those behaviors are occurring. Your followers will take notice of what you reward. If you say you want to cut back on overtime and then you create a reward for “Most Committed Employee” because they logged more overtime hours than anyone else, you’ve just told your staff what you really value.

Invest money in the values that build a culture you want. If you tell your staff that you value professional development, then you better well make sure you’re putting money in the budget for staff development. Don’t give them a head nod to participate in all the free courses they can find on YouTube and call it professional development. Give some real effort to finding professional development opportunities for all of your staff and then invest in your staff development.

Empower people to live out the culture you want. A corporate culture that enables frontline staff to make important decisions for the benefit of the client only occurs because the leadership of the organization empowered their team to do as much. A large hotel chain empowers every employee – from the manager to the housekeeper – the ability to comp a room to a guest for even the most minor complaint. The toilet paper was too rough? No problem – the room is on us. Sure, they get people who take advantage of the system, but the customer loyalty to their brand they’ve developed as a result far outweighs the small percentage of people who exploit the system.

Question: What steps are you taking to affect the culture of your agency intentionally? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I am an author, speaker, and leader with a passion for developing people into practical leaders who put their principles into practice. I am the co-author of the acclaimed book Faith Acts with best-selling author Dillon Burroughs, the Chief Operations Officer at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, and an independent leadership consultant to up and coming leaders and start up nonprofit organizations. My greatest joy, however, is serving Christ and his Church. I am the proud husband of Shay and father of two great boys. We live in Chattanooga, TN. #NoogaStrong

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or downright annoying.

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