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There are countless management books on the shelves and articles coming out online that promise to teach us how to create a strong corporate culture. There are countless software systems and applications that promise to strengthen your culture with just a few clicks. But despite all this, many leaders face a widespread challenge to shape and protect their culture.
In short, culture is how we do things. It represents the dynamic exchange between our explicit and implicit beliefs, values, emotions, and behaviors. Inform our identity and configure how we work. And while many companies may have a shiny poster above the water cooler that indicates their mission and high values, the culture is often much more nebulous and difficult to articulate in practice.
A positive and intentional organizational culture is essential to the health of any business. A recent analysis by the MIT Sloan Management Review showed that toxic culture is 10.4 times more likely for an employee to quit their job than compensation problems. In contrast, companies focused on cultivating a positive culture experienced a 72% lower attrition rate and a 29% increase in profits.
So how do you define, grow, and protect the value of your corporate culture in the face of all the forces working to undo it?
Related: How to design a company culture that attracts better employees
Maintain a dynamic culture
As a leader, you need to define the cultural expectations of your people. What are your core values? What is important to you? What behaviors do you aspire to adopt? Ultimately, the answers to these questions must be clear and understood by everyone in the organization, or you will have an unintended culture of parts rather than an intentional culture guided by your values and beliefs.
Furthermore, establishing an organizational culture is not a task of “putting it on and forgetting it.” You can’t just define your core values, present them on a PowerPoint slide, and then give them a few pats on the back for a job well done.
Culture is dynamic and therefore requires constant maintenance and attention to preserve and protect. The culture of each company will have to adapt to the unique needs of the people who make it up, but it must also be dynamic and able to adapt to sudden changes or unexpected events.
Related: 8 ways to foster an employee welfare environment
Like the human body, there are times when a toxic agent can invade your organization. Cultural threats ignored or swept under the rug generate toxic behaviors, erode company culture, and can destroy everyone inside.
When toxic behavior occurs, we can’t ignore it and say, “We’re too busy to deal with it” or “It’s not a big deal.” These justifications will erode the trust you have placed in your employees and leave them disillusioned with your leadership. The discrepancy between what you say and what you do undermines your leadership and creates a cultural debt that can sink even the most well-meaning leaders.
That being said, dealing with toxic behavior immediately does not mean that you have to fire all employees who do not follow your core values to the letter. Things are not always in black and white, and trainable moments need to be allowed.
For example, you may find yourself dealing with an employee whose behavior is often unacceptable, but who also shows great potential. In cases like this, you need to make it clear that regardless of the value they bring to the company, their behavior must align with the values of the organization if they want to continue working in your organization. As you begin training your employee to correct their behavior, you should make it clear to others that you are taking the situation seriously and are working to improve it.
I believe there is room for growth in everyone, and you want to give your employees a chance to learn and adapt. However, if a problematic but exceptional employee has been given multiple opportunities to improve but does not want to meet your clearly stated expectations, you may need to end the relationship. You cannot allow toxic behavior to infect your business indefinitely.
Related: The role of company culture in digital transformation
Connection and community
The sense of community and the positive culture of the company go hand in hand. The community is the container and facilitator of a thriving culture. But where does the community come from?
The best communities have mastered the paradox between difference and resemblance. There are great cultures in communities that hold diverse opinions and backgrounds while sharing the intensely motivating feeling of being part of the same team. In this way, the community becomes a multiplier force in your organizational culture. When your core values are applied and displayed in large and small behaviors, all employees feel safe and secure knowing that the whole team lives and works with the same values.
Related: How to use a team that models the culture of your company
This sense of cohesion between our values and our actions starts at the top. Whether you’re talking to the dealer or leading a meeting, your actions should be consistent with what you preach. If a leader doesn’t speak, their employees won’t either, and any culture the company has established will be crushed by the weight of cultural debt that is generated when there are discrepancies between what a leader says and how they actually behave. . Your job as a leader is to prevent this debt from accumulating by clearly defining and living the values of your organizational culture every day.
The forces working to break the culture of your organization can be insidious. If you do not pay attention, you may wake up one morning to discover that your company’s values have disintegrated, toxicity has arisen, and your people are beginning to leave the ship. And even more frightening is how you can play a role!
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Leaders must prioritize organizational culture if they want sustained success. With integrity, care and attention, you can cultivate a professional environment that makes people feel supported, respected and excited to come to work every day to participate in the dynamic community you have co-created.