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It’s no secret that culture can lead to the success or demise of a business. Culture can be complicated and certainly not built overnight. It’s more than a list of values on the wall. It’s how your leaders and teams show up every day, how you work together, celebrate, and hold meetings. It’s how you make people feel throughout their entire work life cycle, from the application process, to hiring, promotions, and leaving. Culture is a set of actions and behaviors that your collective team experiences and nurtures on a daily basis.
I’m not a culture expert, but this past year I’ve learned a lot about what a healthy culture is for our team and how important it is to help us achieve our goals. In fact, we know that internally, the company culture affects employee retention and satisfaction and is tied to productivity in the workplace. Externally, company culture can also influence customer satisfaction, retention, and more.
During my stay in Pushpay, and the last year in particular as CEO, we have certainly faced our share of challenges with different levels of employee involvement, especially in the midst of the pandemic, and now we are heading to the great resignation. Most of you can relate, right? Let’s be honest, these last two years have been tough. Really, very hard. They have challenged us in an unimaginable way and, as leaders, have demanded more mental and emotional energy to lead well in the midst of rapidly changing social and business needs.
Similar to many companies, we noticed a drop in the morale and culture of the company. As an organization that once thrived on connection in person, many of the traditions and rituals we had in place did not translate so well virtually. We had to rediscover ways to bring our vibrant culture to life so that people feel connected to the heart of our business. Culture quickly became one of our top three initiatives for 2021.
When we began the journey to move the needle, it was very important that our executive team had a clear alignment with the values and rules that affected day-to-day operations. Employees thrive in companies where they share similar beliefs and can maintain company values. We took advantage of data from our employee feedback tool, Culture Amp, to identify where our time and action should be focused, and set to work.
Here are some ways in which your executive team and leaders can move the needle in the culture and create an environment where employees feel valued, accomplished, and welcomed.
Related: How the adoption of the big redefinition will help your business to thrive
1. Provide transparency to your employees, customers, and key stakeholders
Workplace transparency creates an open door policy, which helps build trust between leadership and employees, stakeholders and customers. Providing transparency encourages clear communication and collaboration, allowing the entire team to be committed and invested in the organization’s goals. Transparency also lies in employee reviews and comments. Creating regular cadences for reviews and feedback allows leaders the opportunity to highlight achievements while using time to share “areas of opportunity” to discuss tactics for improvement.
Transparency is not just about giving and being open to comments. It’s about having systems and rituals to be able to cascade information and provide support (and resources) to your leaders so they can have meaningful conversations with their teams about business gains and pain points.
2. Set clear goals for internal teams and regularly share results and progress
People feel engaged when they understand their role and feel that they fit into the broader picture. A basic leadership skill is to help people set and pursue goals through effective collaborative practices that align with corporate strategy. Setting clear goals for internal teams that align with the progress of the organization will provide a clear path to success.
Again, this starts from the top down. As an executive team, have you clearly stated your company’s goals and initiatives for the year? Are they measurable? Do you review them often and track your progress as a company? Do business unit goals also achieve them well? We use our monthly hands-on to address the goals of our three key initiatives this year: culture (as mentioned above), retention and growth, and provide transparency about where we are and how we are working to achieve our goals.
Related: How to better manage corporate culture in times of transition
3. Improve external and internal communications
From a leadership perspective, we are doing our job well when everyone, from the reception partner to the vice president of engineering, knows where we are going and what we are working on. To achieve this, it is key to improve communication measures for internal and external stakeholders. At Pushpay, we’ve incorporated monthly newsletters and leadership questions and answers and created more visibility for our business-level executives. This helps minimize employee concerns by keeping everyone informed about upcoming events and goals. The keyboard ninja is a real thing, but giving a face to someone who has a question or concern is where and how the culture is acquired and improved.
Related: 5 ways to instill a corporate culture even when your workforce is virtual
4. Give resources to your ERGs
Our employee resource groups are a fundamental part of our culture. They give voice to our associates and allow people to come together and gather behind a common interest. They are self-governing, but they are still critical to the success of our organization. I admit we weren’t giving them the resources right. It’s important to work together with your employees ’resource groups to better understand what they’re trying to achieve and how the company can support their success. We started giving them more time on the air during the orientation of new contracts and on our monthly hands to highlight the impactful events and conversations they are organizing. We allocated a budget so that they would have the freedom and opportunity to make planning retreats or bring in top-level speakers and thought leaders. At their request, we also equipped each group with an executive sponsor so that they would have a reliable leader to help support the success of their program.
Coherence, coherence, coherence
Consistency is key. Culture is not a “put and forgotten” initiative. It takes daily intention, discipline, and commitment at all levels to move the needle forward. Let the data be your pole star as you work to address business issues and opportunities, and review them frequently. We’re still learning, but being honest during the process and allowing for new opportunities when things don’t align with corporate goals is the foundation for maintaining a culture where employees, stakeholders, and leadership thrive.