by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
It’s no secret that company culture is important to the success of any organization. Encompassing the attitudes, shared values, and behavior of a company and its employees, an organization’s culture informs everything from the way people interact to their work hours and decision-making processes.
Building a positive workplace culture can be a powerful way to gain a competitive advantage, and contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be a large company or spend a huge amount of money to achieve it. But how do you plan the ideal culture for your business?
What Makes a Good Workplace Culture?
While there’s no out-of-the-box solution that works for everyone, several elements form an integral part of a positive workplace culture; for example, a culture of authenticity, a feeling of community among your employees, and an environment where everybody shares a sense of purpose.
Signs of a strong workplace culture include:
- Opportunities for employees to build relationships in the workplace
- Recognition of employees’ achievements
- Clear expectations and a sense that each person’s contributions matter
- Opportunities for everyone to provide input into company decisions
- Recognition of the importance of work-life balance
- Employees that feel happy and engaged
- Diversity of thought and different viewpoints are welcomed
The benefits of a strong culture are clear: A higher level of employee engagement and retention, a business that is attractive to top talent, and an improvement in performance.
Planning Your Ideal Culture
While we can all broadly agree about what makes a positive corporate culture, your ideal workplace culture is something different. Everyone’s ideal culture is unique, and yours should be designed to align with your company goals and mission statement, the challenges you anticipate, and your overall strategic direction.
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to defining your ideal company culture. Harvard Business Review, for example, identified eight different styles of culture, ranging from Caring (focused on relationships and trust) to Learning (which values exploration and creativity) and Safety (planning and preparedness). None is necessarily better than the other; all of them have the potential to raise employee morale. An ideal workplace culture is simply the one that’s right for your business and helps you achieve your mission.
Once you have identified your ideal workplace culture, the next step is to diagnose your current culture. Inevitably there will be gaps between these two states—and the planning phase is where you’ll work out how to close these gaps. Planning is a key step in our methodology, and you can expect to spend a good amount of time on it.
Successful planning is all about ensuring that your culture evolution aligns with your overall business strategy. To make this happen, culture strategies must be embedded and integrated into your process and people strategies. We’ll look at these in more detail below.
Steps for Successful Culture Planning
There are two crucial elements to successfully planning your culture: process and people.
While your strategy articulates your company goals, your processes help you achieve them. It’s critical for both startups and large organizations to have robust processes in place, but you do need to guard against them taking on a life of their own. Here’s how to get it right:
Listen to Your Employees
A successful workplace culture empowers people to make the right decisions. To bring this about requires looking at your processes with a neutral eye. It can be helpful to use the Employee Experience Mapping tool, where you form a diverse team of employees, set ground rules, brainstorm common experiences, develop employee personas, map the process, and look for ways to improve it. It’s a great way to involve people from all levels of the business in shaping your culture.
Take a Customer-Centric Approach
For many businesses, adopting a customer-centric approach is key to reaching their goals. It’s a good idea to map the customer experience (in a similar way to the employee experience) to identify customer touchpoints and ensure consistent communication. Putting customers first often requires a significant mind shift but will ensure that culture and process are aligned.
Develop Processes That Drive Engagement
The right processes can help boost employee engagement. For example, you might want to ensure that employees have time in their calendars to step back and think instead of being constantly busy. Processes that encourage transparency, such as sharing numbers every week, or that encourage communication, such as regular meetings where everyone gets the chance to present, can also be very effective.
Business leaders know that their people are their most important asset. But how can you ensure that you hire, retain, and develop the right people? It all comes down to five essential strategies:
This is the process of identifying your current and future talent needs. The key is to identify your strategic roles—not the people who create your strategy, but those who execute it. These will often be the people in frontline positions.
Talent acquisition is about hiring a diverse group of people whose values align with those of the organization. Your culture should be at the forefront of your hiring process, which means being transparent about it during all touchpoints.
Day one isn’t the end of an employee’s onboarding; in fact, the term encompasses everything from the interview process to the first 90 days. So, make sure that the experience is a good one, from creating an onboarding plan to scheduling frequent check-ins.
Some business leaders fear that developing their employees will encourage them to leave. However, it’s often the lack of development that leads people to seek opportunities elsewhere. Developing your people is a win-win, benefiting your business and your customers.
Performance Management and Coaching
The first step to managing performance effectively is seeing it as a leadership, coaching, and communication tool, not an administrative process. Instead of ranking employees once a year, build a coaching-based performance culture, set clear expectations, and encourage ongoing feedback.
Start Building Your Ideal Culture Today
Are you looking to change your company’s culture? At Ideal Outcomes, we believe that planning is integral to creating your ideal culture—and we’re here to help you do just that.
We offer consulting, resources, and training to help companies create positive workplace cultures that make employees feel valued and motivated. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you gain a competitive advantage by fostering a culture that aligns with your company’s values and business goals.