The culture of workplace culture

By Stephanie Bradshaw

The World Wide Web is buzzing. Buzzing with articles about organisations that have great workplace cultures and employees are climbing over one another to work with them. But for the thousands of organisations struggling to wrangle their own culture into something attainable for themselves and attractive to incoming employees, the talk can be frustratingly unclear, the journey confusing and any results from culture change efforts … hard to gauge.

As someone who has worked within organisations with varying types of cultures over my 20 plus years at a desk and who currently works on Employee Value related programs, I’ve come to some conclusions and identified some misconceptions. Today, I share my opinion with you…

What is workplace culture?

Every company has a workplace culture. Broken or healthy, an organisation is the sum of the people who work there and it is those people who make your culture what it is. No amount of bean bags, stand up meeting rooms, ping pong tables or free coffee can change your culture (though usually they don’t hurt).

Your culture is your authentic selves, the people you are when nobody is watching. It is the sum of everyone’s behaviour.

So how do you wrangle this thing called culture?

Contrary to popular belief, your culture is not set in stone. But it is very difficult to move, I admit. I believe these simple things can have a dramatic effect:

Authentic clarity

The Harvard Business Review describes one of the most important features of a great culture is clarity and I tend to agree. But I’m going to add my own spin on it. Clarity on organisational mission, vision and goals…yes, clarity on expected values and behaviours…yes, but clarity without reality won’t work. Are your mission, vision and strategy aligned to your values? Are strategic goals achievable and connected to desired behaviours? (You can’t ask employees to hit certain KPIs to help reach your business goals if the rewards for values and behaviours encourage them to act in an opposing way, can you?) In short, you can be clear but you also have to be real, connected and consistent.

Authentic action

Now that you have a clear set of goals aligned to clear and authentic values and behaviours you can begin to lead by example. Culture is well and truly guided by the leaders. If your leaders aren’t living the values then you can’t expect anyone else to. I’m a Mum of two, so I’ve read my fair share of parenting books and the one thing that comes through every time is the mimic rule. Your children will mimic how you behave. How you are with the waitress at your local café. How you react when things aren’t going well. They look to you for an example of what behaviours are expected. Employees are remarkably the same. So, are your values and behaviours authentic representations of how the leaders act and how the people they regularly reward act? Actually modelling great behaviour will always speak louder than any internal communications piece on values. So beginning your journey with leadership workshops and training is key to success.

Hire for culture fit

This is suddenly easier to do.

  1. You have a clear set of values and behaviours
  2. You have rewards built into your Employee Value Proposition that meet them
  3. Your leaders are on board and modelling great behaviours
  4. You can now start measuring every potential new hire against them

Don’t have a clear set of values and behaviours? Having capability trouble with your leaders?  Need an effective set of tools for attracting and onboarding the right staff? Call us here at Bunch, we’ll work through all the ambiguity and help pave the way to more engaged employees.

And for potential employees, find an organisation whose values and behaviours fit you – you’ll be happier and your new company will reap the benefits.