When it comes to building a healthy company, few attributes are more important than fostering a strong corporate culture. Your culture has a direct impact on the satisfaction of your employees, which in turn affects productivity, turnover, and other key factors that can make or break your profitability.
How much of a difference does corporate culture make?
A study from Columbia University found that companies with a “rich” culture have an average turnover rate of 13.9 percent. By contrast, companies where employees rated the culture as “poor” displayed a massive 48.4 percent turnover rate.
So what can you do if your company currently suffers from a poor corporate culture?
Fortunately, executives are in a position to swiftly enact meaningful change and fend of the consequences of poor culture. Regardless of the changes you feel your company needs, the following steps are vital for bringing a cultural shift to life:
1) Take Action
It can be all too easy to get caught up in a debate over whether or not a particular cultural change is the right move or not. As Kyle Slager, CEO and founder of Raken soon learned, however, this isn’t the best approach:
“We noticed there were some decisions where we were just spending too much time. And it’s kind of like you can hem and haw forever on certain decisions, but the best thing to do at the end of the day is just have a bias for taking action. And if it isn’t the right path, taking action is going to show us that it’s not the right path and then we can change course.”
The only way to know for sure if a particular change to corporate culture will benefit your company is to enact it. Don’t be afraid to take action right away and learn from mistakes when necessary.
2) Set the Example
It doesn’t matter what kind of change you’re trying to enact — if you don’t lead by example, even the most well-intentioned plans will fall by the wayside.
As Michael Shrage explains, “Serious leaders understand that, both by design and default, they’re always leading by example.” As an example of this, Shrage cites “A Silicon Valley start-up CEO [who] attended his company’s diversity/inclusivity training workshop for the entire day. ‘Everyone needed to know I took this seriously,’ he said.”
The way you personally lead out on new initiatives or cultural shifts sends a direct message to your employees. The more that C-suite staff prioritizes these changes and leads by example, the more likely the rest of the team is to follow these principles.
3) Engage Everyone
Though demonstrating your own commitment to the new corporate culture is essential, to ensure widespread adoption, you’ll need to emphasize the importance of everyone participating in the change.
For more insight on this, I reached out to my colleague Jason Bliss, co-founder of Healthy Living Network, who has made a name for himself as a culture-first entrepreneur:
“Typically, you’ll see that entry-level employees tend to be more receptive to cultural change than your middle managers,” Jason says.
“But you need to engage everyone to help them accept and promote these shifts — whether that be through special training or finding new ways to empower and motivate your team to adopt these changes. The best way for corporate culture to become widespread is when an employee’s peers are also actively promoting the change.”
4) Keep the Strategy Simple
At the end of the day, company culture should make a direct contribution to your overall business strategy. If you’re an app developer trying to become known for your exceptionally convenient and user-friendly interfaces, you need to consider how your current culture contributes to or detracts from this goal.
When changing the company culture, however, this mindset often becomes lost in a sea of different metrics that attempt to measure whether or not the new initiative is making a positive difference.
Don’t let yourself get distracted by the little things. Instead, focus on the big picture — your key performance metrics that will truly tell you if you’re achieving the desired results.
5) People Come First
Though we like to think of corporate culture in terms of profits, it ultimately comes down to the people who work under you and how they feel about their job.
As Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce has explained, “The old paradigm of managers being little dictators doesn’t work anymore. You have to inspire people and you have to figure out what makes a person tick… there’s a hierarchy of human needs. If you want to get to the intrinsic motivation of people, you have to satisfy these needs.”
If you’re having trouble deciding whether to enact a particular change, consider how it will affect your employees. Don’t be afraid to seek their insight regarding the things they like and don’t like about your company. Gathering this information will help you put the people first so you can have confidence as you move forward with a new change.
Crafting a Winning Culture
Overcoming the stigmas that were created by a poor corporate culture isn’t always easy. But taking action is vital if you wish to attract and retain the best employees in the years ahead.
By taking action now, you will foster an environment where people want to give their best effort, helping you maximize your company’s potential.