Organizational Culture Matters Now More Than Ever Before
Culture Impacts Every Single Thing That Happens in Our Businesses or Organizations
The best way we’ve found to define organizational culture is to say that ‘it’s everything that happens in an organization that allows us to deliver on our mandate’. So, it’s not just one thing like employee engagement. It’s the combination of a lot of things. Including how everyone (senior leadership to front line) behaves toward one another, their clients, partners, suppliers, and anyone else they come into contact with. Our culture determines how well the organization deals with challenges and change, how open people are to sharing their ideas and feelings, as well as the overall level of employee satisfaction.
It’s the feeling people get when they interact with our business; from inside and out. And you can observe an organization’s culture in real-time. In how people do their day-to-day work. In how new employees are hired and onboarded. In how they deliver their products or services.
It’s ‘how’ we do what we do, and therefore, it touches absolutely everything. Policies, procedures, leadership and management styles, programs…everything. If our organization was a human being, its culture would be comparable to its attitude and personality.
And It Matters More Than Ever Before
The younger demographics of Millennials and Generation Z behave very differently than Baby Boomers when it comes to their careers. Gone are the days of loyalty to one employer for years or decades. For the most part, these younger workers have no qualms about spending just a few years with an employer before they move on to look for something new.
They’re far more sensitive and selective about the culture of an organization and whether it’s a fit for them. How they’re treated is as important as their work, so culture becomes a key recruitment and retention tool.
The Top 4 Attributes of Culture We Leaders Should Model
As leaders setting the tone for the culture of our organizations, we must model the positive qualities, attitudes, and behaviours we wish to see more of. The four qualities below, are the ones we feel are the most critical and will permeate an organization in the best possible way.
Our existence as humans entitles us to receive kindness, compassion, truth, and fairness, among other things. But it’s our behaviour and character that determines whether or not we have earned the right to receive respect. If we believe the job title we hold or the degree behind our name entitles us to the instant and unending respect of a team, we need to think again. Respect is not an entitlement.
Our peers’ respect will be earned by how we conduct ourselves, which takes time to reveal. So, we must be conscious of how well we treat our people, be open to others’ perspectives, value their time, and consistently behave in a respectful way toward them.
Respect is a key foundational value because it paves the way for healthy productive relationships and cultures. When people feel respected, they feel valued, and that motivates them in a positive way.
Nothing impacts an organization’s culture more quickly and negatively than rumour and gossip. And often the driver behind these behaviours is either a real or perceived lack of transparency. If employees believe information is being withheld from them, it will most certainly leave them feeling vulnerable and distrustful.
Organizations sometimes find themselves in this situation, not because they intend to be less than truthful, but because they often say nothing at all when they can’t provide ‘all the answers’. The problem is that unanswered questions leave a void that human nature will fill with worst-case scenarios.
It's always a good idea to be as up-front as possible. If you don’t have all the answers, just say so and make the commitment to share more when you do. People can understand that, and it makes them feel like they’re in the loop. Just make sure that you close that loop and deliver on your promises.
Respect and transparency help to build trust but feeling safe and secure is also a key contributor to a trustful relationship. People feel safe when they believe they can rely on those around them to have their backs. They know they can share opinions and feelings about the work they do or the way they work without any fear of reprisal, disdain, or personal attack.
Leaders set this tone by supporting their people. Listening without judgement. Criticism is fine as long as it's constructive. Ensuring they address any issues with only those directly involved. And delegating responsibility to show they have faith and trust their own teams.
Trust takes time to build, but only minutes to destroy. Every decision we make as leaders either strengthens the trust factor in our organizational culture or undermines it.
Everyone wants and deserves to feel a sense of belonging. Our society is finally coming to a long overdue point where we now invest a good deal of time and effort attempting to ensure that our workplaces are diverse and welcoming. And that is important.
As we do so, it’s also important to recognize that not everyone in these workplaces is part of a ‘diverse demographic’. And for the sake of a cohesive and peak-performing culture, we can’t overlook the importance of making sure they feel included as well. They are part of ‘everyone’.
If our organizational culture is a key recruitment and retention tool in this competitive environment, we need to pay close attention. A positive highly functioning culture doesn’t just happen organically. And just as it takes time and effort to develop, we must continue to nurture it, or it will deteriorate quickly.
"Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse."
“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate.”
- Gruenter & Whitaker