THE ULTIMATE BLOG ON ALL THINGS HR
& THEN SOME
& THEN SOME
C is for Culture
Have you ever wondered if Sesame Street was just for kids? Recently, I have had conversations with multiple individuals wherein company culture was discussed. Company culture is a critical and pivotal element for any organization. It affects retention, customer service, effectiveness, productivity, and it can even affect reputation. I would love to hear from each of you about what you believe company culture is. And now I want to share with you what I believe company culture is.
Culture is comprised of a multitude of things: trust, loyalty, empowerment, diversity, values, transparency, communication, and oh so many more. It can also be comprised of things such as: dishonesty, disengagement, disloyalty, and dissension. What I believe company culture may not be are the mission, vision, and values plastered all over the website and walls of the organization. Why, might you ask? Unless the mission, vision, and values are enacted on a consistent basis within all levels of the organization, they are virtually meaningless.
I read a post on LinkedIn using this quote, “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” Let that sink in for a minute. Now take a moment to consider whether there is such a culture within your organization. How is this culture displayed, what behaviors are tolerated? If there is this type of culture, how does it seem to penetrate the organization?
The affect culture has across an organization is contagious. It ripples throughout the company and can spill over into the community. Think about your most recent experience at a hospital or a hotel. Was it a good experience? How could you tell? This experience may depend upon wait time, sincerity of caregivers, thoroughness of exam, timeliness of ancillary services, if discharge information was relayed, and the list continues. Or it could be how you were greeted at the front desk, timely check-in process, satisfactory room, friendly hotel staff, ample parking, breakfast hours, cleanliness of the pool or workout room, and again the list continues.
My guess is you either had a good experience or a bad one. My next guess is if your experience was excessively good or bad, you told friends, you told family members. You told as many people as you could. How does culture impact your experience? I firmly believe if a company values its employees, it will show in how the employees engage with the customer.
I’ve talked about employee engagement before. Culture is how engagement acts. In other words, if employees are engaged, their actions will express it. But culture is more than that. Culture permeates the environment and can smell like roses or it can stink like rotten eggs.
If a CEO is heavy-handed and barks marching orders to managers, this will likely have a negative trickle-down effect. The manager may then return to his or her department in a grumpy mood and shut their office door without communicating to staff. However, if the top leader seeks manager input and listens to feedback, a culture of inclusiveness and collaboration exists. That same manager may return to the department, gather staff, and have a staff meeting to discuss ways of improving service and effectiveness.
Now ask yourself how much culture costs a company. Is it millions of dollars? Thousands? Hundreds? Here is a secret: culture doesn’t have to cost a dime. It truly can be implementing the Golden Rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. As a CEO or manager, if your employees feel valued, they will value customers. This leads to great experiences and positive word-of-mouth advertising, costing zero dollars. Incidentally, the employees will value you as the CEO or manager. It’s a triple win!
Conversely, culture can cost a company tons of money in lost sales, increased turnover, bad publicity, even legal action. If a leader is not attuned to the workforce, you can bet it results in a negative culture. When such a culture exists, employees don’t care about the customer experience. Employees get sloppy, lazy, and tend to have poor attendance.
Culture can also be status quo and the “it’s not my job” syndrome and nobody knowing about recent policy changes. Or, culture can be welcoming innovation and “teamwork makes the dream work” and company-wide communication when a policy changes. It’s all these things. Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines got it right when he said, “Culture is what people do when no one is looking.”
So let’s talk about that for a minute. What would you say if you found out your office was bugged or your work email was being monitored with eagle eyes? What kind of culture what you say that is? To me, this is another version of “no one is looking” wherein the culture is one of high distrust, extreme micromanaging, and even invasion of privacy. While your office is company property, it should also be a place of confidential conversations. And while your work email is also company property, it can also be a place of confidential information being exchanged between two parties.
Do you think that employee continues to believe in the company? Do you think he or she wonders if people are talking about them behind his/her back? In my experience, this employee’s level of trust has been knocked down drastically. Attendance may start to slip. Performance may begin to decline. Sense of purpose is somewhat shattered. This employee likely leave the organization.
When no one is looking, how will you behave? When no one is looking, how do you expect the leaders in your organization to behave? Ideally, your mantra is something along the lines of the Golden Rule. Ideally, lessons you learned watching Sesame Street have stuck with you and you enact them on the daily. Ideally, the culture within your organization practices the same and all employees feel valued, included, collaborative, and impactful. “C” may be for culture. But I hope your organization’s culture warrants an “A”.
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Creator: That makes me sound all powerful. I suppose I am in many ways. Hi! My name's Amy and I've been practicing HR for twelve years now. No big deal. I am here to offer fresh perspective on HR topics and topics about the world we live in and life in general.