How to Build a Great Organizational Culture

Culture isn’t just a warm fuzzy thing that you can promote to prospective employees. Great culture yields commercial value and positively impacts your bottom line.

One of the most common responses when I ask people why they love their job is – ‘the culture’.

Organizations with great culture produce highly motivated and engaged staff. Research shows that organizations with high employee engagement consistently achieve up to 20% more profitability than those with low engagement.

So what is culture, and how do you create a good one?

I think of culture as a combination of tangible and intangible factors that create shared values, beliefs and ideas. Together these factors define the way members behave and drive the way organizations do business.

Tangible factors include an organization’s purpose, vision, mission, and values, as well as their structure, work distribution and physical elements, such as the workplace itself.

Intangible factors include the attitudes and beliefs of the people in the business. Put simply, it’s about ‘the vibe’.

Building the right organizational culture to support business objectives is challenging because you can’t simply dictate culture. Instead, culture is shaped by each and every person in the business.

Here are 5 tips on how to build great organizational culture:

  1. Don’t copy other companies recipes

    Have you ever noticed on MasterChef how the contestants are given the same ingredients and recipe, but produce consistently different results? While studying the successful practices of other businesses is a fantastic idea, believing that you can replicate the outcome simply by implementing the same initiatives is a recipe for failure.Similarly, just because a particular culture and environment works for another employer, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
  2. Involve your employees

    Employees hold a lot of power when it comes to organizational culture; there are generally more Indians than chiefs in a business and their actions, behaviours and buy-in is intrinsically linked to building great cultures.Before you decide on a fantastic plan to build your culture, survey your staff and ask them what they love about the business and what they would like to see changed.
  3. Go your own way – work with what you have

    Always remember that you are building your culture for the benefit of your organization.It is critical that you have a clear understanding of the business vision and objectives, as well as knowledge of what works and doesn’t work in your business.Work with your strengths and chip away at the weaknesses over time; there is no need to make drastic changes overnight.Put together a long-term strategy of what you want to achieve and recognize that it will take time (and a village) to make organizational change and culture stick.
  4. Autonomy, Mastery & PurposeDaniel Pink has done some fantastic work around motivation.In this video ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us’, Dan states that regardless of industry or geographic location there are three factors that employees prize:Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives.
    Mastery: The desire to get better at something that matters.
    Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

    People want their work to mean something and they want to feel that they are learning and contributing.

    This is great news for employers who are willing to invest in their staff because it creates a genuine win-win situation.

  5. Fun & celebration:

    You can’t underestimate the impact ‘fun’ has on organisational culture. When I walk into an organisation I can instantly tell if there is enough ‘fun factor’ in the business.People want to genuinely enjoy coming to work. Creating an atmosphere where having fun at work is not just allowed, but actively encouraged helps foster that.Celebration and acknowledgement are another two factors that organisations with great culture consistently get right. They celebrate wins together and acknowledge each other’s achievements.This creates an environment where people feel pride in their workplace and a sense of contribution (see ‘purpose’ above).

    Organisational cultures can take years to build, and even longer to change. In further blogs, I will explore in more detail each of the five tips on how to build great organisational culture.

I’d be interested to hear your tips on how to build great culture.

Vantage Performance is Australia’s leading performance improvement and turnaround management firm – solving complex problems for businesses experiencing major change.

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