Culture is something that exists, whether it’s defined or not. If the folks in the C-suite go on a company retreat for a week and laboriously address each and every facet of the organization, there will be culture. If a company’s leaders sit in their corner offices all day and flirt with their secretaries, there will be culture.
Just as there is oxygen in every office, there is culture in every organization. Business leaders: are you creating an intentional company culture?
What is an Intentional Company Culture?
Being intentional isn’t something we, as 21st century Americans, are very good at. In fact, it’s probably one of our worst qualities.
“We’re bad at being intentional. We let the days flow by on autopilot. Weeks, months, and years go by as we drift along. If we’re not focused and intentional, we miss so much that life has to offer,” explains Garret Oden of JavaPresse, a coffee company that sells a variety of coffee products and accessories that are supposed to infuse intentionality back into the coffee brewing process. The founders of the company believe in intentionality, and manual brewing is one of the ways they help people really focus in on what they’re doing.
“Manual coffee brewing draws us from our sleepy autopilot mode and pulls us into reality with focus and intentionality,” Oden continues. “When we start the morning this way, the day doesn’t drift into a string of events. It becomes a canvas of possibility.”
Can you imagine what your business would look like if you put the same sort of intentionality into defining company culture as JavaPresse puts into brewing coffee in the morning? It would produce some pretty significant change, right?
“An intentional culture specifically aligns the environment, communication and emotional drivers to a company’s strategic vision and brand,” explains Barbara Porter of Ernst & Young LLP. “To build a culture that supports the brand experience, leaders must bring the corporate vision to life and help employees link what they do every day to the key elements (values, objectives, goals, key performance indicators and behaviors) of the organization’s guiding principles and strategy.”
4 Tips for Creating and Maintaining an Intentional Culture
Either you become intentional about establishing company culture, or a culture arises outside of your influence and control. Most business leaders would agree that the former is preferable, while the latter is dangerous. If you’re unsure of how to start creating and maintaining an intentional company culture, here are some tips you may find helpful:
1. Identify the Skills and Traits You Want
Culture is defined by the people in your organization. Thus, if you want a certain type of culture, you have to be intentional about hiring people who have the skills and traits you want. Identify these skills and traits and then work to ensure your talent acquisition model properly reflects this.
2. Foster These Skills and Traits
Company culture starts with hiring, but it doesn’t stop there. You need to continually foster the skills and traits that you need in order to maintain the integrity of the culture.
A big part of creating a powerful and dynamic company culture is to promote learning in the form of training, courses, seminars, and company “chats.” Learning not only helps you mold people into the culture, but it also makes people feel respected, establishes clarity, and offers growth opportunities for individual employees.
3. Address Deviations
Research from 207 large US companies in a variety of industries over an 11-year period reveals that companies that managed their cultures (i.e. were intentional) saw revenue increases of 682 percent, versus just 166 percent for companies that did not actively manage their cultures.
You can’t simply set a culture and walk away. You have to constantly manage it, which means addressing deviations, correcting behavior that’s out of line, and reinforcing positive behaviors so that they become normalized.
4. Seek Out Employee Feedback
Company culture is developed and pushed from the top of the food chain, but it’s executed and influenced at every successive point in the chain. Make sure you’re taking employee feelings and desires into account.
“It is vital that companies not only seek employee feedback regularly, but also give employees the opportunity to provide unsolicited comments and suggestions,” Porter believes. “Such feedback enables leadership to identify the key drivers of the most engaged employees. It also serves as the foundation for a positive, open culture that aligns to the brand and business objectives.”
Take Company Culture Seriously
Company culture is not something to be played around with, but it isn’t going to wait around for you. If you don’t step in and get intentional about creating the sort of culture that you want for your business, something else will emerge outside of your control.
Take this topic seriously and gain control and influence over your organization’s future.