Company culture can feel like an HR headache. While many leaders view it as the cornerstone of successful organizations, it can seem too abstract to create a strategy around.
In fact, it is possible to create a company culture strategy to improve employee engagement and wellbeing and boost business outcomes.
Company culture should be at the heart of your people processes. It’s important that HR highlights the business case for maintaining a resilient culture.
According to a University of Warwick study, happy workers are 12% more productive and unhappy workers are 10% less productive on average. By ensuring employees work in a positive, supportive environment, HR will also create an environment more conducive to business success.
HR steer the ship of organizational culture - ensuring that people processes reflect the company’s foundational values. They are also responsible for change management.
During transitions such as mergers and acquisitions, company values can fall by the wayside. It’s up to HR leaders to secure a relevant, reassuring company culture.
The idea of company culture emerged in the 1980s. In recent years it has been picked up as the favorite buzzword of CFOs and CEOs alike.
A company’s brand identity is tied strongly to its culture. Google is renowned for its ‘flat hierarchy’ that seeks to create a fun environment for creativity.
In essence, company culture is the ‘personality’ of a company, from an employee’s perspective.
CEOs are responsible for directing the course of company culture. In times of transition, such as mergers, company culture becomes a crucial determinant of success of failure.
As Margaret Keane, President and CEO of Synchrony Financial wrote about the organization’s spinn off from General Electric, ‘it was very important that we quickly established our own culture and values—taking what was great from GE, and also becoming our own, bold, visionary company.’
If CEOs and founders define a company’s core values, HR are the guardians of company culture – ensuring that day to day employee experience matches these principles.
SHRM lays out some useful ways of looking at a company’s culture. These are:
Urgency - the degree of speed at which tasks are expected to be completed. Does the company value quality and precision over speed, or do market demands make speed a priority?
Hierarchies - Is there a ‘bossless’ culture, or are there expected channels of communication, and an intricate organizational structure?
Functions - what organizational functions, be it marketing, customer service, development, does your company emphasize most? For example, a holiday company may emphasize customer service.
People or Task Oriented - while all organizations seek to work for their people first, the reality is that often industry expectations skew this. Does your company place more emphasis on supporting its people to drive productivity, or does the organization put tasks and processes first?
Subcultures – Are there any subcultures that drive employee perceptions of the company? Does your company have a market, competitive culture that does not chime with certain teams – who may have created their own sub-culture with more of a learning or caring emphasis?
HR can reflect on the above as a starting point. Culture summaries on company websites do not provide adequate insights into the real drivers of culture.
Recognizing this helps HR stay grounded in the realities of employee experience and the company’s processes.
Pulse surveys are the first step towards aligning your people processes with your company’s values.
Surveys are fact finding missions for HR, allowing leaders to gauge how employee experience matches the supposed culture.
Be sure to measure the parameters above. Ask your people to define the company culture as they experience it. Perhaps the marketing team has a very different point of view from the creative team? The idea is to take this into account so that you can create a holistic strategy that incorporates these differences.
Companies with long-standing corporate practices might experience changes as the demographics of the workplace shift. Checking the temperature among staff allows you to maintain a relevant company culture.
Wellbeing surveys are also a way to measure employee experience. If your company’s culture is more task-oriented than people-oriented, it’s especially important to check-in. Do employees frequently experience burnout or suffer from poor work-life balance?
You can use the results to create an employee wellbeing program targeted towards problem areas.
A concrete measure of how your company culture aligns with its values
Diversity and Inclusion surveys highlight any differences in employee experience among diverse teams
Wellbeing surveys to measure work-life balance and burnout
Use responses to create informed wellbeing or D&I strategies
Real time feedback from employees
Consider the ways your company culture is experienced during a typical employee life-cycle.
Design an onboarding program in which you communicate the organization’s values to new hires. Managers usually give an introduction to the company’s culture, but HR also have a role to play. Ensure that whenever new employees interface with HR, you emphasize how your work aligns with this culture.
Development speaks volumes about the way a company treats its employees. How can HR empower employees to reach the results they seek? During one-on-ones, ensure employees have the tools they need to advance in their careers, and ask them what learning and development initiatives would benefit them.
Company culture is present in every interaction an employee has with the organization - make sure these are positive experiences for your employees!
Some think ongoing feedback is only relevant in certain types of company culture. In fact, all companies can benefit from this system.
Ongoing feedback improves employee engagement. According to Gallup, employees who had goal setting conversations with their manager in the past 6 months were almost 3 times more likely to be engaged.
Not only does feedback help employees grow, it also helps the company grow in the long term. It creates a culture of open communication and transparency. Employees are recognized when they exhibit the company’s values, reinforcing these expectations.
Implementing ongoing feedback requires a cultural shift for many companies. However, it is a simple way to build community and improve employee relations – key aspects of great company cultures.
Your people processes are crucial to company culture – as they make up employee experience. People processes reflect your culture, but they also have the power to create and improve cultures, as your organization changes.
The most successful HR teams are skeptics about whether a company lives up to its values. They adopt strategies that are grounded in evidence from surveys, rather than making assumptions about the day-to-day life of employees.
HR leaders should be conscious of corporate culture into every stage of the employee life-cycle. To learn about how PeopleGoal can support your company culture, take a look at the Culture workspace on our AppStore.