Whatever kind of company culture you’re looking to create, here is a sequence of seven steps that can help you get there.
(Well maybe not every type of company culture. As a customer service consultant, I’ve limited my practice to cultures that aspire to focus on the customer and support employees as multi-dimensional human beings. So if you have more transactional, customer-agnostic cultural goals, the applicability of these seven steps may be limited.)
1. Shorten your mission statement.
Are there consultants (or CEOs) out there being paid by the word, or even the syllable, when writing these things? I have my suspicions when I read particularly verbose monstrosities. Brief is better, folks; it’s important to have a mission statement that follows my rule of thumb: short enough to be memorable, long enough to be meaningful.
• Sweetgreen’s elegant and precise mission statement:
To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.
• Mayo Clinic’s “Primary Value,” probably my favorite example of the kind of clear writing and thinking that are called for:
The needs of the patient come first.
Seven words–count them!–with only one of them longer than a syllable, yet the statement is meaningful to every single employee at Mayo in setting priorities and guiding aspirations. Yours can be longer than Mayo’s (and, in fact, Mayo has several other brief statements that stand alongside these seven words), but either aim for clarity and brevity or don’t bother having one at all.
2. Create (or relentlessly edit down, if you already have one), a list of essential philosophical principles that again fit the criterion of being short enough to be memorable, long enough to be meaningful.Somewhere around ten principles should be plenty, and, again, please don’t let them end up sounding like “Always equitably aspire to meaningfully impact the residual affections of our devoted stakeholder base”; they should be more along the lines of “We strive to serve the unexpressed as well as expressed wishes of our customers.”
3. Laminate them (your mission statement and list of central principles.) This step may sound sophomoric, but it’s effective. You want the essential words you’ve set down in Step 1 and Step 2 to infuse the air your employees breathe, rather than languish in an increasingly dusty drawer. You achieve this by using words that are memorable and meaningful and by getting those words out there “into the field,” which in the case of employees means, as much as anything, into their wallets. Design a miniature version of your mission statement and core principles that every employee can carry with them and refer to as needed throughout the day. (Post the larger version at points of sale and workstations as well.)
4. Change up your orientation (onboarding) approach. The hours when your employees are brand-new are vulnerable hours, where they’re looking for something to latch on to. Use this opportunity to get employees to latch onto their purpose in your company rather dragging them down with the minutiae and technical details that tend to dominate company onboarding procedures. (Here’s my article on how Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian accidentally discovered that the existing Hyatt orientation sounded like “A Hundred Ways You Can Get Fired By Hyatt,” and the steps he took to overhaul it once he realized this.)
5. Take a hard look at whether your hiring, recruiting and employee development practices are consonant with the culture you’re trying to create. A culture is very much about HR approach, and very little about ping pong tables in the office. What I call “talent management,” the recruiting, selection, and nurturing of employees who have the right kind of potential for what you are trying to achieve, is one of the central disciplines of great company cultures. (More here in my article on talent management.)
6. Strive to creatively group people and to change those groupings over time. Make use of innovative internal designs, desk-swapping, etc.–although also be aware, very aware, that noise levels and interruptions can be killers for some workers and that there is huge variability in such sensitivity from employee to employee. And—another important caveat–some of your best employees are also going to be the ones who are least adaptable in these areas. Why? Because they are the most serious about doing things right, and of not letting external factors reduce the quality of their work.
7. Give employees power over how they design and carry out their tasks–and fiercely defend this power against encroachment. There are many reasons that this is essential, and one of the most important is ethical: I would argue that it’s immoral to use people as interchangeable cogs without permitting them to make use of their humanity in how they design and go about their day. But culturally, the reason is because if you don’t do this, then you don’t have a culture. A culture is a living, breathing thing, powered by the vision of leadership, frontline workers and everyone in between, and if you’re too rigid in how you organize and execute tasks within your company, it will eventually get stifled or snuffed out.
P.S. How will you know when you get there? My favorite indicator of cultural maturity is the extent to which your company has developed what I call positive peer pressure; When it’s just known around your company that “the way things are done here” consists of behavior that’s consonant with your stated vision. Peer pressure of course gets a bad name, by and large, but it’s the way that great cultures propagate themselves.
Article By: Micah Solomon
For More: Forbes.com