Culture, Leadership

3 Ways to Help Build and Sustain a Strong Company Culture

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What’s your ambition for the culture of your organization?

If you intend to create and preserve a strong company culture of recognition – one that drives engagement, productivity and performance – how do you that?

1. Focus on your culture

If culture is to be central to how the people who make up your organization work and behave every day, then culture cannot be an afterthought. It must be a primary area of focus. Kyle Zimmer, president, chief executive and co-founder of the nonprofit First Book, put it this way in a recent New York Times Corner Office” column:

It became very real to me that you have to really focus on the culture of the organization. You can work very hard to build the culture of an organization, and it’s a fragile thing — it’s much easier to lose it than it is to build it.”

The fragility of your culture is something I regularly speak to, comparing it to a bonsai tree. It takes many years of careful attention and focus to prune and bend a bonsai tree into the desired shape, but only one chop to kill it entirely. The same is true of your culture.

2. Hire intentionally

One important factor to ensure you don’t destroy your culture over time is to hire intentionally. Zimmer offers this advice:

If somebody comes in, and has had a 30-year career where they’ve been the boss, and they are not used to being questioned or having their ideas kicked around and challenged, it’s not going to be a fit. It’s also important to avoid hiring those people, because if we do, it’s going to change who comes to the organization.”

Additionally, this article offers some good tips for hiring for cultural fit, including how to get around a candidate’s tendency to say anything to get hired.

3) Make the values behind your culture real

Part of hiring intentionally is hiring to your values. But it’s not enough to stop focusing on values during the recruiting process. Your values must become central to the daily, ongoing work of all employees. Another CEO featured in the Corner Office column, Chris Barbin of Appirio, suggests:

We have three values that we hire against and three that we run it against. The three that we hire against are trust, professionalism and gray matter — as in, how smart are you? The three we run it against are customers, team and fun.”

This is an interesting approach. Once you know the people you hire have the core personal values you desire, you can then refocus their efforts through daily values focused on organizational success.

What are your recommendations for creating a preserving a strong company culture?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce, a global provider of strategic employee recognition and reward programs. In his role as a thought leader for employee recognition at Globoforce, Derek helps clients set a higher ambition for global, strategic employee recognition, leading consultative workshops and strategy setting meetings with such organizations as Avnet, Celestica, Dow Chemical, Intuit, KPMG, Logica, P&G, Symantec, and Thompson Reuters. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.