Culture can be a tricky thing. The majority of companies have one, whether it is the one they intended to have or not. The intentional versions require active management and the coordination of several moving parts across the organization, attributes that make them somewhat rare according to a recent article on The Economist.
That article provides a straightforward perspective on what makes cultures successful:
Leaders need to formalize the desired culture to make its meaning concrete. That involves defining which behaviors an organization’s good citizens should model every day. It also means making values as measurable as performance.
A couple of observations stand out from that quote, alongside some practical ways that companies might go about establishing a values-based culture that contributes to organizational success.
Defining values that will help to drive the organization towards its strategic ambitions and desired culture. The article cites research that has found culture can predict as much as half of the difference in operating profits where companies have been able to define their values in this manner.
Solution: Once defined, aligning recognition and other business programs to those core values helps to ensure they are successfully communicated across the organization.
Defining behaviors that reflect those values. Behaviors take values off of posters and transform them into qualities that are lived by employees on a daily basis. To be maximally effective, flexibility is required in defining those behaviors; some values may be consistently demonstrated across the company, while others will depend on the specific group or department.
Solution: Identifying local behaviors that reflect core values is best achieved through social solutions like recognition, feedback, and coaching, which provide employees with exemplars of values-based behaviors for their particular situations. Social solutions also allow rapid and broad sharing of examples of behaviors that demonstrate values across the board.
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Measure values through behaviors. Many organizations have built up complex systems to assess performance, but rarely dedicate the same attention to the predictors of that performance which could serve as valuable leading indicators. In order to ensure that values are contributing to organizational success, behaviors that reflect those values need to be measurable.
Solution: Human-centered technology and social recognition provides a solution in which data on values-based behaviors are automatically captured as employees recognize one another in the course of everyday business. These data provide insight into high-performance relationships between employees, outstanding contributions to the business, and patterns of how values are being lived across the organization.
The final challenge of course is ensuring that all of the above occurs as a continuous process within fabric of daily organizational life, that the values and the behaviors that reflect them remain relevant to the business over time and maintain the desired culture.
How does your own company actively manage its culture?