In an episode of Seinfeld, George is desperate for people to call him T-Bone. He calls himself it every chance he can, but it just won’t stick. Instead, he’s given the nickname Koko by the others because he eats bananas for lunch one day. Tough break, George, but (for once) it really wasn’t your fault. A nickname is not something you can force. It normally just happens based on other people’s perceptions of you.
Similarly, you can’t force your company’s culture; it just happens based on how employees, vendors, and customers feel about the company. This doesn’t mean you can’t influence and even change the culture of your company, but that shouldn’t be your focus. Rather, culture is the result of your efforts in the following areas:
– Success! As shocking as this may seem, it’s amazing what some success will do. Ask any sports team if there’s a correlation between winning and the locker room atmosphere.
– Hiring. Yes, you can control the “type” of employee you hire, but putting too much emphasis on people who “fit” leaves you with a symbiotic, yet unproductive workforce. Besides, trying to ascertain someone’s ability to mesh is difficult. Instead, look for data that demonstrates the necessary skills, while practicing the values your organization has identified.
– Onboard effectively. It’s the first impression an employee has of your company and how it treats people. Research shows that impression can be difficult to change and last as long as two years.
– Compensation. I know some people disagree with this but just like success, if a person feels they are paid fairly, they are more apt to be positive and treat others fairly.
– Prudent Communications. Expectations, objectives, metrics and teams of specialists are in. REs, FWDs, CCs and committees are out.
– Empower and reduce roadblocks. Once you communicate expectations (see above), empower an employee with the tools to meet those expectations while reducing roadblocks (most importantly PEOPLE as roadblocks).
– Train. You didn’t hire the perfect candidate, you hired the best candidate. Start with what you expect (see above), then determine where the employees needs to improve and/or where he or she can help others who need improvement.
– Make it clear how the person contributes to the team, department, division, company, etc. Otherwise, they’re a mouse on a treadmill.
– Respect. Respect a person, his or her ideas, likes and dislikes, beliefs, background, etc.
There’s more. Too many to list: wellness, socialization, work-life balance to name a few.
By focusing on improving these areas (you’ll notice the word culture didn’t appear when discussing any of them) you will improve your company culture without really trying to directly. Get it, T-Bone?