As many workers flee their current jobs, burnout and lack of growth opportunities are being cited as two of the biggest reasons.
These changing work dynamics and employee perspectives, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, are highlighting the importance of having a strong work culture that’s sustainable, says David Friedman, author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High-Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment.
But unfortunately, Friedman says, while business leaders often talk about culture, many don’t have a systematic process in place to build and maintain that culture as they do for other important aspects of their business.
“Leaders should be as process-oriented about their culture as they are about their sales, finances, and operations.” says Friedman, founder/CEO of CultureWise®.
“Leaders have a responsibility to be intentional and systematic about designing the culture they want, rather than settling for the culture that is created by chance.”
Friedman offers these suggestions for designing and driving company culture:
- Define employee behaviors that drive company success. Driving a culture is mostly a teaching function, Friedman says. It requires building a curriculum around the specific behaviors, or fundamentals, the leadership team wants to teach daily, such as blameless problem-solving, honoring commitments and being a fanatic about response times. “Behaviors, because they’re action-oriented, are clearer than values, which tend to be abstract,” he says.
- Ritualize the practice of your fundamentals. “How many new initiatives have we started at work and in our personal lives, only to see them fall by the wayside as we got busy?” Friedman says. Those failures at work feed employee cynicism, he notes. “But by creating a structured, systematic way to teach winning behaviors repeatedly, they become ingrained in your people,” he says. “Without repetition, nothing lasts.”
- Select people who are the right fit for your culture. A new hire’s value system isn’t likely to change, Friedman says, so it’s vital they have the right values to fulfill the behaviors leadership wants to drive the company.
- Integrate new hires into your culture. A person’s first week on the job is hugely important in the context of culture, Friedman says. “It’s their first impression, and that tends to be lasting and difficult to change,” he says. “It’s remarkable how few companies spend appropriate time and resources orchestrating every aspect of a new hire’s early experience.”
- Communicate your culture throughout the organization. Too often, Friedman says, company leadership displays inspirational messages and posters on the office walls that are inconsistent with the way people behave in the work culture. “We talk about teamwork, but then people work and think in silos,” he says. “Or we talk about quality, but our people are forced to produce at warp speed and without the proper tools. If our culture is authentic, the more we see images and reminders of it all around us, the better.”
- Coach to reinforce your culture. “Coaching sessions by managers and supervisors are critical opportunities to teach and reinforce your culture,” Friedman says. “Using the specific language of the culture in the coaching session shows staff that the words on the wall are meaningful.”
“Most leaders think of culture as something that happens on its own,” Friedman says. “It’s never occurred to them that they can be as intentional and systematic about culture as they can about the rest of their business. And in these changing, challenging times, more are beginning to see how important it is.”
David Friedman is author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High-Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment. He also is founder/CEO of CultureWise®, a turnkey operating system for small to midsize businesses to create and sustain a high-performing culture. He is the former president of RSI, an award-winning employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm that was named one of the best places to work in the Philadelphia region seven times. Friedman has taught more than 6,000 CEOs about work culture and led more than 500 workshops on the subject. With Sean Sweeney, Friedman formed High Performing Culture, LLC, based on the culture methodology Friedman created at RSI.