Organizational culture refers to the values, visions, ideals, philosophies, experiences and expectations that guide the work carried out by a company, and guide how it will be run into the future.For organizational culture to be truly embedded, it requires all employees, from the top down, to be invested in these ideals and to display them consistently in their actions, behaviors and work practices.
Of course you can’t just create a set of desirable organizational culture characteristics and assume everyone will know and get on board. Communication is critical to developing a strong organizational culture.
Some of the world’s most successful companies have strong organizational cultures that make them highly sought after by employees – and not just because of the reputation they have in the outside world. Having a strong and desirable internal culture makes your company attractive to job seekers and gives you an edge over other companies as you can attract and retain the top talent in your industry.
One example of a company with a strong organizational culture is Microsoft. The software giant appointed a new CEO, Satya Nadella in 2014 who has turned the internal culture of the company around.
Nadella overturned older ways of doing things in the company, and brought in values such as accountability, inclusiveness and diversity, responsiveness to customers’ needs, quality and innovation and growth mindset to encourage every employee in the company to make the company a success. In doing this, Microsoft’s share price has tripled since Nadella took over as CEO.
How to create an organizational culture
It’s a mistake to assume that everyone in your organization naturally shares the same values. This is true of both life in general, and how they see themselves in the company and how they see the company’s place in the community.
But why is organizational culture important?
Creating a strong organizational culture in the workplace will enable you to foster an environment where:
- Your company has a good organizational reputation
- Goods and services are delivered to a high standard
- Employees can manage risk better
If you recognize that the internal culture in your company needs to change, the best place to start is to gather evidence that’s more than just anecdotal. Carry out surveys or gather feedback to gauge the perceptions your employees have about your organization’s culture.
Other signs that the company culture is not sound would include high levels of employee turnover, high levels of absenteeism, low productivity, poor performance (for example sales, legal problems, company failing to meet performance targets) and poor reputation in the community.
Creating a positive culture will involve addressing any historic weaknesses and putting strategies in place to negate them, setting good examples of behavior from the top down, engaging with and listening to staff and constantly communicating company values to employees, as well as and other desirable attributes.
Why the communication process is important to organizational culture
One of the greatest barriers to creating a strong organizational culture – and instead ending up with a dysfunctional one – is when employees fail to understand what the company’s goals are and what their role is in seeing it succeed.
By helping your staff to understand the big picture – for example financial, social and other goals like market share – and how they personally fit in with that, you’re more likely to get their buy in to help the organization succeed.
To change culture, you need consistency. This includes consistent communication in all its forms within the organization. Modeling good communication and working to ensure that messages are delivered regularly and reliably, reaching employees regardless of what role they occupy within the company.
If your company has poor internal communication processes, this is something that will need to be actively overcome to build a healthy organizational culture. For example, there may be some areas of the organization that operate in “information silos” and aren’t good at communicating with the rest of the business. Some people within the organization may be roadblocks to communication success. Or perhaps you don’t have the right tools in your internal communications toolkit to do the job that’s needed.
In fact when information flow doesn’t exist or has broken down completely is an example of how organizational culture affects communication. A toxic or dysfunctional environment often won’t have good communication as a result of the way it functions, and good communication is necessary for a healthy culture: it can become a vicious cycle if not reined in.
Ways to communicate the organizational culture to your employees
There are some fairly straightforward actions you can take right now to begin communicating organizational culture within your organization:
1. Be a leader
The leadership team needs to model appropriate behavior at every opportunity, and this should be reflected in all interactions with employees – including meetings, correspondence, presentations etc.
2. Express it via recognition
Implement a formal acknowledgment arrangement, such as a reward and recognition program, that aligns with your values and encourages your employees to act in accordance with them. Every time you promote this program is an opportunity to communicate the desirable aspects of your company culture.
3. Say thanks
Always publically thank employees who have performed well or contributed to a successful outcome – whether this is tied to a formalized reward program or not. This can be via email, in meetings or company presentations or via your internal or external social media channels.
4. Create a suite of materials
Produce internal marketing and communications materials, such as posters or displays that extol your corporate values and reinforce the culture you are trying to build.
5. Have easy to navigate internal communications platforms
Ensure that employees are provided with clear directions and can easily find the tools they need to do their jobs, such as policies, procedures, templates, protocols on your intranet or file sharing system – this might require a total overhaul. The information you are communicating in these documents should also be clear, concise and easy to understand.
6. Get communication happening naturally
Encourage the establishment of social clubs within the organization so your employees, from across different internal disciplines, can get to know one another better and bond, forging strong relationships.
7. Listen, don’t just tell
Encourage two-way communication and provide ways for your employees to give feedback, not just when you’re running an official survey.
8. Use DeskAlerts to deliver information across a range of channels
Ensure you’re using a range of tools to communicate to your employees in ways that will catch their eye. For example you can use DeskAlerts to send pop-up notifications or scrolling tickers with important corporate news, reinforce your branding and values via screensavers, corporate wallpaper or digital signage, or send mobile notifications to those on the move via their smartphones and tablets.
9. Let staff do the talking
Appoint employees to be ambassadors internally to promote your organizational culture and to encourage their peers to adopt the culture and to live your values.