How to build and improve company culture

Want to create a positive workplace culture? Use these 4 steps to get started.

What can a positive culture do for a company? The better question might be, what can’t it do?

It can help with everything from retaining employees to convincing other companies to partner with yours based on shared ideals. It can even help deliver shareholder value, since happy employees are more invested in making their employers successful. 

A company’s purpose is its reason for being. That purpose, in turn, plays a huge role in forming the company’s culture, which is the sum of its values, goals, attitudes, behaviors and practices. Once you’ve established an authentic culture, it’ll serve as your guide for everything from growing your company to navigating decision-making in times of extreme uncertainty.

While every company is different, successful ones tend to have some combination of the following attributes in their DNA: communication, collaboration, diversity, employee engagement, customer focus, innovation, trust, integrity, flexibility and respect. 

Because a positive culture is so important to creating business resilience in tough times, you should look to those attributes to inspire your own cultural evolution. 

Plan to start with these four steps:

1. Get feedback from your key stakeholders

Want to know how your company is perceived? Start with the people who know it best: its employees and customers. 

When you make a sincere effort to engage them, they can help co-create your purpose and culture. Here are ways to obtain their feedback:

  • Let your employees tell their stories. Listen to their experiences and see how they tie back to your company’s culture.
  • Take note of the words being used. What words do they use to describe your products or services? What words do they use to communicate their overall experience?
  • Do your research, including reading customer reviews. Dig through online reviews—both positive and negative—to find common themes in your customers’ experiences. Focus groups, one-on-one interviews and surveys can be effective, too. 

2. Identify your desired “future state”

Once you have a sense of how your company is perceived today, think about how you want it to look in the future. You can start by asking these questions:

  • Are we clear on what our company stands for? This is the all-important starting point. What are its values? How does it conduct its work and care for its people?
  • How does our purpose impact every part of the business? How does it impact decision-making, for instance? What about hiring, supply chains and innovation? 
  • How does what we stand for translate to the future? When you think about this, keep in mind trends for the future. They’re sure to include things such as more diverse workforces, changing workspaces and expanding technologies.

3. Create a road map for a positive company culture

Incorporate positive changes into your business strategy and develop a road map for success. 

  • Define your steps. What will it take to transform your culture? Since every business is different, this is a question only you can answer.
  • Establish measurable objectives. They’ll help you understand the extent to which you’re delivering on your promises. Keep in mind that real-time feedback, when paired with quarterly surveys, can give you a sense of both immediate needs and longer-term trends.
  • Start small. Testing on a small department can help you refine your road map for a larger audience.

4. Continue to hold your company accountable

Let’s say you’ve identified your desired purpose and culture. (Great.) And you’ve created a plan to get there. (Even better.) 

There’s still work to do.

You should continue to hold your company accountable by checking in with employees and customers on a regular basis. 

  • Use your purpose to guide all business decisions. Your purpose should always be your anchor, even when it tells you that you need to pivot on strategy.
  • Build positive change into your everyday routine. On a routine basis, make sure your culture is one that strives for honesty, embraces diversity, celebrates wins and rewards great work.
  • Commit to a continuous cycle of feedback. Continue to gather feedback through interviews, surveys, focus groups and more.

Position your company for growth and resilience

Think of your company’s purpose and culture as its guiding lights. They can direct you in the good times and the tough times, including our current climate of unpredictability.

Remember, don’t just talk about positive change. Let people see a real plan in action. 

If you do, you could create the energized workforce and customer base you need to position your organization for long-term success.

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