Culture – it’s not just a buzz word or a trendy fad. Company culture plays a significant role in unlocking the potential of your employees’ & company’s success. So, what exactly is company culture?
“Company Culture is the underlying values system a company adheres to,” says Amy Ritsema, co-owner of OnSite Wellness LLC. “What matters most to the company? How do they invest in and care for their employees? What is the purpose of the company overall?”
A helpful first step when determining culture can be to brainstorm what an ideal culture would look like in your context. After working with hundreds of clients, Ritsema highlights these key elements as key to a thriving culture:
- Investing in your employees: personal development, fostering creativity, flexibility, encouraging mentorship and support.
- Team environment - “In it to win it, together”
- Trust & honesty
- Leadership support throughout the entire organization
What elements would you ideally like to see in your organization?
Dreaming big is a great first step, but every company also needs to take an honest assessment of what is actually true of the current culture. One of the ways you can do this is by regularly asking employees at all levels of the organization to provide honest, anonymous feedback. “Leadership may think they have a healthy culture, but what’s the true message being received by the employees?” says Ritsema, She also notes that “company leaders need to be ready to hear and act upon the feedback when they ask the hard questions.”
There are plenty of good evaluation tools out there that can be used, but a simple, 4-5 question survey that gets benchmarked over time can be a good place to start. Whatever tool you use, make sure your company chooses one that looks at all levels, shifts, and positions within the organization.
IMPACT OF COMPANY CULTURE
An honest assessment of your company’s current culture is critical, but it can also be helpful to make sure key stakeholders understand what is at stake.
- Employee wellness – When a culture is unsupportive of its employees and their well-being, employees are unable to be their best and the business suffers. But when culture (and its subsequent policies) makes it clear that employees are their greatest asset, everyone wins.
- Success of a company - A healthy company culture will have increased productivity, less turnover, and higher levels of creativity among their employees. Check out this Turnover Calculator to help you quantify the costs of turnover and the savings you could achieve by reducing your annual turnover rate.
- Customer experience – When employees are healthy, engaged and empowered the customer is impacted too, which, of course, has a direct impact on the bottom line. In short, every person, every business decision and every outcome is influenced by the company’s culture. Is your culture having the influence you hope it to have?
Struggling to get heard? Read how to get leadership buy-in for wellness here.
WORDS MATTER. SO DO ACTIONS.
Most organizations have a mission statement and defined set of values but reviewing these periodically is worth doing. This is especially true if your mission and values don’t clearly communicate that your employees are of central importance to your organization. Does your mission statement say anything about your employees? Would a new employee reading the values for the first time know that you want them to thrive?
Evaluating company communication is also important. For example, Ritsema points out that when a company is ready to roll out a wellness initiative the message matters. “Saying that we’re doing this to lower costs is different from saying that we’re doing this because we believe it will help our employees be happier and healthier.” “Your message from leadership needs to make it clear that the new wellness initiative is connected to the company’s values and belief that their employees matter.”
Company culture is part of your internal brand, whether you want it to be or not. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page by exposing the company’s values as early as the first interview. It needs to be brought up consistently throughout the hiring process and needs to be carried out through the employee’s onboarding and beyond. Support new employees by encouraging mentorships so they feel connected, engaged, and supported.
As important as words are, actions matter all the more. When employee health and well-being is just lip service, employees will quickly disengage. That’s why any wellness initiatives should be regularly evaluated from all angles and departments. How can wellness work in partnership with Safety or Occupational Health? Do policies support employee work-life balance? What other parts of the benefit plan contribute to employee well-being? Is there flexibility around sick and vacation days? Have ergonomics been considered? Are managers allowing their employees time off for preventive screenings, etc.? These are just a few of the questions that can be explored to help ensure that your company’s words are backed up by meaningful action.
A real shift does not happen overnight but, there can be minor improvements immediately – if everyone is on board. Leaders need to consistently evaluate their managers and keep them accountable. If they aren’t on board, evaluate if they should be in their position. Culture won’t change if leaders at all levels aren’t moving in the same direction.
Every company wants to be successful, and that success hinges on culture. Dreaming about what kind of culture you hope to have and squaring that with what is current reality is the first step. Then, ensure that key stakeholders have a true understanding of what is at stake. And third, make sure that the company’s words and actions back up the culture you hope to sustain.
Need more information? Give this eBook on Why Company Culture Matters a read.