Think of the amount of attention that most businesses lavish on their core products or services. There’s research, product development, testing, quality assurance, compliance, marketing, sales, distribution - and that’s just scratching the surface.
Now think how some companies manage their employees. Despite all the talk about being the organization’s “number one asset” does the workforce receive even a fraction of the focus that product gets? Chances are the answer is “no.”
Culture as Core Business
When the tile floor in the headquarters lobby gets more attention than the average employee it's a small wonder that employee engagement rates continue to hover around 30% in most organizations.
I think we will start to see a change for the better in that number as soon as the business starts making a genuine investment in employee culture. And by investment I’m talking about attention, focus, learning, and one-to-one communication. In some companies simply knowing how to talk about culture would be a big win.
Find and Fix Gaps Using Feedback
One of the first things you can do to support culture in your business is to take an audit, just as you would when reviewing a product line or a corporate website. You can start out small, for instance with a pulse poll that asks employees from the C-suite down “what makes XYZ Co so great?”
Once you’ve identified some potential gaps in the organization’s understanding of culture you’ll have a general roadmap of the business opportunities ahead. For example, you might discover that culture is understood differently at each level of leadership. Or you might find that everyone across the organization is equally hazy about the importance of culture. You might find that you’re doing better than you thought.
Continue using feedback as you go through the process of clarifying business mission, purpose, and values. Some research shows that there’s often a clear understanding of corporate mission at the top of the organization but it never gets out of the boardroom. Use bimonthly Pulses to reinforce managers as they talk about culture with the workforce.
Building a Culture Supply Chain
Seth Godin uses the metaphor of shipping as a way to talk about getting results. The idea of shipping gets a person thinking about intangible things, such as culture, in the same concrete way that they think about product.
In the same way that a product has a lifecycle that goes from the drawing board to the customer’s doorstep, your efforts to reinforce culture will have a lifecycle. Putting an emphasis on shipping will help make sure you move through these stages to completion.
One of our partners, RBC, does a fantastic job of shipping when it comes to culture. The bank’s Blue Water Project is a corporate social responsibility initiative that engages employees in core values by working on freshwater projects in the community.
RBC uses Feedback to inform and educate employees about the importance of freshwater preservation at the early stages of the project. The company then uses Recognition to capture and curate the success stories when the projects are complete. The end result is to involve employees at every stage of the culture-building lifecycle.
Nothing Says “We Care” Like Delivering the Goods
When employees can see that the organization is making an investment in their experience of the business, they will make a connection with their own sense of mission and purpose. Instead of feeling like they are on a treadmill of widget-cranking they will be on the lookout for ways to improve the process, because after all, they are the company’s number one asset.