In a recent post we talked about the basic types of company cultures. Here are some strategies for strengthening your culture and better aligning it to meet your goals.
The four types have distinct differences, but none are objectively better or worse as independent constructs. Their relative value lies in the way they work to help the company meet its goals. Some companies are best suited to one dominant culture type or another, and many are most successful when they combine approaches. What’s important is that your firm identifies what it needs in terms of culture and communicates that effectively to team members and clients. When strengthening or adapting firm culture, you can encourage a smooth process with these steps, gleaned from this article published online in Open Forum:
- Be clear. Defining your goals and methods is critical to determining the culture that will best fit your company. What are your differentiators? What describes the ideal employee at your firm? What core values bring your team together? What is it you do for clients, or the way you do it, that they can’t get anywhere else? Brainstorming these questions as a company can bring up some awkward points, but they’re valuable to the process. Be open to what you learn as you think about these questions and listen to the input of other team members. Your clients may also have useful insights in response to these questions.
- Be specific. Once you’ve established the cultural needs, go about infusing them into every aspect of the firm. Share this information in a variety of ways at all levels. Create reimbursement plans that reward adherence to the cultural goals. Discuss the way many different actions support or conflict with the cultural policies. Address the ways one could show support for the culture through peer-to-peer interactions as well as through client-facing attitudes. Spell out which traits and actions should be a thing of the past, and be detailed in what you do expect to see.
- Be consistent. Ask and expect every member of the organization to exhibit behaviors that support the cultural goals. Establish channels that are adapted to your firm for ongoing discussion and coaching to enhance the culture you want to see. Make sure that the tasks, roles, rewards and group dynamics all align with the values that affect your culture. This takes time, as you find old habits and slivers of manuals, or even marketing collateral that doesn’t quite fit with the new vision. Consistent effort will help you create a culture that extends to all levels and is expressed in everything the firm does.
- Be proactive. Don’t ignore even minor deviations from cultural norms. Take every opportunity to address examples of mistakes, behavior that works against the culture you want to put in place. Don’t try to install a brand new culture on top of ingrained behavior patterns; instead, work to adapt what’s there already to what you want. Use the strengths of your people and the culture that’s in place to move toward your goal. Invite and accept feedback in the transition period and beyond, as team members run into new opportunities to handle people and situations in ways that align with the culture you seek.
A company’s culture can make a big difference in its bottom line, and also in how fulfilled its employees feel. In addition, a strong culture helps you attract and retain the people you want working for your firm. It can be nebulous at first, but thinking about culture and striving to create a clear, strong one that supports organizational goals is an effort worth undertaking. You will learn immense amounts about your company in the process, and that’s information you need.