The biggest mistake executives make when trying to improve their corporate culture…
The corporate culture within any company, without question, effects their bottom-line day to day. Just to name a few avenues, this occurs through operations, interpersonal relationships between employees, and a level of engagement from leadership that requires consistent enforcement of their established mission and values. Because a corporation’s internal culture often remains hidden from consumer view, it’s not uncommon for leadership to simply restructure operations. Unfortunately, if every aspect of a company’s culture is not examined, this solution is just a band aid.
The Ice Berg Metaphor
When concerning a corporation’s culture, we often use the iceberg metaphor as a means of defining it. Ten percent of a corporation’s values and culture are above the water where the public and consumers can see it, and the other 90% lies below the surface. It’s that 90% that directly affects a company’s employee morale, productivity, and bottom line. A corporation often places its highest priority on how they are perceived by their consumer base, and therefore that 90% of company culture and values are either placed on the back burner, or corporations find themselves at a complete loss of how to get in front of the issues.
Some other band aid fixes for happy employees include things like discounted vending machines in the breakrooms, or regular celebrations of major holidays and birthdays. These lovely notions might improve culture for a day or even a week, but the pervasive internal problems will remain.
Happy employees are engaged employees. When a corporation’s culture is healthy, employees feel invested in the success of their companies. The company’s success becomes internalized as their own success, and they are more likely to be plugged in, to take initiative, and to think outside of the box when it comes to problem-solving.
When employees are leaning into their positions and actively working towards a company’s goals, that leads to smoother daily operations. Engaged employees are constantly finding ways to improve their processes so they can generate higher rates of productivity within their positions
When daily operations are streamlined, this yields higher levels of productivity within the company. An employee’s daily duties are no longer a monotonous checklist, but a recipe for success for their company. An engaged employee’s success is the success of everyone in the corporation, and the same is true of productivity. A single employee’s increased productivity is the entire company’s success. Not only does this set an example for all employees, but increased productivity is what helps a company grow, mature, and prosper.
This one is a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever been employed knows that a happy boss makes a happy employee. Leadership sees the increase in engagement and productivity and lean into that success. Good leadership will reward that success in tangible ways that will have long-term effects on the company’s culture. They promote or give raises to those employees who are giving 100%, empower those employees through collaboration and development, and are more open to the thoughts and ideas of employees who are contributing to their success.
When leadership is actively encouraging employees through a pure manifestation of the company’s mission and values, employees feel as if they are making a difference within their organization. This increases the feeling of purpose and desire for cooperative teamwork. These feelings inspire employees to continue their pattern of success through the diligent, genuine practice of a company’s established mission and values. Increased morale means happy employees, and that’s where the cycle begins anew, exponentially influencing a company’s success with each cycle.
Structure is Not Culture
The network of operations within a company will never have a direct effect on company morale. Poor daily operations due to structure are really just a symptom of unhealthy corporate culture—a manifestation of poor culture at work. To diagnose the problem, many corporations turn to independent firms to conduct corporate culture audits in order to identify the problems within a company or organization. These firms measure a company’s daily operations, their quality of communication, and interpersonal relations among employees—just to name a few factors. When a corporate culture audit is comprehensive and curtailed to the organization, the findings can be invaluable to leadership that seeks to grow and mature in tandem with their values.
As mentioned above, employees who see a consistent display of established values from leadership, they’re more engaged and productive. It’s one thing to have the company’s mission statement and list of values posted online or on the wall within a workplace. It’s a completely different ballgame when leadership puts their money where their mouth is, and serves as an example for the entire workforce. That example can have a ripple effect creating an interpersonal trust between employees, in which they all feel like they’re on a team, working towards the same goal. It is in the nucleus of that atmosphere where real change and growth begin.
When it comes to your workplace culture, you don’t know what you don’t know…
We know the importance of conducting independent investigations when an internal crisis arises in a business or organization. While some companies are focusing on revising their company culture in order to improve responses to internal crises, others are seeking an ounce of prevention for a pound of cure. For many businesses and organizations, this means going back to the root of their company culture and conducting a corporate culture audit.
What is corporate culture?
According to the MISTI Training Institute, a corporation’s culture is defined as, “the set of enduring and underlying assumptions and norms that determine how things are actually done in the organization.” This collection of shared beliefs, values, and visions should play a direct role in how the entity handles its day to day operations and shape their overall goals for the future of the company. However, it is not enough for a corporation or organization to have a corporate culture on paper, because the point of having a company culture established is that management and executives with decision-making power exemplify and lead by virtue of these beliefs. That’s why it’s prudent to conduct an internal culture audit in order to identify the core issues that lead to decline in production, revenue, and employee morale.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to encounter an internal crisis. Among the different types of internal crises, some of the most common are employee misconduct, fraud & theft, security vulnerabilities, and workplace safety. It’s also not uncommon for companies to operate under a “fire alarm” system, in which there are focused attempts to put out an internal “fire,” like a complaint of sexual harassment, or reports of theft. Human resource employees can spend so much time putting out fires that there’s no time to investigate the root of these problems and reform policy for smoother, healthier operations.
Typical culture audits
Culture audits can come in many forms and many levels of comprehension. Some assessment firms boast that they will personalize an assessment for their clients—unfortunately, a “personalized” audit can be problematic. If “personalized” is interpreted to mean that the client may specify which aspects of their organization’s culture they would like evaluated, it defeats the purpose of a cultural audit. Culture is not just one aspect of a company, but how all of those aspects harmonize for the good of the company. A typical culture audit includes, but is not limited to:
organizational mission, vision, and values
understanding of and extent of buy-in to mission, vision, and values
how values are symbolized
value differences between the organization and its competitors
identification of key measures of success
type of leadership required
the behaviors and attitudes of management and leadership
background of top managers, including schooling, time with the organization, job experiences, current duties and status, and career path policies, procedures, training requirements, and recognition systems that support or inhibit the ideal culture and behaviors
incidents and examples that illustrate what is really important to the organization
shared language or terminology
other strategic influences in the environment, such as competitive or allied organizations that may influence behavior
cultural heritage or history since founding
organization’s structure and its relation to culture and strategy
behaviors that reinforce core values
identification of subcultures and their roles.
Significance to companies
There are many types of internal crisis that can be prevented with a company culture audit, with two at the forefront of many Human Resource departments and executive leadership: Active shooter events and employee misconduct. Employee misconduct continues to become a higher priority for companies as more victims of employee sexual harassment are coming forward in the wake of the #MeToo movement. When a company’s management does not show initiative to improve operations surrounding these types of complaints, it can create a culture of silence within the workforce. The 2018 Global Business Ethics report stated that the reporting rate for “interpersonal misconduct” was around 30% for sexual harassment, surveying businesses that were actually registered with the researching body. With that level of sexual harassment going unreported within a company, how would leadership know if a pervasive problem exists within their company culture?
Between 2000 and 2017, nearly half of the active shooter events that took place were categorized as places of “commerce,” or business. A startling 60% of the active shooter events that took place in 2018 were also at places of business. In 10% of the cases examined from that FBI 2018 study indicated that the perpetrator exhibited warning signs of active shooter behavior prior to the event, following termination or disciplinary action. Lower & Associates estimates businesses across the United States will lose more than $55 million in employee wages each year due to violence in the workplace. They experience direct losses in the form of medical expenses, workers’ compensation, litigation fees, and indirect losses such as breakdown in operations due to arrested productivity, record-low morale, and public relations nightmares.
The company culture audit is an ounce of prevention for a pound of cure. While many companies consider their culture well-established and well-practiced, the fact remains: You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why investing in a quarterly or even biannual corporate cultural audit is so crucial for companies. Culture audits can save thousands in the future by identifying problems that would lead to litigation, low morale, and high rates of turnover within a company or organization. Rather than putting out fires on a day to day basis, why not fireproof instead?