How do you tell if a company has a bad culture?
To explore what makes a good company culture, it helps to examine what makes a bad one. The signs of an organization's culture being poor include:
• Employees not understanding a company's purpose, mission or future aims.
• Senior leaders not being an example of a company's core values.
• A noticeable decrease in how employees engage with their tasks.
• A lack of learning and development opportunities.
• Little collaboration or communication between team members and managers.
• Low employee retention.
• A hostile work environment - company leaders not doing enough to encourage employees to speak-up and express their thoughts.
Bad organizational culture can very often happen through a misaligned, inauthentic leadership style which results in confusion, resentment and likely, resignation. It is up to senior executives to create a company culture with purpose and to monitor culture continually to ensure it matches an organization's ethos.
We’ve come across some senior leaders who state with confidence: “We don’t have a culture here.” Plainly they’re wrong – every company has a culture.
Good company cultures:
• Attract and retain the right talent. New employees should fit a company's culture.
• Achieve desired business results.
• Are ones in which everyone can feel respected for who they are.
• Have clear company values. Every employee should understand the beliefs, practices and aims of the company they work for.
• Support a speak-up culture where team members feel they can share input and ideas safely without fear of retribution.
• Are safe cultures – psychological safety fosters openness, creativity and inclusion.
• Realise diversity, equity and inclusion is a necessity, not an option.
• Build solid foundations for their employees. A great company culture cares about the wellbeing and continued growth of team members.
In the past, there was more of an expectation that people were not supposed to particularly like or enjoy their jobs. It was merely a place to pick up a pay check. But now, we are living in a digital age where technology has blended home and work life, and where employees are looking for their jobs to provide more than a wage and pension. Workers now expect and choose places of work based on company culture. So, failing to target culture will greatly impact employee development and retention.
Building a positive workplace culture
Picture a workplace environment where as an employee, you feel your contribution has a positive impact. Your team members listen to your ideas, your manager challenges you while equally praising the contributions you and your team are making, you feel respected, trusted, valued. You are neither bored nor overly stressed, your team leaders take the time to communicate without micro-managing. This description describes a healthy culture - one which makes an employee perceive their work as more than just employment.
In America, there is currently what is being described as "The Great Resignation". In April 2021, nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs (the highest monthly number ever recorded). Our CEO, Thom Dennis, links this shift in staff departures to workplace culture.
In a Thought for the Week, Thom notes that "Organizations are thinking quite a bit about retention, whilst on the other side it's culture that's occupying the minds of the employees the companies are trying to retain and also recruit". He reports on several studies, one which shows that nearly two thirds of employees list corporate culture as among the most important reasons for either staying with an employer or looking for another job. Additionally, another study found company culture to be the single best predictor of employee satisfaction, ahead of compensation and work life balance.
As explained on our Culture Change Consultants page, building a positive workplace culture takes time and awareness. To create change, leaders have to be willing to acknowledge issues in a company's culture. The leadership team have to work to create coherence between the way they manage, the shared values they stand by and their own personal values they wish to bring to their leadership style.
Steps to change company culture
If you are now in a position where you realise the importance of great company culture and would like to make some changes, there are a number of steps a business can take.
1. Decide what your company’s Purpose is.
2. Re-evaluate the company's mission. Look at the aims of your organization in comparison to the results you are achieving. Arrange a leadership meeting to discuss how to stay in alignment.
3. Listen to employee ideas. Strong company culture relies on every team member feeling appreciated and recognised. Simply taking the time to listen to ideas can create a huge impact on how employees feel about their organization. Part of shifting corporate culture can involve uncomfortable opinions and experiences expressed which leaders may not associate with their business. On our October dialogue on racism, our guest speaker, Raggi Kotak, shared how the stories and feelings of employees were often in contrast to the thoughts shared by managers and leaders. Senior staff cannot know every aspect of their business without listening to at least a broad spectrum of employees. By welcoming more team input, organizations can gain a good grasp on how their company's culture really looks.
4. Hire people based on their skill sets and attitudes. Consider how personalities will work together to help create your ideal company culture. Companies have to ensure their new hires are brought in with good ethics. As an example, there is a business in particular, that continued to hire and promote male family members to executive positions. The women at this firm felt unheard and unimportant. It took one employee to leave to then encourage every female to also do the same. Within a year, it was completely male dominated.
5. Introduce EDI training programs. Diversity and inclusion are areas where some businesses refuse to believe they have issues. It is easier to assume an organization has a positive, diverse company culture rather than accepting that some employees feel excluded potentially due to their background, sexuality, gender, race, age. You can prove the importance of diversity by ensuring your business has an adequate budget and educational strategies in place. Diverse team members add more value to an organization in numerous ways, from innovation, customer experience, profit, performance, and so on.
6. Immediately call out unethical behaviour such as bullying, aggression and dominance in meetings. Studies have shown for example, men interrupt 33% more often when speaking with women as opposed to men. Pay attention to this type of sexism. When something is reported, do not wait to take action.
7. Examine your leaders. Do they represent the great company culture your organization wants to project? Do they follow good practices, are they team-oriented - do they take on board ideas shared by staff? How are their values creating or changing your company's culture? The way a leader behaves goes hand in hand with the culture employees experience.
Creating a good company culture in an uncertain environment
Covid-19 has helped shine a light on businesses with both successful and negative company cultures. The pandemic and Brexit have brought extreme uncertainty in the business world which makes it even more difficult for an organization to start strategizing a great culture. While uncertainty adds pressure, it can also help companies realise quicker the areas they need to improve to create the culture they want.
Now is the time for businesses to look at their strategies and training procedures, measuring how effective they have been in handling this ambiguous climate. Companies may find they need to delegate and train managers in handling more leadership responsibility to help relieve pressure from the C-Suite.
As well as ambiguity, company culture is experiencing fewer social events and interaction due to remote working. We are meeting up with each other less, and relying on video to replace in-person communication. This of course, has had a significant impact on company culture and employees. Managers can continue to show good employee practices by checking in with their employees and asking questions other than, "How are you?" Instead, managers can ask their team about their hobbies, how everyone in their household is doing (problems with family or roommates could impact work life) and check-in with their remote working conditions.
Some team members will have more advanced equipment to support their work. They will also have more space and freedom to work productively at specific hours. Leaders have to do what they can to ensure home life does not create imbalances or less opportunity for certain employees. A team grows effectively when everyone feels equal.
How Serenity in Leadership can help your company culture
Businesses from small companies to large, are already stretched with time and delegating tasks. At Serenity in Leadership, we take the pressure off leaders so they can focus their time on other matters while we efficiently work around their schedules to address company culture practices. We will look at the values and attitudes of a business, the decision-making taking place, review employee engagement, and ultimately find the deep-rooted seeds that have created a company culture. We work on bridging the gap between the type of culture leaders are creating and how they would like it to actually be.
When a company tries to change, if there is already a lack of trust and engagement between leaders and employees, staff will struggle to feel comfortable. External consultants can bring an entirely new perspective to a business and gain the trust of employees to find out what is happening at a grass root level.
Gone are the days when companies could rely on PR fluff. Times are changing and with that, organizational culture has to adapt. If you are looking to create a new culture that will equip your business for the future, contact Serenity in Leadership for a free, impartial chat.
With a positive, strong culture at your company, you can expect to see:
• Better decision making
• Values and attitudes that are in alignment
• More innovation
• Employee satisfaction and higher retention rates
As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Culture is important. In what ways is your company culture being created?