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3 TIPS FOR BUILDING A STRONG ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE

Posted by Mark Davies 10 April 2018 Innovation Consultancy

Building a company culture is an ongoing and ever-evolving occupation, yet one which is rarely designated in a single person’s job description. Simultaneously the responsibility of everyone from CEO to middle management, ensuring that everyone is on board is the only way you will build a culture which is pervasive and feeds into every level of your business. 

Yet how do you build this organisational culture in the first place? What should your culture stand for? How will you feed your company values into everyday processes? How will you communicate your culture when recruiting new team members? These are all questions that must be considered when building a strong organisational culture.

Here are three tips to help:

1. COPYING CULTURE DOESN’T WORK

A lot is written about the organisational culture of some of the biggest companies, with commentators particularly fascinated with what goes on behind closed doors at the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple. Yet just because these organisations have crafted an organisational culture that works for them, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the right formula to employ in your own organisation.

According to Entrepreneur.com contributor Samar Birwadker, ‘if you want a successful company culture, don't copy someone else's.’ He explains that

‘it's imperative to draw a fine line between imitation and plagiarism as you start to transform your vision into reality. If you want to be successful, stop reading books by successful people because their story won't be your story.’

Birwadker sees simply copying another company’s culture as not only unconstructive but potentially destructive. He says that ‘basing your company's culture on a template you didn't design will come off as counterfeit’ and ‘you'll run the risk of having a company culture breaking down at precisely the moment when your business is on the brink of success or failure.’

Defining what exactly you want your company culture to look like, what values you want it to espouse and how this fits into your larger strategy is vital if you are going to create a company culture that works for you.

2. MAKE A PLAN AND ENSURE EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS IT

Just like a product launch or new campaign, building your organisational culture takes time and pre-planning. Starting out without the bare bones in place to build upon is unlikely to prove a simple route to success, and so the same methodology must be applied to your company culture.

For Forbes contributor Maria Gamb, ‘establishing a cogent plan and direction is the best way to make sure everyone is moving in the same direction’ when it comes to shaping and implementing your culture. She also emphasises that this must be seen as an ongoing process;

‘new employees will need more instruction initially until they become acclimated to the company culture and their particular job,’ yet ‘more veteran employees may need less specifics,’ she explains.

This will be true each time your company grows and expands, and so continually updating your plan is a must to ensure your culture permeates all levels and departments.

To make a start with your plan, make a list of the key values you want to be embodied in your culture. This should be done in detail, as vague and unhelpful notions such as ‘welcoming’ will not be instructive when it comes to implementing these values. Once these have been decided, it will be easier to decide on concrete steps to put your culture into action.

3. CULTURE HAS TO BE EFFECTIVE, NOT FUZZY

It is easy to associate organisational culture with the quest to make your organisation a ‘nice’ place to work. Yet since the understanding of nice varies wildly across people and cultures, and nice doesn’t automatically lead to growth, engagement and innovation, your culture has to be effective in order to produce the results you want and require. 

Writing for Quartz, brand leadership expert, Denise Yohn, analysed the company culture at Amazon which has been described by its employees as bruising, relentless and even painful. Yohn explains that while ‘no one would fault you for thinking a company with a workplace culture described in these harsh terms is destined for failure,’ in fact the opposite has been the case. Amazon ‘recently nearly doubled its operating income, increased its annual revenue by 27%, and turned in its eighth straight quarter of profitability,’ all while being ranked 2nd in ‘LinkedIn’s Top Companies to Work For’ list, as voted for by its own employees.

While acknowledging that ‘Amazon’s workplace culture is not for everyone,’ Yohn believes that what it also shows is that ‘a company’s culture does not need to be “warm and fuzzy” to be effective.’ Finding a happy medium, in which team members feel supported and included but which also pushes them beyond their comfort zone and challenges them to be innovative, will be infinitely more effective than a culture that does place effectiveness at its heart. 

By going your own way, planning and communicating your strategy and keeping effectiveness in mind, it is possible to build a strong organisational culture that is robust enough to stand the test of time.

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