The Company Culture
I want you to ask yourself these four questions about your business:
Do you have leaders in your business with a vision, who value how individuals contribute?
Do you have line managers who empower rather than control their staff?
Do you have defined values that are lived and not just spoken, leading to a sense of trust and integrity?
Do your employees have the chance to voice their views and concerns?
Answer No? Well that’s ok, that’s what we’re here to work towards.
Answer yes? Then you’re obviously doing a great job, keep up the great work
Your role as a business leader, people manager or HR director is to be the Custodian of Culture. You are there to nurture, protect and preserve the culture. The culture will determine the future success of your business. The No 1 Key Objective in your Job Description is to cultivate your culture.
It’s not about churning out endless policies and procedures, it’s about creating a shared vision and mission that enables your people to feel belonging, worth and to make a difference in the world.
Your role is to demonstrate how colleagues can work harmoniously together, respecting each other and contributing to the organisation's success.
Those organisations who understand that employee wellbeing and ultimately engagement starts with culture, are seeing the positive effects on levels of absenteeism, retention, levels of innovation, customer service and on employee advocacy of their organisations.
Those organisations that allow employees to have fun at work, to play on the pool table, to have a game of office basketball, to get up whenever they want and go for a jog around the block to reenergise, who empower their teams to organise their own work day are seeing the rewards.
Employees respect that fact that they are being giving autonomy over their working day, they are not being micro managed. As long as they meet their project / output delivery goals then why does it matter how they organise their working day?
Positive Social Culture
A positive social culture starts with compassion. When people can learn to act with compassion they are showing the positive side of human nature. A compassionate culture will see employees looking out for one another, helping each other where needed and celebrating success together.
Without compassion your culture becomes greedy, self-centred, competitive and often poisonous. We need to have a strong sense of community within our businesses so that people feel they belong. When people can see the results of their positive actions and the impact they have on others they will come together more and more.
We see more in the press each day about bringing communities together and crossing divides, uniting people with a common purpose to stop religious hatred, criminality and promote education; the workplace is no different.
When you can give people a sense of purpose and belonging and build a positive community environment that employees can identify with, then you will see great things start to happen.
Every organisation needs a mission. This is not just a mission statement printed on a bit of company literature that no one knows exists. This is the absolute centre of why your organisation exists.
Most organisations are probably familiar with some type of mission statement. In the past they may have been focused on profit, customer service, being no 1 in your sector and reaching particular milestones. In the future, I see the mission as being about making a positive difference on people’s lives, about giving meaning to why your employees turn up every day and the difference they are making to others in the world.
In the past we were told that an effective mission statement should focus on the Company’s outward persona or public image, it’s philosophy, customers and employees. Talking about our values within the mission statement and using key buzz words such as ‘Citizenship’, ‘teamwork’, ‘excellence’, ‘integrity’ ‘communities’, ‘customers’, ‘employees’, ‘ethics’, ‘global’ and ‘quality/value’ were essential to effective mission statements.
Now we understand the importance of being short and to the point! Your mission statement needs to be bold, inspirational and everlasting, long after the managers of today have gone.
In short: Think about your mission statement and the ongoing legacy you are trying to create. What positive difference are you trying to make in this world and on people’s lives.
So once you have identified your Mission, let’s see about your Vision.
Confused? Thought they were the same thing?
Well not quite; your vision is what you want your organisation to be like in the future. It should be aspirational and inspirational in order to help create a mental image of the organisation in the future.
“A Mission Statement defines the company's business, its objectives and its approach to reach those objectives. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. Elements of Mission and Vision Statements are often combined to provide a statement of the company's purposes, goals and values.”
Let’s take a look at Facebook’s Mission and Vision statements in order to see why you need both:
Facebook Inc.’s Mission: "To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
So this focuses on empowering people. Enabling sharing, and connecting the world.
Facebook Inc.’s Vision: "People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them."
And this is a combination of facilitation of communication among friends and family, using Facebook as a tool for self-discovery and self-expression and lastly existing in a Global market.
So you need a strong, high impact Mission statement and a Vision for the future of your organisation… easy right? Well don’t think about creating this on your own.
Get a focus group together from your organisation, test out a few different alternatives, ask employees to get involved, show your short list to your peer groups and get creative.
Don’t forget your Mission and Vision need to be revisited every so often. Maybe annually or bi-annually depending on how fast a pace your business is growing/changing.
The idea of empowering your employees to make critical decisions without management interference may terrify some business leaders. Laszlo Bock, President of People Operations for Google, describes it as letting the ‘lunatics run the asylum’, but it’s working for Google!
By delegating authority to others, managers and senior executives free up their time to focus on other projects. You can share information, resources and skills across the workforce so that individuals or teams can come together to solve problems, improve service and innovate.
By giving them the opportunity and making them accountable you will be developing leaders of the future, improving problem-solving skills and giving them a sense of ownership of your organisation.
If your leaders are serving to empower employees, to act as coach, to bring out the best in them, to develop, educate, inspire, then employees will respond with innovation, collaboration and improving their working environment.
Ultimately, we are looking to create an environment where everyone can take ownership, where everyone feels able to contribute and change processes. It starts with empowerment and leaders who can stand aside, acting as mentors, not dictators.
A great example of an organisation working at scale through shared values and principles is Essilor. Essilor has over 60,000 employees, with a global reach and serves over 50% of the contact lenses to consumers around the world in a €6.7 Billion business per year.
Their values are:
Respect & Trust
Or WIRED for short.
For the full PDF version click here:
This quote sums up their culture and shared vision beautifully:
“We form a community of entrepreneurs based on shared trust and mutual respect. Motivated by a spirit of initiative, we make diversity one of our strengths, thanks to our culture of strong collective involvement. We are thus able to take risks and to learn from our successes, but also from our mistakes.”
Everything they do is underpinned by their values.
Employee empowerment and employee voice are significantly interlinked. It is no good to say that you empower employees if when they speak up about issues they are ignored.
The type of employee voice mechanism which you choose for your organisation is entirely individual to your Company situation. Whether it’s a simple suggestion box, a monthly forum meeting with elected representatives or a more formal collective agreement, it does not matter. What matters most is that the voices and opinions of employees are heard AND ACTED UPON. I cannot stress enough how NOT acting upon the information received can be more damaging than if you didn’t receive the information in the first place!
Not only are the voices heard, but actions are taken to address concerns and feedback is given to the employees. There needs to be a sensible mechanism for feeding back decisions to employees. You might find you have 20 suggestions put before you, but only 2 or 3 of those can be implemented. It is important to share why those 2 or 3 initiatives have been supported and why the others haven’t.
The worst thing that you can do is to give your employees a voice but then not listen to it. People become despondent very quickly when they feel they are not being listened to or they feel the voice programme is a token effort.
Remember there is knowledge and wisdom amongst all of us. Having insights from around the business should actually enhance decision making processes for management. Organisational effectiveness and high quality decisions can be arrived at by seeking employee input at all levels.
The Culture Checklist:
Do you have leaders with vision?
Do your managers empower their teams?
Do you have a clearly defined mission?
Do you have a clearly defined vision?
Do you have defined values?
Do you have a robust employee voice mechanism?
Do you have clear & effective communication?
As you work towards creating a positive culture remember the key is 4 main components:
"Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, deep employee engagement, job and organizational fit, and strong leadership are outperforming their peers and will likely beat their competition in attracting top talent."