Company culture can make or break a business
Business culture matters now more than ever. Why? We are living through uncertain times thanks to Brexit. Unemployment is at its lowest for decades. Business culture, especially those that are positive and open, will act as a protective shield for businesses while recruitment is tough.
In addition, the digital age is exposing toxic cultures like never before and Millennials and younger generations actually care about who they work for. Add all of these facts together and its easy to see why business culture is so important.
The most successful organisational cultures are those that have been painstakingly built around openness and trust. They are the business that have invested in the development and well-being of their staff.
This kind of culture is the greatest advantage a business can have in the current climate. It is the panacea for retaining talent, attracting new recruits, and fostering innovation – all essential ingredients for business success.
Business culture isn’t things and competitors can imitate. A great business culture requires continual attention, and takes commitment and years to build. So, where do you begin? Let’s start by looking at what a successful open business culture looks like.
What is an open business culture?
In a nutshell, an open business culture connects employees to each other, facilitates teams working together and ensures the visions and values of the organisation are shared.
Open business cultures encourage employees to share ideas, show up to work as their whole self, and have empathy with each other. In these cultures, mental and physical well-being in the workplace is a priority. Importantly, an open business culture operates with a policy that encourages open communication, feedback and discussion.
An open culture also embraces diversity – it wants people who break the mould. Winning teams trust each other and aren’t afraid to try something new. In an open culture there is an understanding that diverse teams drive innovation and business success.
An open culture supports employees to offer new ideas. Businesses with an open culture are generally the ones that buck trends and set themselves apart from the crowd.
How do you foster an open culture?
- Understand that culture isn’t things
Business culture isn’t fruit bowls, beer fridges, bean bags and football tables. These are surface-level perks that may boost employee satisfaction for a while, but if employees don’t feel valued, these benefits mean nothing and will do little to motivate people. Good business culture requires transparency, accountability, authenticity, inclusivity, generosity and empathy. These aren’t things.
- Core Values
Establishing strong core values is the starting point for creating an open culture. These can’t be slogans that employees don’t feel any connection to. Trust and transparency should be among your core values. Other core values could hang from words like passion, being bold, respect and so on.
Engage your staff in your new vision and values in a workshop and keep reinforcing the values that make your organisation tick. And remember core values can and do change. They shouldn’t be in constant flux, but there will need to be revisions along the way as the business grows. Everyone in the organisation should be included in the conversation when core values change.
- Actions Speak Louder than Words
Leaders have to be on board with the company’s values and apply them each and every day. It really is all about walking the talk. Leaders and managers who walk the talk bring out the best in people. They help their people achieve goals and support them, as well as encourage flexibility and autonomy. Ultimately, this kind of manager cares about the people who work for them.
- Break Barriers
Strong open cultures don’t have silos. Teams work together and employees are given the opportunity to work on cross-team projects. It’s always surprising what can come out of this exercise. To further breakdown barriers, the focus should be on effective communication and removing any obstacles that prevents individuals from being the best they can be.
- Nurture Continual Change
To maintain a strong culture, you need to keep resetting – culture isn’t something you set up and leave be. Culture is a bit like an ecosystem. It needs constant attention to manage change and keep all of its components in harmony.
In biology, an ecosystem is a complex system of living things. Organisational culture works in the same way, with all aspects of the culture and its people having an influence on its overall function. Influencers of all levels need to work holistically to manage and work with the flux, ensure collaboration is ongoing and keep culture on track.
- Empower with Mentors
In a positive and open culture there should be no barriers to success. All staff should be offered mentoring and personal development opportunities to grow. A strong mentoring program helps to bridge personal and organisational goals.
Mentoring also fosters collaboration. It’s not just leaders and managers that need mentoring. Line managers should also be trained to mentor the people in their team. The approach should be personalized to contribute successfully to a growth mindset.
- Encourage Honest Feedback
In any business culture where open and honest feedback is encouraged, the company benefits. This can only be done in a business where psychological safety is honored. For employees to speak openly and honestly, they need to know they will be listened to and that appropriate action will be taken.
- Embrace Diversity
Diversity in business can be tricky to manage, but not so in a culture where curiosity, and multiple voices and perspectives are encouraged and accepted. Diverse teams operating with respect for one another are usually the most innovative and successful. It’s not always easy (initially) to work with people who are very different to you, but when diversity is truly embraced it breeds an inclusive and creative platform for success.
Written by: Mike James, BOSS Contributor
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