“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything - for better or for worse.”
When people use the term ‘company culture’, they’re usually talking about your business's core values – but it actually runs much deeper than that.
Company values guide leadership decision-making; they provide a sense of what’s important and right. Culture, however, is the collection of all business practices, processes, and interactions which make up your work environment.
Your company culture is reflected in the overall behaviour of the people working for your organisation – be that how leaders treat employees, how individuals treat each other or how your team treats your customers.
Most organisations have a list of their ‘core values’ proudly displayed on their website. Buzz words like ‘accountability, integrity, teamwork, and fun’, are also plastered on notice boards around their businesses. The harsh truth, however, is that core values mean diddly-squat without the engagement of employees.
It’s staggering how many organisations I’ve worked with where business practices completely contradict company values. What is defined by the collective in the boardroom, is not always what is felt, experienced, or practiced by the wider team.
What is a ‘Toxic Work Culture’?
A toxic culture starts at the top and works its way down through an organisation and if left unchecked, negatively impacts product, service delivery, customer experience, and profits.
In organisations with poor company culture, there is usually too much control at the top; employees don’t feel empowered or appreciated, resulting in low staff retention and a high level of absences.
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat people well enough so they don’t want to.”
According to Culture-shift.co.uk, there are warning signs to look out for, which can indicate your company has a toxic culture:
Management not following the company’s core values: Employees look to management for direction, so they should be leading by example. If they’re not, you can be sure their teams are not living the core values either.
Gossiping/office politics: Nothing screams 'toxic work environment' louder than a gossiping culture in the office. Occurrences should be dealt with immediately and employees need to be aware that gossiping behaviour will not be tolerated.
High staff turnover: Low staff retention should get those alarm bells ringing. Pay cheques simply aren’t enough to retain your employees; they need to feel valued and comfortable in their work environment.
Unhealthy competition between employees: A little healthy competition between team members can be motivating, but when it damages relationships there’s a problem. Too much emphasis on performance rather than rewarding effort can be to blame.
High absence/tardiness: Like low retention, employees often being late and absent from work signals unhappiness. Having a lack of interest in the organisation, being overworked/stressed, or having workplace anxiety could be to blame.
Long hours: Employees regularly staying behind late, working weekends and through lunch to meet deadlines, indicates that they are being overworked.
A poor rewards scheme: If your employees are not being adequately rewarded or you are only rewarding your very top performers, this can be demotivating. Everybody needs to feel appreciated.
Bad reviews: If your company is receiving bad reviews, your company culture could be to blame. Stephen R. Covey suggests that an organisation should always treat their employees exactly as they want them to treat their best customers. How well you treat your employees, will ultimately be reflected in the quality of their work.
Do any of these warning signs sound familiar?
The good news is, regardless of the size of your organisation and the longevity of your issues, you CAN turn things around.
The Coaching of Change
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”
Changing the culture of an entire organisation is no mean task, but like with many issues, the road to recovery starts by admitting there is a problem.
To start any transitional journey, you first need to fully understand where you are, then have a clear vision of where you wish to be. Only once these two things are in place, can you start to plot your course.
Developing Your People Plan
Workplace culture changes are driven by the people for the people.
Change starts at the top and as it’s your senior leaders who will be managing change throughout your organisation, so you must get your board members, onboard.
Change, however, doesn’t come easily to everyone.
When it comes to changing the culture of your organisation, the art of reducing resistance amongst employees is all in the delivery. How the idea of change is presented to an individual and how well they are guided through that transformation is key.
We are products of our environment and having a bad experience with a workplace transformation will always make us more hesitant to embrace change in the future. That said, business is about progression; your organisation can’t stand still, just because some employees fear change.
Sometimes, despite encouragement, senior management can even resist change and when that happens, it can bring about their replacement. Rest assured, however, replacing someone senior who refuses to embrace new company values, will show employees just how serious the business is about the changes it wants to make.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
A solid leader will readily facilitate changes in their team and be an agent for change – which is why having people in charge of change who both embrace it and then understand how to overcome employee resistance, is fundamental to the success of any workplace transformation.
“Values determine culture. Culture determines behaviour. Behaviour determines outcomes.”
Reap the Benefits
The benefits of having a great company culture are abundant for both the employer and the employee.
Staff Turnover: Positive culture change will bring about a reduction in the turnover of your staff. Initially, there may be an exodus, as people who resist your new culture seek employment elsewhere – but once the dust settles, your employee retention will improve.
Employee Engagement: Your employees at all levels will have a voice and can be heard. Having visible and approachable management, who live and breathe the company values, will promote engagement throughout their teams. This will then be reflected in the team's attitude towards their work and targets.
“Happiness inspires productivity.”
Transparency: Being transparent from the top down about the direction of the business, builds trust, understanding and interest amongst employees. Knowing what the plans are for the company will make your teams feel valued and included and encourage unity when shooting for targets along the way.
Practiced Company Values: Company values will be both known and practiced company-wide.
Diverse & Inclusive Workforce: With diversity (demographic and skillset) comes new ideas and creative ways of working. Who wouldn’t want that?
Motivated Teams: By recognising achievements, celebrating wins, and providing ongoing development and training, your workforce will be more motivated to hit their targets.
“Culture is what motivates and retains talented employees.”
How does all that sound to you? Are these improvements that you’d like to see in your own organisation?
Culture change doesn’t happen overnight; you must put in the work and there are no shortcuts. There are, however, experts in this arena who can guide your leaders through change, ensuring the business stays on course.
Coaching and Culture Transformation
At Paul Starbuck and Associates, we can help your executive team prepare for, implement and drive change.
We work with boardrooms to help them fully understand what work culture is and support them in defining their own vision for the business.
That’s the easy bit.
Once your board has defined the new culture, they need to engage the wider organisation. We can help your leaders at all levels live the changes they have defined and influence their teams to do the same.
We equip your senior leaders with the knowledge, tools, and confidence they need to start building diverse and high-performing teams.
Through a coaching style of leadership, your senior management will be able to create an empowered culture, where people – both employees and customers - are placed at the centre of your organisation.
Executives are of course all very different and their strengths vary, so it’s our role as coaches to support their thinking, challenge their biases and hold them accountable to develop into leaders who can successfully manage organisational change.
When it comes to culture transformation, regardless of what stage your organisation is at – we are your agents of change. Why not get in touch and find out how we can support your leadership team to define their own vision of a ‘great company culture’ and then successfully engage your workforce in delivering it.
“The future depends on what you do today.” Mahatma Gandhi
I look forward to hearing from you.
Let me help you to be all you can be, in 2022.