A guide to creating a company culture that sticks - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

A guide to creating a company culture that sticks

Developing a clear and consistent company culture is an important ongoing task that every business owner or leadership team must address.

When there is no across-the-board company culture, employees tend to create one of their own. This unwanted environment can often lead to an “every man for himself” type of atmosphere that can undermine company goals, open the door for hostility, and seriously impact how productive and successful a team ends up being in the long run.

A healthy company culture breeds an atmosphere of oneness, where everyone feels valued enough to work together to advance company goals. As a result, employee retention is higher, productivity increases, creative problem solving improves and the organisation’s reputation gains steam. If your company culture is nonexistent or simply not all it should be, take action to create one that sticks. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Think about what you want

Before you can create a stable company culture, be clear about what you want. There are many directions you can take, so it may take some time to come up with an answer. Do you want a stronger focus on innovation? Do you want to emphasize employee development? Is strong leadership important? Take some time to review your vision, mission, and values to see if they align with the company’s strategic goals.

Create a plan of action

Find ways to leverage the positive things in the existing company culture, while fixing areas that do not align with your overall goals. Look at your current policies and practices to see if you should add, eliminate or improve any of them. Also, create a model of the behavior and actions you want others to emulate.

Take it easy

Creating a culture within an organisation is not always easy, especially if there are workers who cling to old value systems and beliefs about how things should be done. If you go in with a heavy-handed approach, employees will push back and things will get messy. If they get too out of hand, workers may quit and throw the company in a bind. Instead of charging in like a race horse straight out the gate, implement policies and procedure changes gradually. This way, nobody gets overwhelmed and everyone will have time to adapt.

Screen before you hire

When you’re in a pinch, it is tempting to hire the first Tom, Jane ,or Harry who comes in with the right credentials. Keep in mind that the outcome of the company culture largely depends on the employees’ behaviors and actions within the organisation. It only takes one person to change the dynamics of a workplace, so never hire someone without considering how his or her personality will affect the current culture.

While experience certainly matters, so does hiring people who fit in with the direction of the organisation. Many managers would prefer to hire someone with less experience, rather than a more experienced person who will jeopardize the morale of the current employees.

Get to know the workers

When you are running a company, the demands on your time never end. For this reason, interacting with employees often falls to the bottom of the list. It’s important, however, to walk the floor and get a sense of how workers feel about the company. How are the new employees acclimating? Are there any tensions present? Is there conflict that needs to be resolved? Staying on top of employee relations can build trust and make workers feel valued. When people feel valued and cared for at work, they push harder to help achieve company goals.

Practice patience

With change comes fear and uncertainty. So not every policy will be received with applause. If you stay positive, respect others’ opinions, and exercise patience, most employees will come around. Creating a company culture is not an overnight task. Depending on the size of the organisation, it could take a few months or ever a year or two to see the fruits of your labor.

Company culture is important because it helps shape the values, attitudes and behaviors of the employees. If the culture is unhealthy or lax, it can cripple an organisation’s growth. When you are clear about your goals, you can improve the dynamics of your company and create a culture that encourages everyone to work together.

Chad Halvorson is the CEO / Founder of When I Work. This article appeared on wheniwork.com.

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