I have always rankled at the much over-used corporate phase, “People are our greatest assets.” I’ve heard the words pass the lips of senior executives in both large and small companies, across industries and geographic boundaries, yet time and again I witness that quiet sigh of contempt and disbelief from the listeners.
So, why do corporations say it and why does it evoke such a negative response? I believe the executives delivering those words really do believe them. I also think their companies are taking active steps to create a culture where employees feel they are valued. However, the employee’s impression, more often than not, is that the company has fallen short.
Walking the Walk
There is a gap that exists between saying the words and living them. You have to Walk-the-Walk, and that means your commitment to people and culture has to be baked into everything you do from on-boarding to strategic planning. The commitment to people and culture has to be your corporate “true north.”
Ten Best Practices to Improve Your Corporate Culture
This week, we’ll look at four of these approaches:
- Consistency between mission/values and daily execution: Quite simply — if you say it, do it. If you say you have a culture where people feel valued, define what that means to your company in specifics, put people systems in place to insure it gets done, and measure your execution on a regular basis. In other words, have a culture strategy. Culture needs the same commitment as any other strategic objective to insure its success.
- Contingency Planning: It is critical that a culture strategy include contingency planning to allow for unexpected changes in the business. A culture strategy should tell you in advance what you are willing to sacrifice and what must be safeguarded. A cultural contingency plan can be built for things like, mergers and acquisition, tough economic times, and rapid growth periods. Share these culture contingency plans with your employees so when choices need to be made people aren’t surprised. If you don’t have cultural contingency plans avoid trying to convince your employees that it’s, “business as usual” when a business-changing event happens. Acknowledge the change and its specific impact on culture and people. Have a plan to mitigate cultural risks and share it with your employees.
- Transparency: Communicate early and often. Share your plans and any changes in plans. Share good news and bad news. If there is a change, remember to tell employees “why” the change must be made. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your employees and their desire to understand and support the inter-workings of your business.
- Everyone owns culture: In every great company, there is a leader or a select few individuals that everyone agrees exemplifies their corporate values and culture. Cultural evangelists are a huge asset, but they cannot be alone in their mission. Everyone must own culture for a culture to be resilient and viable. Every employee should embody your corporate values and be passionate about maintaining the culture.
Next week we’ll look at several more approaches to putting the people systems in place to make this a reality.
How would you assess your corporate culture? Does your organization strive to have a culture where people are valued and given every opportunity to excel?
Photo Credit: yoppy