Starting a Culture Revolution

Whilst watching a great talk by Ben Horowitz today on starting a cultural revolution, I began to realise how much company culture is misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Companies often describe their culture by listing the “perks” they offer to employees. We have an awesome yoga studio and ping pong table is often the pitch to prospective hires to demonstrate how great their organisational culture is. But the problem is employee perks do not define your company culture.

In short, cultural fit means that an employee’s beliefs and values are in congruence with those of the organisation of which they are employed. This means that employees of different genders, from different social, ethnic and economic backgrounds can all fit in with the same culture, as what is most important when measuring cultural fit is that the beliefs and values of the employees align with those of the company.

Hiring for culture fit is a term we are very familiar with. It’s been proven beyond doubt that hiring employees who do not fit with the culture is extremely costly, in terms of both time and money. In fact, 48% of hires that fail in the first 12 months do so due to the candidate not being the right fit for the company culture. This is costing UK businesses over £4 billion pounds each year. So hiring for culture fit is a vital part of your hiring strategy, but what does this process actually look like and how does one do this effectively?
A company’s culture consists of many different types of people, values personalities and behaviours. It’s a highly complex ecosystem that can be difficult to manage and sustain. Companies tend to fail because they do not have a consistent, clear and articulated corporate culture that informs employees of expectations. When it comes to hiring, if the culture is not assessed, communicated and reinforced effectively problems will quickly start to appear. You will attract the wrong type of talent, end up hiring the wrong people leading to reduced productivity, high replacement costs and potentially damaging your reputation.

What culture isn’t

  1. Ping pong tables , bean bags and free beer — These are employee perks
  2. Your organisations “core values” — These are the values that drive your business, however they are not necessarily indicative of the culture within your company or team.

Culture is centred around the employees values, motivations and behaviours and how you drive culture change or shape the culture of your organisation will be driven by the way you hire and who you hire.

To measure your culture you need to understand the collective values, motivations and behaviours of your existing employees. Understanding what motivates your employees will help you build work environments that are in inspired by what your employees want. Research proves that the opportunity to learn and grow along with a good management team are the most important things millennials look for when looking for a job.

Company culture is deeper than just behaviours. It encompasses the “why” and the “how” things are done and these are typically led from the top. In order to adequately assess the current culture, there are a number of important questions to be asked around the way leaders lead. For example, how do you

· run your business

· reward performance

· engage and communicate with employees

· effectively deal with anyone that doesn’t follow culture

Defining these is the crucial first stage in determining whether you want to make changes to your existing culture. Another important reason for defining and selling the company culture is its proven impact on attracting and retaining talent. Places of work become more cohesive if leadership is clear on cascading the aims of objectives and promoting the framework of behaviours for achieving this. This, in turn, leads to employees being given a greater feeling of autonomy and trust in their roles, encouraging loyalty.

One of my favourite business examples is the story of JFK visiting the NASA space centre in 1962. President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

“Well, Mr President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

This showed that everyone at all levels working at NASA, was crystal clear on the objectives and how important their individual contribution was to this aim. Can you see how effortlessly teams or departments can work more fluidly if their goal objectives are clearly and easily defined?

To most people, this janitor was just cleaning the building. But in the more mythic, larger story unfolding around him, he was helping to make history. From a management perspective, clarity and reinforcement of culture and objectives negate the need for micro management.

Here’s the point: When your entire team embraces that type of attitude and belief system, incredible things happen.

Some of the key learning points from this anecdote are:

· The importance of inclusion

· The internal and external benefit of defining culture

· Having leadership and management structures that define and cascade business objectives

· Understanding that culture needs to be reinforced

Try We Love Work culture assessment get started free.

By Paris Petgrave

Co-founder We Love Work

Follow me @parispetgrave

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