How well do you really know your company culture?

Toxicity can be a silent threat to productivity

How well do you really know your company culture?

Many companies think that they know their corporate culture – but do they really?

What C-suite management think and what the undercurrent of the company feel and see every day can be vastly different.

The gap has widened considerably with a dissipated workforce spread to all corners of the country with little silos being formed and a desire to stay within the four walls of their abodes taking preferences to trekking into the office and potentially catching COVID and/or the flu.

So, what has the global pandemic done to corporate culture?
"There is often a huge disparity between what management and employees think about their corporate culture,” Lauren Ryder, CEO of Leading Edge Global, said.

“Most managers believe that their culture is good when people get along, work hard and there is no fighting or toxicity in the team. Maybe they go for drinks together after work or even have a ping-pong table in the office. I would consider this adequate culture. 

Great culture goes much deeper. It's when employees feel like they are part of a bigger vision and mission, and their personal values align with the company values. They feel supported in every aspect of their role, and they feel that there is a long-term place for them. Both company and individual goals are clear, employee retention is high, and each individual knows exactly what they need to do to excel. They need to feel safe that they can speak up, that they are rewarded for good performance.”

It is not uncommon that C-suite executives to think that by organising a social event or celebrating a special day in the office magically solves all the work-related issues. It has the effect of putting a band aid on a cut – it doesn’t go to the root of the problem – it just scratches the surface.

Companies need to dig deep to understand and solve any culture issues.

“When you have true leaders - ones who are empathetic, thoughtful and care about each individual - ones that believe in the vision of the business and everything they do aligns with corporate values - these are the ones who instil incredible corporate culture,” Ryder added. “The managers who are just there to make sure the job gets done often , however, miss the importance of great culture.

“So how do you create a great culture? Culture defines the social order of a business - it shapes attitudes and behaviours and define what's encouraged, discouraged, accepted and rejected in the group. The way to achieve this is to align the business values, personal values, drives and needs with a shared purpose - this will allow the ability for a business to thrive.”

For many employees culture revolves around the work ethic, which is often driven from the top down. Seeing a CEO working long hours will inspire others to do so, observing C-suite executives taking long lunches will impact upon those lower down the work chain when it comes to ‘putting in’ above what they normally do and any micro-managing will drive employees away in droves.

“Culture has been defined by many definitions, however, they all centre around a similar theme of ‘how things are done around here’,” Ian Geddes, senior consultant at Keogh Consulting.  “Culture is about human behaviour considered normal in a workplace environment.

“In our culture work, we ask people what they think organisational culture is, and the responses are enlightening:   It’s the buzz; the glue that holds everyone together in a certain way; it’s the feel or the vibe of the place; it’s the expected norms, how we dress Most managers recognise culture as described above, however their views on culture’s importance to business success can vary greatly from soft and fluffy rubbish - to culture is all about high performance and people flourishing in the workplace.”

A good culture can quickly build an organisation. It can help a small business grow into a medium size business and even into a big business. A bad culture can also destroy a business.

“Employees view the business from different perspectives than managers,” Geddes added. “This could be from a financial, social, environmental, efficiency, customer or departmental to name a few.  This suggests there is always room for differences.  Often when talking with employees, I hear the ‘they’ word, followed by ‘management need to  do this or that to fix things’. This distinction of sides lends itself to right, and wrong or good and bad.

“Biases bring with them a perspective we may want to see.  For example, the self-serving bias is one where we attribute our success to what we have done, and any failures to circumstances outside of our control. This means we avoid self-criticism and we don’t see a need to change or for being accountable. Leaders tend to see the culture as more positive than negative as it’s a reflection on the quality of their leadership.”

Building a good culture will only get more difficult as employees spend less time together in the one environment. It will be a challenge for leaders to take the time to get to know their staff and work out ways – other than via technology – to incorporate bonds and goals for all team members.

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