Many books have been written about creating a culture of success. But there is very little information circulating about how to merge traditional management theory with the very untraditional (and even virtual) environments we find ourselves working in today.
My free eBook How to Cultivate Success in Real-Time offers a path of convergence between experience-based best practices and the “learn as you go” demands of real-time execution that managers and leaders now face. Here is a special preview of part 4, called 5 Steps to Creating a Real-Time Culture of Success:
Step 1: Build on Shared Values
A lackluster corporate culture often develops because of what is not present in an organization, and over time a fuzzy vision and a lack of clearly articulated values emerge. To create your culture of success, first you must construct a foundation of enduring, well-communicated values:
- Collectively decide what the company stands for and believes in.
- Model and convey these values consistently to employees, customers, and in the marketplace.
- Ensure that decisions, communications, and standard practices actively reflect and sustain these values.
Define Shared Values
A value is a lasting belief that specific behaviors or modes of conduct are socially or personally preferable. Shared values provide structure to guide the judgments and behaviors of individuals within a group, creating consensus, unity of purpose, and greater efficacy. When an individual’s values don’t match those of the group, conflict (internal and/or external) builds. If conflict between personal and group values (associated with the work environment) is significant, it creates disengagement, increases stress, and can contribute to a toxic workplace. So it is important to hire people who can buy in to your shared organizational values.
Explicitly communicating and demonstrating shared values on a day-to-day basis allows you to attract and retain employees whose values align with those of the organization. This alignment of values enables employees to engage fully with the corporate culture, enhancing overall satisfaction and performance.
To define values within an existing group, each individual must be allowed to actively participate in the dialogue honestly and openly. Individuals must decide whether they support each value, and the group must come to a consensus over selected values. Once values are established, they should be clearly articulated to future employees early in the recruitment process. Then by accepting a job offer, new employees are also agreeing to accept and support the organization’s shared values.
Articulate Shared Values
If executives and managers want employees to behave in a certain way, then it is up to them to set the standard. For example, if managers want to keep the mood in the office light and somewhat playful, then they must behave that way themselves. Simply defining shared values isn’t enough. Executives, managers and employees need to talk about them—publicly and regularly.
For example, publicly recognizing actions that are consistent with the company’s shared values articulates and reinforces those values in a very concrete way. Some ways you might do this include:
- Using photographs of employees “living the values” in a company newsletter.
- Recognizing customers who exemplify one or more of your shared values.
- Asking employees to publicly congratulate co-workers who typify one or more shared values.
Codify and Embed Shared Values
Start by codifying your shared values; i.e. make them part of the company’s “code of conduct.” At the most basic level, this means having them written down and easily accessible—in the employee handbook, for example. In our increasingly digital work environments, placing shared corporate values in a searchable online format makes a lot of sense. Of course, embedding shared values into your high performance culture requires more than simply adding them to company documents; it requires that everyone think, speak and act in terms of those values in all aspects of their work, every single day.
Here are some other ways your company might begin to embed and reinforce shared values:
- Post values to your HR platform or intranet.
- Install decals, posters or banners throughout your facilities.
- List the values on your company’s careers website and include them in job postings.
- Ensure that recruitment/selection practices demonstrate and reference shared values.
- Create a presentation about company values to share with new employees as part of onboarding activities. Use it as a refresher for everyone else at company events.
- Create cartoons, icons, badges or images that represent each of the values and use them to acknowledge employees who demonstrate the respective value(s).
- Name meeting rooms or other areas of your facility after specific shared values.
- Use individual values as themes for activities or events.
- Base elements of performance feedback on how well managers and employees demonstrate organizational values.
- When problems arise, regularly tie solutions back to shared values. This provides both a touchstone for the person struggling to solve the problem and a broader demonstration of the organization’s commitment to its stated values.