Culture, culture, culture. Seems like the buzzword of the day, doesn't it? Yet driving culture within an organization stands as one of the most demanding tasks leaders face in today's business landscape.
It's no longer enough to have great benefits—leaders have to make their respective companies desired destinations filled with valued relationships for potential employees.
That's a feat culture can help accomplish.
“At its core, culture is a feeling, which comes from the beliefs and values of the leaders," says Robert Richman, speaker, author of The Culture Blueprint and former culture strategist for Zappos. “It is regulated by its standards for hiring and firing, and maintained by the integrity of agreements between its people."
—Karen Frame, CEO, Makeena
If you aren't loving the feeling at your company, you might be ripe for a culture shift.
I spoke with Richman, Ganino and several other leaders who are all ready to share their hacks for driving culture in a positive direction for their clients, their teams and their companies. Let's have a look at five strategies that could help you transform your culture from questionable to incomparable.
Diverse ideas and experiences can make strong cultures even stronger.
However, even in the most peaceful of social status quos, differing ideas can be more divisive than cohesive. It turns out that respect is essential
“In founding my own company, I made it clear that even though we are a small international team, we must be engaged with one another to bring our shared vision and mission to life," says Karen Frame, CEO of Makeena, which connects consumers and brands that are good for you and good for the planet.
“In our case, smallness works to our advantage when it comes to culture: Everyone's different strengths and talents are needed; we have to respect what each person or team brings to the table and make room for all of us to grow, as well," Frame says. "I think our challenge will be keeping that respect as we scale, but at least the seeds are planted, and the culture can blossom along with the company."
When RedPeg Marketing was going through a rebranding process (and trying to determine their overall purpose), it struck the team that the creative minds and energy that truly encompass the organization weren't resonating to the outside world.
“It was critical to give the brand more color, and to shine a spotlight on the important roles that everyone within the organization played—from the front desk to the corner office," says Fredda Hurwitz, Red Peg's chief strategy and marketing officer. “That's why RedPeg asked every employee to come up with an 'über title,' challenging them to think outside of their functional role to the essence of the role they play."
RedPeg's president is The Voice of Reason because of the calm and centered presence he provides during even the most hectic situations. And while Hurwitz's official title is the chief strategy and marketing officer, the way her role works to blend marketing, creative, social and PR elements into cohesive experiences for RedPeg's clients makes her The Mixologist.
“The results of these über titles has been tremendous. Everyone took great pride in being able to share who they really are and what they truly bring to the team," says Hurwitz. “It has also allowed our teams to promote themselves to potential clients and the outside world for the value they truly bring to the team."
Focus on Time
“Set a standard that everyone be on time for everything," says Richman. “Time is the only egalitarian currency as opposed to status, rank, salary, etc. Cultures that respect everyone's time are healthy. Cultures that are late—or end meetings late—tolerate individual agendas above the company's agenda."
Few things can decimate productivity and foster animosity like late people, late starts to meetings or meetings that run long and make people late. Driving culture by building an on-time environment helps your team build schedules they can truly rely on because they involve people they can truly rely on. There's nothing fashionable or respectful about being 15 minutes late.
Lunch-and-Learn or Walk-and-Talk
Your current team members just might hold the key to driving culture in a new direction for the entire company. Creating programs where employees can teach, learn from and mentor one another can go a long way towards cohesive, high-performing relationships.
“Let your employees teach each other by creating a lunch-and-learn type program where they can learn different skills from each other," says Ganino. “Not only does this help the people being taught learn something new, but it also puts the teachers into professional growth mode by having them develop public speaking, presentation and training design skills. This also helps to bring people together in ways that they normally wouldn't connect."
Ganino is also a fan of walk-and-talk programs for driving culture and helping people connect even when they don't work on the same projects or teams.
“These relationships can permeate the culture to help boost empathy and engagement. A walk-and-talk program is where you match employees with someone else (or even in small groups of three or four) to 'walk-and-talk' each month," he explains.
These exchanges allow team members to get to know one another at their own pace, connect parts of your company that might otherwise be disconnected and foster the interpersonal relationships that are at the very heart of powerful cultures.
“When I've rolled programs like this out at organizations, they end up being an employee favorite," says Ganino.
Welcome and Recognition
If you've ever felt challenged by the process of integrating new talent into your existing culture, Taro Fukuyama, CEO of Fond, might have a hack for you.
As a company in the culture business, Fond had to figure out how to hack their own, especially during a high-growth phase when it's easy to leave new hires behind.
"When we hired aggressively, we faced two issues. One, new people didn't feel welcomed and weren't sure how to connect. Two, existing employees didn't know the new hire and weren't sure how to connect," says Fukuyama.
This led Fond to create a game called Anyone's Guess, an A/B quiz about each new hire, and invited everyone in the company to join.
“We'd ask the group a question: 'Is [new hire's] favorite food sushi or ramen?' If you chose the wrong answer, you were out of the game," says Fukuyama. “The last one standing won a company T-shirt with the new hire's face on it, which was actually hilarious and became a coveted prize. This was an inexpensive way to help us drive our cultural value of welcoming and recognizing every person in the company—and employees loved it."
You now have five strategies that can potentially assist you in driving culture to new and enduring highs in your organization. And if nothing else, you've heard from five leaders who walk the culture talk daily.
There's likely an idea or two above that you can hack to fit your own culture to help it reach new heights.
Read more articles on company culture.