It’s a topic that continues to gain more focus in the ever-evolving world of work: how do you create an ideal culture within your organization so that you can achieve your goals and increase engagement from your employees? Culture is certainly having its moment as a key element in creating the business you want. We sat down with Leah Roe, co-founder of The Perk and expert at all things culture, who shared her basics for creating your ideal culture.
Get clear on behaviors
You may be overwhelmed by all the information out there on culture, because there’s a lot. But Roe keeps it simple: “Culture, when you break it down, seems like this big nebulous, confusing thing but ultimately your culture is your company’s values and beliefs manifested in the behavior of everyone at your organization.”
Roe encourages clients to brainstorm to ultimately define what success means for their company. Compare where you want to be with where you are today, and determine what behaviors need to change and evolve in order to get you from where you are to that success point.
Analyzing behaviors may lead to the creation of new ones, but also the elimination of behaviors that are no longer serving the organization. “There might be behaviors you’re doing that you need to stop doing, not because they’re bad but because they just won’t take you to where you want to go,” says Roe.
“It’s little habits. It’s consistency of behavior over time that really builds your culture.”
Once you have clearly defined the behaviors that will lead to success, you need to communicate those behaviors to your organization at-large. If you’re the only one who is aware of the behaviors, your culture is not going to be built up the way it needs to be. Roe cautions that you can’t just have a one-and-done talk about behaviors and culture, either. Rather, this needs to be an ongoing conversation with your team so that everyone is aligned on where you are going as an organization and what needs to happen to get there.
Roe works with clients to establish and practice rituals and routines that ensure behaviors and culture become a part of daily conversation within the organization. For example, leaders introduce a “core behavior of the week,” which aligns with the values of the organization, and discuss how it fits within the culture and how it can be used with clients. “Having a quick fix to your culture sounds really appealing, but culture isn’t a quick fix,” says Roe. “It’s little habits. It’s consistency of behavior over time that really builds your culture.”
Three-Step Culture Process:
- Define behaviors that will promote organizational success
- Teach those behaviors to your team
- Internalize those behaviors through routines and rituals
Culture in action
It should come as no surprise that communication is a key aspect in creating the culture you want. Here are a few ways that Roe encourages her clients to communicate about culture:
- Consistent communication about why culture is important at your organization
- Continually reiterating your definition of your organization’s culture and how you can build it through your behaviors
- Posting a core behavior of the week
- Dedicating a Slack channel to your culture and core behaviors
- Hosting a monthly, all-hands-on-deck meeting with purpose and objectives around culture; utilize breakout rooms to pair people up for more intimate conversations
“You have to talk about the vision so often,” says Roe. “When you start to feel like a broken record, only then is your team beginning to understand what your vision is, so continue to communicate that vision for engagement.”
The other key to promoting culture is listening. According to Roe, leaders should prioritize listening over speaking out to the organization all the time. She references three levels of listening:
We spend a lot of time in level one, which means we’re in problem-solving mode, discerning how to fix what is being brought forward. However, oftentimes the employee who is talking
just wants to be heard, seen and valued. The key, says Roe, is to really focus and make time for your employees, seeing them as individuals and truly hearing what they need.
You need trust, alignment and communication in order to have a strong culture, with effective communication serving as the pillar.
Promoting high engagement
Beyond effective communication and listening, leaders have to paint a compelling vision for their employees. In order to get buy-in, you have to display your passion and enthusiasm and the motivation behind the culture you seek. Guide your employees to see what the future will look like if everyone adjusts their behaviors accordingly.
And while you’ll definitely want to spend time talking about how this culture shift can benefit the team overall, as well as the organization, clients and community, it’s also essential to talk about how it will benefit your employees as individuals. Roe encourages leaders to take time to talk about culture and engagement with each individual, and what will happen for them as a result of their changed behaviors.
Roe recommends getting employees to their apex, which is the intersection of maximum personal satisfaction and maximum value to the organization. Work with your employees individually to learn their career aspirations and what responsibilities fulfill them most, then use that information to help them align to what the organization needs. Once a leader figures out how to get their employees providing maximum value, they will also get them to the point where they are most engaged and fulfilled.
“What will it take for them to feel fully on board? Ask them,” advises Roe. “And if they’re not fully on board, ask what it will take to get them there.”