THE BLOG

3 Steps to Activate Your Company's Culture

06/16/2015 06:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2016

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You cannot just talk about your company's culture or value. You must demonstrate them through action, making certain they manifest outwardly. Far too often, it is just talk. A recent conversation that I had with a service provider illustrates this point. The provider, when asked, said that they differentiate their offer by providing superior customer service. "How do you know that you are in fact providing superior service?" I asked. They struggled to answer, finally falling back on an occasional survey sent electronically. I followed up with "Does everyone who comes in contact with a customer during their visit inquire as to their satisfaction with the level service they are being provided?"

This is my point. You cannot afford to simply place a core value on a poster in the break room, or ask employees to recite them like some rote incantation. You must make them actionable, apparent and visceral. To follow are three steps that can be taken to ensure that your organization walks the walk of its culture and values.

You cannot afford to simply place a core value on a poster in the break room, or ask employees to recite them like some rote incantation. You must make them actionable, apparent and visceral.

Ask the question:

A doctor's office that hangs its hat on the patient experience, but never asks the patient about theirs, is a prime example of the importance of simply asking the question. How would the experience of a patient change if everyone from the receptionist to the nurse, to the doctor merely asked? "How have we done today?" Have we answered all your questions? Is their anything we could have done differently to make this a better experience?

Asking these questions accomplishes two things. First it, demonstrates to the patient that the office is in fact committed to providing a superior patient experience and cares about the delivery of its services. 2015-06-16-1434414468-127544-Activate2.jpgThe second is that by making this line of questioning part of the standard operating procedure, it moves the value from the break room wall, to a visceral manifestation of that value. When an employee sees that value in action, they are far more likely to buy into and recognize the very real priority the organization places on that attribute.

Measure:

Peter Drucker stated, "What is measured, improves". In a conversation with a public service organization, they mentioned that a key value of theirs was to foster trust, specifically between the organization and the community. Yet, they were not measuring the community's perception of trust. In the absence of a baseline, how can you determine if progress or improvement is being made? In another example, a growing consulting firm is focused on building a vibrant company culture to help with employee retention and client satisfaction, yet they have never sought their employees about views on the current culture. If a value or cultural component is aspirational, you must find a simple mechanism to measure the baseline and chart the improvement. In this case, we designed a simple online questionnaire and created a "culture quotient" which became a numeric representation of the organization's own perception of its culture measured over time.

Be transparent:

The likelihood is that if you take the two afore mentioned steps, you will get feedback that may not be favorable. Don't be an ostrich and burry your head in the sand. Be open; share the results with the team and even with the customers. This transparency will reinforce the sincerity of your commitment. Cynicism and skepticism follow these types of aspirations, and wait for proof of their fallacy. Being an open book leaves little room for that poison and works to promote true belief of to the importance placed on these values. For example, the "culture quotient" outlined above, is now part of a company "dashboard" that is visible throughout the office and also includes a measurement of client satisfaction. There is no ducking the results be they good or bad.

Cynicism and skepticism follow these types of aspirations, and wait for proof of their fallacy. Being an open book leaves little room for that poison and works to promote true belief of to the importance placed on these values

I am frequently asked, "How do you improve culture?" It starts with:

  1. Knowing what you value
  2. Determining the attributes that will foster the desired culture.
  3. Making your values actionable, apparent and visceral by: asking the questions, measuring the results and being transparent with the findings.

This step of taking a core value from the break room wall to a living-breathing thing that manifests within the organization is no simple task. I would be happy to answer any of your questions and offer recommendations. Please leave your questions in the comment section below and I will do my best to respond.

Thanks for reading

The article appeared originally on www.TheIntertwineGroup.com