Corporate cultures are experiencing a universal challenge right now. On the one hand, we have the goals of the organization which usually center around productivity and results. On the other hand, we have the goals of the individuals that comprise the organization. These individuals are “quietly screaming” right now for engagement, fulfillment and connection. This is particularly true for younger generations who are demanding more and more from the organizations that employ them. This chasm is causing major challenges for organizations.
Dozens of studies have shown that effective organizations need to focus on both the economic health of the organization as well as the “human-side” of cultural dynamics. Before we can delineate between where you are as a cultural entity and where you would like to be, let’s start with defining organizational culture.
How do we define culture?
There are countless ways to define and evaluate organizational culture. There are definitions that include macro cultures and micro cultures that live within the overarching structure. There are defined cultural elements that include the values, rituals, norms and skills of the organization. However, regardless of how you define an organization’s unique culture, it can boil down to the “DNA of the organization.” How does it feel working there? How do individuals relate to each other and accomplish shared objectives? What are the embedded assumptions and behaviors that drive the organization?
What is happening right now?
Ideally, the two components of the organizational culture work together hand in hand—both the objectives of the organization and the objectives of each individual are being met. However, Edgar Schein, often described as the “Father of Organizational Culture” says, “We are living in a ‘measure everything’ world in which benchmarks and scorecards…are magnetic in their attraction and quite possibly radioactive in their potential.” (Schein, 2017) In other words, while leadership teams request and devour ongoing metrics and KPIs—the humans that are executing against those metrics are struggling.
What can we do to improve our organizational culture?
1. Start with an Honest Assessment
The first step involves social awareness to accurately and honestly assess where you are today. The easiest way to get a pulse on your organization is to ask. And the easiest way to get open and candid feedback is an anonymous pulse survey. Your leadership team can use countless free survey options such as survey monkey to get a view of how people are feeling about the organizational culture. After the initial survey, you can then ask the same questions on a regular basis so that you can start to evaluate trends and improvements over time.
2. Get Buy-In
After you have evaluated the results, now it’s time to focus on making real improvements. This starts with getting buy-in from everyone in the organization on what is most important to focus on. What aspects of the culture are most important—such as engagement, inclusivity and empowerment. What ideas do they have that will help improve these aspects? What are the things getting in the way? Consider setting up a committee or task force to tackle the overarching cultural aspirations and goals in order to track progress.
3. Walk the Walk
There needs to be support from all levels of the organization that focusing on the culture is a key priority. It won’t happen overnight, but if everyone from the top down sees the value in an aligned and effective organizational culture, progress will happen. Consider implementing foundational emotional intelligence training so that leaders can tap into their own social management by “walking the walk” for the entire organization.
At the end of the day, we all want productive and engaging work cultures. However, the two elements don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By starting with an honest assessment of where you are today, soliciting buy-in from all stakeholders, and exemplifying those positive behaviors from the top down, your organization can see real improvements in its organizational culture.
- Schein, E. H. (2017). Organizational Culture and Leadership. American Psychological Association. Pg: xviii
These strategies were adapted from the book, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Dr. Travis Bradberry & Dr. Jean Greaves. For more strategies that can help you improve your organizational culture, check out our emotional intelligence(EQ) training programs or contact us.
By: Taryn McKenzie, the EVP of Client Solutions for TalentSmart EQ. Taryn is a guest contributor for our blog and has been leading teams for over 20 years in the executive training space. For more information, please check out additional resources at: www.talentsmarteq.com.