Every organization has an ethos, an inner philosophy, created by the values and mission of its founders. Whether a start-up or a company handed down through multiple generations, it is critical for this ethos to manifest itself in the culture of the organization, to be embraced and propelled by all who work there. A positive, well-defined culture strengthens the organization’s objectives, helps to attract and retain top talent, and assures that everyone is working toward common goals and objectives. So, how is this accomplished?
First, ensure that the firm’s mission and values are defined. Can the founder and/or senior management articulate the company’s mission? Can the employees? Are there different views on what the mission is? What the firm’s values are? It’s impossible to create culture to match mission when the mission isn’t clear to all. Assessment tools and surveys can help assess workplace culture and identify gaps between the culture that exists and the culture that’s desired.
Second, take inventory of the organization’s messaging and brand image. Are they aligned with mission and values? When you look at the firm’s logo, tagline or marketing materials, do you feel the ethos? The firm’s culture must permeate all the ways it communicates both internally and externally. Every memo, social media post, ad campaign must consistently convey the desired culture.
Third, hire employees who fit the organization’s values. Be wary of overlooking obvious mismatches for skills. Reward employees who live the mission and embrace the firm’s values. Fire those who blatantly disregard the firm’s values. Teach new employees about the organization’s culture at orientation and regularly evaluate and reaffirm workplace culture through training. Develop policies, procedures, and workplace practices that embody the firm’s values.
Fourth, ensure the organization’s values permeate beyond its walls to the ways it interacts with customers, competitors, regulators, and/or community. Values must be outward facing, as well as inward.
Lastly, lead. The way the organization’s leaders act and communicate, the way they reward and inspire, and their willingness to inform and empower employees impacts culture significantly. Lead by example, and surely others will follow.