Creating a culture at work

HR expert Bill Pinto discusses the importance of creating the right kind of culture in the workplace:

I had lunch recently with a friend of mine who runs a business. In the past, he has had managers on site to handle most of the day-to-day affairs. Because of the current environment, he has taken more of a hands-on role and discovered that the culture that he wanted his business to reflect was not as evident as he intended. So he decided to take the opportunity to re-establish the culture that he wants his employees to espouse. We discussed a number of ways to communicate that culture.

Identify the culture. The first thing that businesses should do is determine what the culture is that they want. Is it a family operation? Is it formal or informal? Is it straight-laced or more laid back? IBM, Microsoft, Dell and Google are all involved in the computer industry in various ways, but if you spent some time in an IBM office and a Google workspace, you would see that they have different cultures.

Communicate the culture. Once businesses identify what the culture is that they want for their employees, they need to develop ways to communicate it. Initially, they could draft a mission statement or company philosophy that summarizes what the owner or leadership expects of the employees. If you need assistance preparing a mission statement, there are ample resources at the local bookstores and online.

But the culture of a business is more than a mission statement. It is also communicated through the design of the work areas. Are employees in offices with doors or are they in cubicles? In more traditional desks or modular work stations? Are employees encouraged to communicate in person or via e-mail or instant messaging?

Companies have opportunities to communicate the culture in an ongoing way as well. Are there regularly scheduled team meetings to share company news or to obtain feedback from employees? This communicates that the company is open about what’s going on and values its employees’ opinions on how things are going and how they can improve.

Demonstrate the culture. Companies need to ensure that they are not relying solely on mission statements or policies in employee handbooks as the means of communicating their cultures. Although those are great places to start, they are not sufficient. Saying one thing and doing another doesn’t work in a parent-child relationship, and it will not pass muster in the workplace either. Management needs to walk-the-walk so to speak and live out the culture the company says it espouses. For example, a company that trumps its pro-family atmosphere is undone by a manager who chides an employee who takes the full allotment of maternity leave following the birth of a new child. Companies need to be vigilant for situations that run counter to the culture they claim to have. Employees see through the feigned attempts, and they talk to their colleagues at other companies. The end result could make it harder for the company to find the best people to come work for them because they don’t trust the company will provide what they promise.

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