Organizational culture is the heart of every company. It is connected to key elements within a business and, without it, companies cannot hope to survive. An effective culture inspires and values all team members, while also demonstrating the company’s core values. Organizations that lack a unique, vibrant culture will not attract and retain new employees, and will not inspire current employees to advocate for their brand. Furthermore, consumers will sense the lack of culture, community, and authenticity, and turn the other way. As vital as organizational culture has become, many companies still approach it in entirely wrong ways. In order to design and develop better culture, CEOs and executives must understand what works and what doesn’t. Below, are five common myths relating to culture that companies should avoid.
Myth #1: You can create organizational culture from scratch
Being aware of the need to consider culture is a powerful tool, but, unfortunately, it does not allow you to create a new culture from scratch. Every person within your organization brings unique perceptions, attitudes, values, learned behaviors, dreams, and goals to the work environment. Choices are made. Actions are modeled and copied. Attitudes are caught. Your current culture defines what is possible and what is accepted, valued, and promoted. It can limit your company or set it free. This fact is too influential to ignore. With that said, intentionally cultivate culture, highlighting the things that are working and reducing the things that are not.
Myth #2: A successful culture focuses on leadership development for your A-players
While it is tempting and easy to identify your top performers and develop their skills, it is not a good long term strategy for creating the insanely productive culture that organizations seek. Leadership structures are morphing. The old hierarchical, positional models are outdated and ineffective. Traditionally, the focus has been on identifying talent and putting those future leaders on a fast track of training, exposure, and encouragement to step into leadership roles. However, we are finding that while these highly talented individuals provide great work product, they are also some of the most volatile employees, targeted by head hunters, and often holding the self-important tendencies that make them vulnerable to the highest bidder. So, what if the middle 80% of your organization took hold of the idea that what they do truly matters on a day to day basis? Typically, these employees will become more loyal and stable. The effects can be significant if your company raises engagement levels by just a few percentage points. You will not only see widespread effects to productivity, but also people who want to stick around in order to see how their efforts contribute to the mission of your company. A strong culture is built around the hearts of ALL the employees of an organization.
Myth #3: Creating an inclusive culture is about being tolerant of diversity in your organization
How often have people asked you to tolerate another person’s differences in order to maintain work harmony? This is a common theme that usually involves drudgery and even resentment, at times. You might have experienced tolerance spurred by a necessity for legislative compliance rather than genuine respect for people’s differences. The issue with the idea of tolerance is that there is an element of combativeness that still exists. By tolerating or ignoring someone’s differences, you are creating a barrier. Diversity and differing perspectives in the workplace should, instead, be embraced, not tolerated or falsely promoted. Toleration limits the potential synergies that diversity can bring to the culture of an organization. An inclusive culture genuinely appreciates and encourages collaboration with everyone.
Myth #4: Powerful vision casting is the way to make culture change stick
Too often, organizations make the mistake of assuming that articulation of a strong and inspiring vision is all that is needed to inspire employees to embrace new ideas and values, and ultimately change their behavior. Unfortunately, even the most inspirational leaders find changing culture day by day to be challenging. People fall prey to the tyranny of urgent and comfortable habits. Powerful vision is an important first step, but you will need practical ways to make your winsome culture dreams stick.
Myth #5: The best branding is focused on how your customers perceive your culture
Often, branding efforts focus on customer experience as the ultimate goal. However, we have found that this is only part of a more robust picture of healthy and winning organizational culture. Employee branding, or branding from the inside out, has strength and power in its authenticity. A company that provides a great culture for its employees inspires innovation, leading to new products and services. The employees all become brand champions, proud of what they do and what their organization accomplishes. Furthermore, team members that are valued and cared for are far more motivated to provide exceptional customer service, which will achieve the company’s goal of high customer retention. Companies should literally ooze with legitimate passion for success, as defined by its organizational values. It is this genuine advocacy that will win the hearts of customers.
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