Stefanie Brandt-Tallqvist // February 06 2019

Not just fluff and rainbows

Stefanie Brandt-Tallqvist

Head of Employee Experience at Digitalist

Valentine’s day is approaching so I felt it was time to write about love, or actually something very close to it, company culture.

Love is a big subject. There’s been wars fought over love and the works of Shakespeare, Picasso and so many more are based on love. Even some of the most famous buildings, like the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel tower have become symbols of love. The music industry would also be rather boring without love and the heartbreak when things go sour, songwriters would go out of business! Love has always been one of the greatest driver of human history. But what does love have to do with company culture? Love is intangible, hard to grasp, hard to measure and extremely hard to measure, challenge and influence. And so is company culture. But although both love and values and culture may seem like fluff and rainbows, it is anything but. How else would love have made kingdoms rise and fall, and how else does company culture have such a great impact on the success of a company?

So how does culture turn to profitable business?

The Great Place To Work – companies, who all have a strong company culture, perform better than SP500? They are also more resilient in worse times and they outperform in times of change. Great company culture attracts great people, who in turn attract great customer relationships, driving sales and profit.

Culture also has an impact on performance, because a strong set of common values and a strong culture creates a foundation for trust, and when trust increases so does speed. When speed increases, well everyone knows efficiency and speed drives profit. When people know what are expected of them and how they should act it takes away unnecessary control.

Company culture exists, whether you like it or not.

It’s embedded in systems, reports, meeting agendas and processes, I’ve even seen it in some companies in seating order and parking slots! It is also in the way leaders act, communicate, react and listen. It is how people treat each other. Unfortunately for new leaders they are also forced to carry the weight created by leaders of the past in the company. It is what they say, or what they won’t say, do or decide not to do. By promoting the desired behavior publicly, you can drive the culture forward. If leaders decide to look away when undesired behavior takes place in the workplace it strengthens the old undesired culture. Down to its most naked form, culture is how you take care of your people, from retention to retirement. The tricky part is to get the culture aligned with vision and strategy. Culture needs to be strategy driven, in order to not become static, constantly evolving to become better and better.

How do you start a cultural transformation?

All companies are different and have different challenges but one way might be to address the biggest pain points first. Like in any change process it is good to find the quick wins and low hanging fruits and pick them first. These are usually addressing pain points and identifying best practices. Then the work starts, both in the organization and amongst the leaders in the company. Everyone needs to understand the need for change, and that the change starts within each and every one. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Leaders, and I by leaders I mean anyone who leads people within a company on any level, need to make a clear statement of what they are going to change, and why. This will trickle down to the organization who will look to the leaders to lead the change. Once they see change, and they feel they have the “okay” to change too, it will be a snowball effect. Last, leaders have to be willing to change the processes and systems to promote the new desired culture. When all of this is achieved the change will be fulfilled and then the change will have a business perspective and a cultural perspective, a personal impact and a collective impact.

Today companies are increasingly becoming more transparent, and more and more companies realize that their culture is out in the open, companies are no longer black boxes, they are glass boxes. And when there is a collective impact, the values and behaviors of the organization is seen from the outside in what is done and created, the company culture will become its brand, as the employee experience and customer experience reach parity.

 

By Stefanie Brandt-Tallqvist, Head of Employee Experience

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