If you asked a business owner if his or her business had a good company culture, in the vast majority of cases they would say yes; after all, if they didn’t think it was good they would be making steps to rectify it, right?But think about it for a moment – how would you even define a company culture Wikipedia defines it as the “values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation”. Now, again, unless you hail from a career in psychology, that still sounds a bit fluffy – in a business, clear quantification of every business indicator is key so that you can measure and enhance it. That’s why I have tried to simplify it. In my view a company culture is defined by the behaviour of the leader and senior management. To measure it you need to identify how these individuals are demonstrating, in practice, the values of the company and then how these values are permeating through the business and ultimately being experienced by the customer. Still sound complicated? Here are my top tips that clearly outline how you can put it into practice: (1) Identify the company values Firstly, the company must be clear on what it stands for and what values it wants to be known for – such as honesty, innovation, value. What are the key values that sum up who you are and what you offer? (2) Lead from the top To ensure that the culture is created and maintained, it has to be consistent and led from the top, with senior management setting the example and practicing what they preach. (3) Turn words into actions Employees quickly see through a fad. The culture is in place when everyone takes pride and believes in the values. The culture is a reflection of the reality, so just saying what you’d like it to be doesn’t make it a reality. The culture reflects the values of the leader and the company. (4) Create systems to showcase the culture If the values are not being experienced by staff and customers, then processes must be put in place so that the business lives and breathes these values, to ensure that the values move beyond words into actions and experiences. For example, if one of your key values is innovation, then you need to implement working practices that demonstrate this – innovative working techniques, working environment and innovative ways to communicate and engage customers. (5) Go for the long haul To build a new company culture over time, a business must have real stories of when it delivered on these values. Employees should regularly share stories on when they delivered on their core values, and ensure that everyone is supporting and reinforcing the culture. A culture cannot be a fad, it needs to be a way of working – staff should be measured on how they are delivering on the values, customers should be questioned on how they feel the company has delivered on the values and external parties should be asked to give objective feedback. A positive, clear company culture is the backbone on which a business operates and can be a huge factor in creating and maintaining success. By taking the time to ensure that you have the right culture in place, and then measuring it you will ultimately create a business that retains staff and customers alike. Shaun Thomson is CEO of Sandler Training in the UK.
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