Take a moment to think about some of the organizations that have made the most genuine and greatest impact on lives. Think about those companies that set out to do good for others.
One of the things that these companies all share is their dedication to their internal organizational culture. Their culture guided them throughout their journey in adding value to the lives of others. They were intentional about fulfilling their goals, and relentless in their pursuit of making a difference in their own way.
Making an impact starts with strong culture, and a strong culture creates an exceptional place for people to do their best work.
It’s also not enough to simply create an organizational culture. Culture requires ongoing attention and active involvement. As important as culture is to an organization’s success, it’s equally important to understand how your people perceive the culture. Great company culture and employee engagement are very much linked to one another, and culture will heavily influence engagement.
What is Culture?
Let’s start with culture. Culture can be defined as “the way we do things.” And whether you realize it or not, you already have an established culture within your organization. As a matter of fact, every company has an established culture.
What differentiates the best companies from the rest is that they were intentional about designing their culture. They set the terms of how work will be done within. They decided how they will empower their people to add value to the lives of others. This is referred to as culture by design. And isn’t life always best when it’s by our own design, rather than by happenstance?
Great companies should not be bystanders to their own journey towards success. On the other hand, culture by default is what happens when an organization neglects to do any of this. They hire people, give little thought to empowerment, hand them a job description, and provide little to any resources or ongoing support. They do not insist on having high standards, and they instead focus on achieving their goals through unacceptable business practices. It’s a free-for-all. This environment is ripe for conflict, discontent, poor morale, and in the end, a failed organization.
Here are a few quick tips on designing a culture that intentionally empowers your people, and sets your organization on a path to genuinely add value to the lives of others:
1. Create your foundation.
Start with values. Values are non-negotiable. When thinking about your values, be mindful of the impact these will have upon your organization. They’ll become the foundation of your business; actions will become a reflection of the values you’ve established. Your values become your voice, and they become the voice of your people.
Don’t complicate your values. Rather, focus on their meaning. How do you want your people to treat others? How do you want them to do business?
Remember the power that these values will have in creating sustainable success for your organization. As an example, you can never go wrong with having integrity as one of your organizational values. Give your team the courage to always act with integrity, and to always insist on doing the right thing for others.
2. Provide direction.
I’m not talking about giving direction from the perspective of telling people what to do. I’m talking about giving them a vision of the future, and a guiding mission to remember every day. Vision and mission are indispensable. Long-term success calls for the foresight of how your organization will make an impact in the future. Tell your people where you’re all going together as an organization. What does the future for the company look like? And not only that, tell them how they can make their impact every single day. That’s where your mission comes into play. Mission is a matter of action and focus. Know your company’s strengths, and know the strengths of your people. Put those into action every day to make your impact.
3. Tell them why.
Giving your people a sense of purpose is one of the most powerful ways you can motivate them. When we talk about purpose, we’re talking about the “why” of your organization. The key is to connect with your people on an emotional level.
Why does your company exist? How is their work adding value to the lives of others?
If you’re manufacturing a product, talk about how that product enhances the lives of your customers, and how their work plays a part. An organization is a group of people that have come together to do their best work, and they’re bonded by a common purpose. They just happen to contribute in different ways.
Remember when we talked about how it isn’t enough to create an organizational culture? This is where employee engagement takes center stage. Strong employee engagement starts with empathetic and understanding leadership. This is where leadership shows a genuine interest in how employees feel about their work and the environment in which they do their work.
If culture is “how we do things,” then employee engagement is how your people actually feel about how things are done. This is critical. Culture is everything, and your people can provide you with insights as to how things are actually being done.
Give them a voice.
There are so many ways for an organization to listen to the voices of their people. Employee engagement surveys are a popular way for organizations to collect data on how satisfied employees actually are with their work and their career. Use this resource to gauge your people’s well-being, and if they’re being provided the resources they need to do their best work. Remember that data provides you with a story worth reading, whether it’s positive or constructive.
There’s also no better way to know how engaged your people are than face-to-face dialogue. While technology provides us with so many ways to connect and communicate, it should never be a substitute for in-person communication. The best relationships are built on a deep emotional connection, and that’s best served by listening and compassion. There’s no more valuable way to spend your time than building relationships with the people you're serving and making their voices heard.
Your culture can be a powerful catalyst for a successful future. Don’t let your culture simply become a collection of beautiful artwork on the wall. Keep working at it. Be intentional in creating a great place for people to work. And let your team give you truth. Listen to them to ensure that culture is truly representative of how people do their work and serve others. Designing culture and listening to your people will provide the best opportunity for your organization to add value to the lives of others. Go forth and make that impact.
Proud daddy, nerdy guy, and on a mission to help redefine HR and empower people to become leaders through service to others. Christopher has worked in the HR field at an executive-level for over ten years now. He believes the fundamental purpose of HR is to help others and to change lives for the better. He’s also passionate about purposeful leadership; listening to the needs of others, setting out to intentionally do good for others, and seeing potential in someone to help lift them up to achieve something wonderful.