How to better understand, affect your corporate culture

Corporate culture defines the personality of a company. It is the engine that drives employee engagement and employee retention, and leads to improved customer interactions. Customers, through a company’s employees, experience a company’s culture.

“Considering how much time is spent at work, culture is also important because it has a direct impact on an employee’s sense of happiness and fulfillment,” says Nellie Rodman senior vice president, human resources leader at Westfield Bank. “People look forward to going to work with people they enjoy at a place they like.”

Smart Business spoke with Rodman about the role of corporate culture, and how organizations can monitor the impact on their corporate health.

Why is corporate culture important?

A good corporate culture sets the tone for how a company does business, and how its employees interact with each other, with customers and other stakeholders. People want to work for companies where their efforts are valued, recognized and appreciated. If the culture is negative and employees don’t feel valued, they will seek opportunities elsewhere, and that ultimately affects the bottom line.

How can an organization get the best sense of the health of its corporate culture?

The best indicators of corporate culture are employee retention, employee engagement and employee advocacy. These may be affected by factors outside the company’s control, but they still offer an indication of how the company is perceived and how well employees like working there.

Most companies conduct employee engagement surveys, which create a conduit for more direct feedback. It’s also a way for employees to get their message across anonymously, so they can speak more freely and without concern for judgment.

Employee committees offer a means through which employees can raise concerns that are elevated through the ranks, eventually reaching leadership.

Leadership should also take the time to attend company events that put them out in front of employees. That visibility and accessibility can create opportunities for casual conversations and give leadership the opportunity to see how employees engage with each other.

Who at a company has the most influence over its corporate culture?

Corporate culture is leader enabled and employee driven. Leaders need to understand what motivates their employees to work for their company and not another.

Leadership communication and active listening are key to understanding the state of a company’s culture and how it can be adjusted to continue to meet the needs of an ever-changing workforce. Leadership should be accessible and approachable, giving employees opportunities to come to them with ideas. Those ideas might not always be implemented, but it’s important that they’re heard so employees feel their input matters.

How can an organization that doesn’t like the state of its culture improve it?

Culture, in many ways, is shaped by, or at least starts with, hiring. A company’s recruiters and department managers are the front line of a company’s culture.

Companies should look for the right combination of skill set and attitude. Someone might be highly skilled and knowledgeable, but if there’s a strong sense the person won’t fit in with the other employees or with customers, they won’t make a good hire.

Once a hiring decision is made, use onboarding to introduce the new hire to the company’s cultural values. Also, fun, organizational activities facilitate employee engagement, collaboration and a sense of community, and are a good way to help new hires get acclimated, meet their coworkers and feel welcome in their new position.

Improving a culture requires proactive leadership focus and continuous attention through full employment relationships: recruiting, hiring, onboarding, ongoing management and exit. Lack of attention in any of these areas can negatively impact the company’s culture.

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