If you’re a building a company, your work isn’t complete once you hire employees, establish a product or a service, acquire an office and maybe even make some revenue. Instead, building a company is an ongoing process, and it is a deeply collaborative task. The same is true with company culture.
You can’t just set your company values and mission, establish a few traditions, press play and watch engagement unfold. Employees change, your industry changes and your product might even change. Culture is so interwoven in all of those elements, that it too will inevitably change. Therefore, company culture, just like any other business initiative, should be actively managed over time to account for these changes. This what I call culture management.
Measure culture and track progress
Culture management all starts with measuring and understanding your current culture. In the same way that you measure if your marketing campaigns are effective and tweak accordingly, you should assess if your culture is working so that you know how to direct your management efforts.
One way to do this is to establish what is important to your company, and gather employee feedback around those elements. For example, at my company CultureIQ, a business providing company culture-management software, we define culture along 10 qualities common to high-performance companies. By measuring these specific traits through employee feedback, you can understand your strengths and your pain points and how these might change over time.
Encourage everyone to own the culture
Sure, culture often starts at the top, but that doesn’t mean that the CEO is solely responsible for developing a great company culture. Instead, all employees should be encouraged to contribute to the culture on a regular basis, whether that be talking to their manager about communication improvements, or proposing a team-building idea. Employees should be empowered to take ownership of the culture and to grow and develop the culture together, so that it becomes of the people and for the people.
Promoting this notion is important but providing the structure to do so is even more important. One way to do this is to send monthly surveys that ask employees for ideas on how to strengthen specific cultural elements. Another idea is to create a culture committee in which enthusiastic employees are allotted a modest budget and empowered to plan entire culture programs and events.
Culture requires iteration
Chances are you won’t get everything right the first time, and there might be some programs and ideas that flop. With culture management, you proactively learn from these mistakes, assess why they didn’t work and refine from there. Being transparent about this iterative process can have a powerful effect on employee buy in. Explain to employees that you are all in this together, even if you can’t improve everything in the first pass.
A significant benefit of active culture management is that employees see that you care. They see that culture is not static, that they have input, and that if they are unhappy with a certain aspect, they have the power to help effect positive change.