Culture is a popular topic often misunderstood in the business world. It’s not one-size-fits-all, nor is it easy to describe exactly what separates a great culture from a poor one. Perhaps the simplest way to determine culture is the “temp worker test.”
Because temps are only there short-term, they can offer a clearer, unbiased perspective on what it’s like to work at your company. Were they treated with acceptance, kindness and willingness to help out? Do they want to work there fulltime, if possible? Or can they not wait to move on to another company? Their experiences may not be the end-all, be-all when it comes to your culture, but it’s a good indicator.
I’ve been fortunate to work at companies with outstanding cultures, but I’ve learned the most from the ones that had the worst. Here are two mistakes many companies make regarding culture.
1. A laissez-faire approach.
Work environments can be intimidating to navigate for new hires. From the trivial -- where to park, how to deal with the molding Tupperware in the fridge, etc. -- to the serious, like the company performance expectations. Many businesses take a laissez faire, or hands-off, approach to this subject. Conversations about the workplace atmosphere and expected employee behavior just aren’t part of the process. This attitude of letting things take their own course can, and often does, have disastrous effects.
Every company has a culture, whether it’s something that’s spelled out or not. By not engaging your team on a regular basis about the culture you wish to create, you leave it to chance. The very behaviors you don’t want your company to represent can become the model. With culture, a company should err on the side of more discussion, not less.
2. Not addressing cultural misfits.
Creating a great workplace environment and culture is an extremely difficult undertaking. Even with the best intentions and efforts, it is challenging to wrap your arms around. Allowing the few who do not buy into the culture to operate independently dampens the impact of any cultural initiative. It’s easy to look the other way if someone is a star performer or is “grandfathered in” from a previous regime. However, giving them a pass tells others that culture does not apply to everyone and, therefore, isn’t important.
Start a dialogue with anyone who strays from the core values you and your team have agreed upon. Sometimes the guilty party is simply oblivious of their cultural shortcomings, in which case a brief conversation will suffice. For others who are well aware of the culture you’re trying to establish yet resist, a more direct conversation regarding your expectations and the necessity of their compliance is critical.
Creating a culture that is right for your organization can be one of the most daunting tasks to take on. With an intentional approach to discussing the culture and a proactive effort to manage the non-adaptors, you’ll be well on your way to creating a special place to work.