We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the importance of developing a culture that values learning and innovation. We’ve also discussed some of the negative consequences, both to L&D and to the company as a whole, that stem from having the wrong corporate culture. However, what we really haven’t addressed in any real depth is how to determine what sort of culture your organization has in the first place. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to analyze your corporate culture, identify it, and determine what steps to take to rectify issues.
What Is Culture?
First, let’s address what corporate culture is in the first place. According to HBR, “Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: it shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable ways.” For instance, in a company where the C-suite takes a “boys will be boys” attitude, sexual harassment and discrimination should be expected. In a culture where learning is not valued and where experimentation is frowned on because of the potential for failure, L&D won’t be valued, and innovation will be stifled.
Given that, you must have the right culture in place. So, what steps should you take to assess the situation? Let’s dive into the topic.
Check Your Values
One of the first things to do is to check your company’s values. These should be shared by all of your employees, managers, and executives. They must pay more than lip service to them, as well. Some examples of positive values include the following:
- A spirit of competition
- Trust and transparency
- Fairness and tolerance
Write a Mission Statement
Often, the reality of a company’s culture is hidden from managers and decision-makers. To find out if that’s the case for you, ask several employees to write a mission statement based on what they believe the company’s values to be. This can be an eye-opening exercise and can provide valuable clues about what your culture actually is, versus what you believe it to be.
What about Communication?
How is communication handled within your organization? Does it flow back and forth, up and down as needed? Or is it hierarchical, with mostly a downward flow from the decision-makers to the employees near the bottom? Neither is “bad” per se, but the latter certainly lends itself to the development of a negative culture where employee feedback is not valued or even solicited.
A great way to delve into the heart of your culture conundrum is to take a look at how leaders act within the business. Managers and other decision-makers communicate what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable through their words and actions, their interactions with employees, and their communications with one another.
What behaviors are shown in their actions, decisions, and communications? Do those tie into and support the values your business is supposed to value? Or do they show something more negative?
Willingness to Innovate and Experiment
This one is particularly telling – does the organization practice what it preaches in terms of innovation and experimentation? Many businesses today claim to value a spirit of innovation, but if experimentation is penalized, if employees are discouraged from trying new things because of the waste of resources or the specter of failure, then decision-makers are just mouthing the words. They don’t value innovation, because, without experimentation and growth, innovation cannot occur.
Learning and Development
For many companies, learning and development is really just about ensuring their I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. It’s about complying with legal and industrial regulations and rules, rather than about personal or professional development. However, in a company with a culture that values continuous learning, that’s not the case.
This type of culture makes it not just possible to continually grow and evolve your teams but ensures that it happens at a continuous pace. How many learning and development opportunities do you present to your employees? What’s the attitude of leadership toward learning and development? Download the free eBook, The Skeptic’s Guide to LMS eBook.
How Do You Handle Change?
Change is ever-present, but different companies react in different ways. How you react is based on your culture. Does your company take a proactive stance to change, anticipating what’s coming down the pipeline and evolving to meet those needs? Or does it resist change and attempt to be timeless and eternal?
The former likely means your culture is one of flexibility, acceptance, and innovation. If it’s the latter, chances are good your culture is pretty inflexible and hierarchical. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a negative culture, but it does make business survival difficult during challenging times that demand companies evolve or fail.
Check Team Interaction
How do your team members interact with one another? Are they open and communicative? Or do they only talk about things that they must? Do they share a sense of community and camaraderie, or is it more formal?
In a flexible, growth-oriented culture, team members will respect one another’s opinions, relate to each other on a personal level, and be able to function as a team. In a negative culture, team members may try to one-up each other, will not connect interpersonally, and will barely function as a cohesive unit when required.
Putting the Pieces Together
Determining the truth about your company’s culture isn’t something you can do overnight. It takes time and deep insight. Look deeply into interactions, the flow of information and communication, the actions of your leaders, and more. With time, you’ll determine what your culture is and what needs to be done to transform it into something more positive.
However, don’t rest on your laurels. A company’s culture is not static – it’s organic, created and enforced by the very people within the business. As they change, so too does the culture. Regularly analyze your company’s culture to make sure that you’re still on track and still moving towards the positive end of the spectrum.