By Steve Czerniak, Subject Matter Expert, SCORE of Southeast Michigan
I’m sure that Paul Simon will forgive me for borrowing and modifying his song title. One of the most common questions that Organization Development people get asked is “How can I improve the culture of my business?” The frequency of such requests goes up with a situation like the approaching end of the pandemic and transition of employees returning to workplace. The truly interesting thing is that very little content of the 50 improvements I’ve offered have anything to do with the physical workplace. Almost everything on the list can support remote teams as well as physically colocated ones.
First thing - we need to define Organization Culture. In “Organizational Behavior: Emerging Realities for the Workplace Revolution,” Steven L. McShane and Mary Ann Von Glinow (2005) define organization culture as: “The basic pattern of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs governing the way employees within an organization think about and act on problems and opportunities.” Many components within and external to the organization can affect those “assumptions, values, and beliefs.”
The culture of the organization starts with the leader. The leader is affected by their own “Personal Influences.” Leaders are “Who They Are” within themselves. They present themselves to the world in a different way depending on the situation. This model calls that “Who They Are Known to Be.” Their job is “Engaging With Others” in the organization. As managers, leaders are responsible for “Managing Resources.” Leaders work to ensure the “Health of the Business.” These are the moving pieces of the organization culture. Leaders are responsible to provide and foster an environment that includes consideration of all of these internal influences. How they do that defines the leader. They also need to manage the external influences.
There are a few things that affect the culture of the organization from the outside. The organization produces “Results and Outcomes.” There are “Consequences” that feedback to the “”External Sources and Forces” and the “Inputs and Challenges” presented to the organization.
The 50 improvements I’ve listed address both the internal culture and the external things that influence it.
- Be a Better Leader. Know your Strengths and Weaknesses and Grow Yourself. Learn about your blind spots.
- Recognize that you (the leader) will need to Overcome Your Weaknesses and work outside your comfort zone.
- Recognize and Correct for When Personal Influences affect you as the leader. Choose your attitude.
- Treat People Fairly and Equitably. Eliminate Favoritism whenever possible.
- Communicate (Downward), Communicate (Upward), Communicate (Peer-to-Peer). Encourage everyone to do the same. Improve everybody’s listening skills.
- Make sure that everybody knows how to Run Efficient and Effective Meetings. Don’t waste people’s time and energy.
- Get Stakeholders, Customers, and Clients Involved in Strategic Planning. Listen to Them. That includes Organized Labor.
- Compensate Employees in a Competitive Manner, Commensurate with their Contributions. Think Total Compensation including Medical and Dental Benefits, Vision, Elder Care, Day Care, Pet Insurance, 401K, Perks, Stock Ownership, Profit Sharing, Vacation, Tuition Reimbursement, Employee Discounts, Incentive Compensation, Rewards, Transportation, Health Club Membership, Company Sponsored Sports Leagues, Take-Home Meals, Concierge Service, etc.
- Make Sure that Employees Know There’s Work to Do, Today and for the Foreseeable Future.
- Teach and Inform Them about the Health of the Business.
- Give Employees the Proper Access to the Information and Systems they need to do their job.
- Make the Best Use of the Resources You Have. Eliminate Waste and Inefficiency.
- Invest in the Future (People, Processes, Tools, Equipment, Technology, Facilities).
- Keep People Informed about and Involved in the Business. Make Sure the Employees Know How They Contribute. Show them the measures of success.
- Cascade Goals and Objectives down so that each employee knows what they need to do to be successful.
- Let Colleagues Work Together in Teams. Help Them to Do So with Charters, Collaboration Spaces, Facilities, and Mentor/Coaches.
- Motivate People. Recognize and Reward Good Work and Contributions to the Operations and Growth of the Business.
- Give People Professionally Challenging Work.
- Let them know that they are Part of Something Bigger than Themselves.
- Truly Empower People (Build Trust-Based Relationships; Communicate; Delegate; Manage Resources; Motivate; Mentor and Coach; Track Records; Use What We Know).
- Promote from Within. That requires that you have Succession Planning.
- Help Employees to Plan Their Career with the Company.
- Be Flexible (e.g. work hours, tele-work, guard and reserve, etc.).
- Grow the Business and All Its Components. Make sure that the employees know what you are doing.
- Know the Inputs and Challenges to Your Business. Make Sure that the Employees Know as Well.
- Know the Results and Outcomes of Your Business. Make Sure that the Employees Know as Well.
- Know Your Competitors and Their Products. Make Sure that the Employees Know as Well.
- Think through the Consequences of Your Business’ Results and Outcomes. Make Sure that the Employees Know as Well.
- Be Part of Setting Industry Standards.
- Encourage and Fund Employee Involvement in Charitable Causes (e.g. Habitat for Humanity, Paint the Town, mentoring programs, etc.). Consider a Matching Gifts program.
- Make Charitable Contributions to Causes and Sponsor Events relevant to the Community and its Values.
- Encourage and Fund Employee Publishing in the Name of the Company (e.g. trade journals, seminars, symposia, etc).
- Encourage and Fund Intellectual Property in the Name of the Company (patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets).
- Be Known for Your Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Workplace.
- Know the Employees and Their Capabilities.
- Generate High Quality Products and Services to Satisfy Customers and Clients.
- Generate World-Class Profits and Return on Investment. Be a “Darling of Wall Street.” Be “Bankable.”
- Have a World-Class Physical Work Environment. Make sure that the workplace is comfortable, safe, and functional.
- Eliminate Harassment in all its forms.
- Make Connections with Relevant Educational Institutions (Trade Schools, Colleges, Universities). Hire their students.
- Pay Your Taxes (Local, State, Federal). Be known for doing so.
- Pay Your Bills. There’s not much worse than a big company improving their cashflow by not paying their suppliers in a timely manner.
- Be Connected to Local, State, and Federal Government.
- Fund a Political Action Committee and Encourage Employees to Contribute to Influencing Lawmakers.
- Build a Strong and Durable Supply Chain.
- Develop the Employees (Training, Experiential Learning, Advanced Degrees and Certifications, Mentoring and Coaching).
- Maintain a positive Work-Life Balance for all Employees.
- Be Environmentally Responsible.
- Make sure that there’s Joy in the Workplace. It’s a serious thing we do but we can do it in a light-hearted way.
- Make Employees part of your Marketing plan. Teach them the “Elevator Pitch” for the Company. Share company “SWAG” with them. Publish Press Releases. Advertise. Have a social media presence. Make the employees proud to be part of it.
About the Author
Steve Czerniak retired after a successful 37-year career as a leader and innovator. The last 15 years were a series of opportunities that honed his skills as an internal consultant and “change agent.” In retirement, he is a volunteer consultant and a SCORE Subject Matter Expert for the Southeast Michigan chapter. His personal volunteer objective is to “derive personal satisfaction from helping others, and the organizations they operate, to develop and prosper.” Visit his site: spczgivingback.org.