Want to know if your culture works? Ask your employees
When looking at an organization from the outside, it’s tempting to make an assumption of success based on a series of factors such as stock price, leadership, or community influence. However, this would be like looking at the stock market and saying “it’s up, therefore things must be fine,” when that might not necessarily be the case.
One hidden determinant of successful, high-performing organizations is the culture it lives and breathes behind corporate walls.
In many cases, employee experience can be more important than customer experience because this is the pivot point where magic can happen—it resides upstream from the customer but downstream from leadership. The counterpart is also true, where poor company culture can lead to reduced employee morale and performance and eventually market erosion.
Over the past year, every organization has gone through some sort of transformation, whether it be adjusting to the digital environment, calming fears due to public health uncertainties, or adapting to market disruptions. The pandemic created a strain on the health of all organizations and their most important asset—their people.
The question could be asked how does our organization succeed when it is impacted by what you cannot control? The answer: focus on the culture inside your organization so that it can be a refuge from outside forces. Some conceptualize this as the design of work experience. Others call it the culture code. No matter the name, its centrality cannot be overstated. If you want to know what the culture of your organization is beneath the facade of appearances, all you need to do is ask your employees a few simple questions.
Some examples might be:
- How are you treated by senior management?
- Do you feel able to express concerns to superiors?
- Would you consider this organization a fun place to work that gives you enjoyment?
- What activities do you believe help express and solidify your company culture?
- How would you describe your company culture to friends outside the workplace?
Thankfully, taking the pulse of employee sentiment and well-being can be done easily and anonymously using survey tools. It’s recommended that a yearly culture audit be conducted to better understand what’s shaping performance within your organization and what you can do to help your team succeed.
What separates healthy high-performing organizations from those that are solely high-performing is culture. While high-pressure or “boiler room” environments can succeed, this likely is not sustainable typically due to high employee turnover and dysfunctional organizational trust. The people we employ trust that leadership will create an atmosphere for them to thrive individually and together as a team. Unity is one outgrowth of a healthy workforce culture where factions and silos are replaced with communication and common commitment to the shared mission.
Likely you have heard the adage that people don’t quit the company; they quit their boss. The truth is that people also quit because of workplace culture. It would be easy to say the CEO is responsible for creating the right culture, but in reality, everyone plays a part. If you want a case study in unstoppable culture you could examine Navy SEAL culture.
The SEALs come from all backgrounds of diversity, talent, and socio-economic status yet they succeed together on some of the hardest missions undertaken. They have a shared sense of mission, follow the leader but are empowered to make decisions in chaos and always have one another’s back. Their unity and purpose are second to none and represent an example of how departments can function within a healthy high performing organization.
As executives, leaders, and front-line employees tackle customer and organizational challenges don’t forget to measure the health of the team through the lens of culture. A magnetic culture will draw in wins and multiply organizational successes internally and in the community. The dust is starting to settle as we live and work through a global pandemic, now is the time to measure and reassess the strength of your culture before the next battle arrives.