Leaders place a lot of focus on bottom lines, key performance indicators (KPIs), generating customers leads, building SMART goals and so on. My question for every leader out there is this: are you putting equal effort into building a healthy company culture so that employees, and as a result, your organisation, can thrive?
If you can’t answer yes to that question straight away, it’s time to refocus your efforts. The culture of an organisation is fundamental to achieving results and engaging with employees, both as individuals and collectively as teams. Anyone in a leadership position within a company should be leading from the front, being pro-active in having the conversations that matter and being as transparent as possible.
In my line of work, I engage with a lot of people across all levels of an organisation. Feedback in regard to leaders is typically that the best of the best are approachable - they understand that staff are people first and workers second. Company culture is always underpinned by trust and it includes an organisation’s Board as well. If a CEO doesn’t enable company leaders to reach out to their Board, that doesn’t make for a positive company culture all-round.
So what are some key signs that your organisation’s culture needs some attention and immediate action?
Turnover Rates are High
When people don’t feel they respect an organisation’s values, they’re likely to vote with their feet and as we know, training and re-training people is costly over time. That said, it is far easier to teach employees skills as opposed to trying to make someone fit into a culture that just doesn’t suit them. This makes the recruitment phase incredibly important - if you feel you’re picking the right people for the right jobs and they’re leaving quicker than you can train them, it’s a sure sign something is wrong culture-wise. This is especially true in entry and mid-level roles where the remuneration may not be enough alone to make an employee stay. Exit interviews, although reactive, will provide some insights into reasons for staff turnover, including cultural issues, if the questions are well written.
Unnecessary Conflict Between Team Members
Often, conflict is created within a workplace by one thing and one thing only: gossip. It can be incredibly destructive and make for a toxic environment so wherever possible, leaders should be discouraging and shutting down gossip. If leaders know there are issues between certain employees that aren’t due to their passion for the work at hand, address it before it spirals out of control and results in people leaving in frustration and anger.
Staff Very Visibly Don’t Look Happy While at Work
Often, you can read people’s faces and body language - if people are frowning more than they’re smiling while at work, it’s not a good sign. Work isn’t supposed to be a walk in the park but there is no reason that it shouldn’t be enjoyable for the people who are committed to and passionate about your organisation’s mission. While we’re all humans and sometimes, things happen in life that gets us down, you want employees who feel energised by the work they’re completing and who don’t consider their role as ‘just a job’ to pay the bills.
People Aren’t Communicating With One Another
Communication is one of the single most under-rated skills in the workforce. Members from across an organisation should feel comfortable talking with one another - there shouldn’t be any ‘surprises’ because everyone needs to be on the same page and working together. The ideal workplace encourages constructive, honest and open conversation between team members. That means no one is afraid of anyone else or apprehensive about saying what needs to be said. Fear among staff simply isn’t healthy and won’t help your organisation to meet and exceed its short and long-term goals.
A healthy company culture is an open and trusting environment where leaders walk the talk. They are great role models, share ideas, trust their employees and never feel threatened by them. The most effective leaders realise that self-interest has no place in a work environment and that their job is to help their team to become the best version of themselves they can be.
You may not be able to physically see or touch company culture but you can definitely feel it. Positive workplace culture goes beyond surveys, quick one-on-one check-ins with staff and so on - it’s something that good leaders live and breathe in the workplace, each day.
If you realise that your organisation’s company culture isn’t where it needs to be to ensure your business’ long-term success, reach out to professionals who are able to help and have the added benefit of being on the outside, looking in.
I’ll leave it to Peter Drucker to have the final words on this one:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader in Executive Careers. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring, and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746. www.ontalent.com.au