How Culture Fosters Organizational Health
Companies that understand and draft their culture with purposeful intention have an outsized advantage for creating a place where people want to work and flourish. This leads to substantially higher employee satisfaction and engagement. Essentially, they have a much healthier organization. Culture is the first block in the Strategy Whiteboard for a reason. The company’s culture lays the groundwork for everything the company does. How people make decisions, solve problems, interact with each other, and set goals all stems from the company’s cultural roots.
Culture Should be Intentional
Culture exists in every company regardless if you cultivate it with intention or let it emerge on its own. Similar to an unmanaged and over-weeded garden, letting culture develop freely without guidance will leave your company riddled with unwanted behaviors, mistrust, self-interested actors vying for personal gain, and many other dysfunctional attributes that choke the workplace of life and vitality. In contrast, being explicit with the type of culture you want and actively developing it will create a healthy organization that is better equipped to respond to change, outpace competition, innovate, and overcome challenges with vigor and durability.
Company Culture Forms Around a Cause
Creating culture is all about setting expectations and living by them. You need to set expectations for why the company exists, what it values, and how the people within it should interact. Starting with why a company exists, a healthy organization has a clear and inspiring purpose for its existence. At Blendification, we call this your Statement of Cause. You may also recognize related forms such as a mission statement or a core purpose statement. Regardless what you end up calling it, the important thing to achieve here is a compelling reason why people should care about your company’s success. A strong Cause should motivate employees, foster goodwill and respect from customers, and if manifested, create a positive impact on the communities your company touches. This will unify your people in a way no other strategic or operational objective can. That is key to a healthy organization. All companies will eventually face trials and tribulations. Plans will fail. Goals will be missed. And success will be eluded. If a company bases its purpose solely on superficial objectives centered around revenue targets and profitability, then you will never rally your employees to reach new heights. Bonuses and financial incentives may be sufficient to drive short-term bursts of effort, but they will not endure for long. Eventually, people that aren’t driven by something bigger than themselves will burn out and look for fulfillment elsewhere.
Culture Determines Behaviors and Habits
Having a clear company Cause goes a long way. Though, it is not enough to ensure a healthy organization. Organizational health is also determined by how people interact with each other. We all know what an unhealthy organization looks like. It is riddled with politics, corporate-speak, micro-management, excessive bureaucracy, competing priorities, and disengaged employees. A healthy organization, on the other hand, embraces constructive conflict, colleagues speak openly and transparently with each other, teams cooperate with other teams across the organization and put company goals over individual ones, and most importantly, people enjoy working with each other. That is why it is so critical to set expectations for behaviors and habits. Without that expectation, we cannot conform to a standard and there is no accountability. People will only cooperate in altruistic fashion if they believe that there are group norms that are upheld and enforced. Failing to establish these behavioral norms will ultimately lead to individuals resorting to defensive and self-serving tactics because they cannot trust or rely on their peers.
Healthy Culture Cannot be Faked
Company culture has always been important to organizational health. Unfortunately, social trends and other interests have often hijacked the term to advance ulterior agendas leaving cynics an exposed target for their aim. This is why so many leaders will shamelessly promote their company’s cultural platitudes, only to completely contrast those same values when making strategic decisions. Don’t fall victim to that kind of toxic positivity. Organizational health cannot be manufactured with empty promises, insincere townhalls, and hollow propaganda. Real organizational health is developed over time by practicing the behaviors you desire and making business decisions that are consistent with company values. Organizational health cannot be synthesized with a new injection of feel-good perks. Happy hours, Friday food trucks, flex-time, and wellness programs are great benefits for some companies. But those things will not build true camaraderie and belonging amongst employees. That requires an authentic sense of collective purpose that only a meaningful and inspirational Cause can provide.