ReCulture Your Workplace for Lasting Success and Satisfaction
By: Caroline Dowd-Higgins
The late leadership guru Peter Drucker’s iconic quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast….” is visceral in an era when people are leaving companies in record numbers to seek work environments that honor their values and provide meaning and purpose.
I had a great conversation with Melissa Daimler, Chief Learning Officer for Udemy on my Your Working Life podcast where she shared actionable strategies about redesigning workplace culture for lasting success. Check out the podcast episode here.
Daimler’s new book, “Re-Culturing: Design Your Company Culture to Connect with Strategy and Purpose for Lasting Success” is a must-read for leaders serious about navigating the evolution of work and designing the ongoing culture that connects behaviors, processes, and practice to the organizational system.
Culture is what you do not what you have.
Employees long to have a workplace culture that provides an environment and an experience where they can make an impactful contribution and stay in a career for the foreseeable future. Daimler posits:
ReCulturing is the continuous act of redesigning, reimagining, and reconnecting behaviors, processes, and practices to the organizational system.
While the gourmet coffee bars and ping pong tables may be appealing to some employees in the short term, they are perks and do not integrate with a company’s purpose and strategy like culture should. Daimler is emphatic about culture being something we “do” and not something we “have.”
[Related: Establish a Gossip-Free Workplace]
Culture is not an HR project.
Most culture change initiatives fail because leaders view it as a one-and-done HR project. True culture change starts with letting go of what is not serving employees and the company well. It is a continuous process with no end. It’s an ongoing co-creation that should involve employees and leaders, and always be evolving.
Designing and evolving an organizational culture should be an all-play opportunity. When staff have buy-in with a strong culture, they enjoy where they work and are successful on an individual level, which scales to the success of the company at-large.
Daimler says, ‘Culture is how work happens between people. It is every interaction that happens, every decision that is made — whether in-person or remotely. It is what we do — not what we have.’
We must create a culture that exemplifies how we interact and treat each other at work. It’s a behavioral playbook that promotes connection and engagement and how work happens between people.
Connect strategy and purpose to culture.
Daimler says, … ‘it’s time culture and strategy eat breakfast together, maybe even lunch and the occasional dinner.’ –referring to the earlier Peter Drucker quote.
It’s time to put company values into practice and create workplace environments where values are experienced though the lifecycle of an employee:
- Hiring: Helping prospective talent understand company values, behaviors, and culture during the interview process.
- Onboarding: Thorough orientation, training, and immersion into the behaviors of company culture to create a sense of belonging that lasts.
- Talent management and development: Creating a learning lab environment where individuals can achieve mastery in key areas, and ongoing professional development. This also builds a strong internal bench for succession planning and advancement opportunities.
- Offboarding: You may not have considered how important culture, behaviors, and values are when offboarding an employee leaving your company. Savvy leaders know that employees who leave can continue to be positive brand ambassadors — or not. Stewarding relationships with alumni employees can lead to knowledge transfer, business development, and boomerang talent that returns with new and valuable experiences down the road. How an employee exits your organization matters.
[Related: Good Communication Makes for Great Business]
Continuous culture evolution.
A commitment to ReCulturing takes intentionality of leadership. It’s not only about engagement surveys, which can be a great point of departure, but deeper dive conversations about values.
- Values are beliefs your company stands for, and behaviors are the ways people act individually and collectively.
- If you were to define three behaviors for each of your organizational values, what would they be?
- When you think about behaviors you see across your organization, which are foundational, core, and aspirational?
Words matter and connect meaning between people. The creation of culture is as important as the effort put into designing strategic plans. It’s essential to define purpose because when that is clear with employees, it inspires them to work within a more meaningful context that translates into results. Purpose statements, like values, must bring people together and remind us about WHY we are doing the work of the organization.
Design a culture to empower people to do their best work.
With the job market on fire with opportunities, people have options to work in organizations that practice a culture where they can thrive. Smart leaders will look at culture as an evolution and not a checklist item to finish. Continuous improvement is at the heart of a living culture and leaders must be willing to listen regularly to what employees need and want to do their best work.
The world-of-work changed dramatically during the pandemic. To attract and retain top talent, culture is a must-have experience, demonstrated by actions and behaviors that are practiced and not just visible on the company website.
The culture-complement or culture-add will be a defining factor in the future of work and will distinguish successful companies for the long run. If companies become learning organizations and commit to understanding what’s working and where they need to develop, the result is emotional agility and a company culture where people can thrive.
Daimler ended our podcast conversation by saying:
Culture is happening by design, or default, so we might as well design our culture and be intentional about having what we want for our employees.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered” and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series about career and life empowerment for women is on YouTube. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.