Many companies talk about it. But seeing the profitability in adapting a new type of management style, operations, recruiting and training, and setting goals that coordinate with a positive work culture isn’t always clear, reports Forbes. Unless you are Chris Barbin, the Global` Culture Officer of Appirio, a Wipro IT company that partners with companies like Salesforce and Google.
Chris has spent the last 20 years navigating rapid business growth with proven work principles that focus on establishing a solid work culture. I spoke with Chris about his new e-book titled, "Why You Can’t Ignore Company Culture (And What To Do About It)."
He shared with me four essential steps that help identify and establish the groundwork for an enduring work culture.
Here are four steps to adopting an innovative work culture that will bolster business success.1. Adapt An Effective Culture Fit
Most companies buy into the narrative that work culture is a priority. But what does that look like? How can you be sure a common template is the right fit for your company? “Leaders should look to craft a culture that fits the context of their business and has the ability to adapt as that context changes over time,” explained Barbin.
For example, a culture model designed to emphasize heavy customer service may not work as well in, say, a manufacturing environment. Managers need to sit down and list their core values and identify ways they can create a sustainable work setting that attracts, supports, motivates, and validates employees. And that challenge is unique to each company. “The better the culture fits a business--its competitive situation, the needs of target customers, the regulatory environment it plays in, and the labor, financial, and global markets in which the company operates -- the more strategic and differentiating that culture will be,” said Barbin.2. Commit To The New Culture
Once identified, the work to establish that culture really begins. Since we are talking about a tone or an emotional connection, it’s hard to find measurable factors to track progress. And that can misguide some business leaders. “Culture is not about parties, perks, and programs,” said Barbin. “It’s not about what a company’s office looks like, or whether a company is on the list of ‘Best Places to Work. Those are byproducts of a culture, they don’t define it.”
Every member of the leadership team has a part in supporting culture within that organization. It presents itself in the decision-making process, recruitment, interpersonal behaviors, and in business operations.3. Strengthen Culture Bonds
Barbin compares culture bonds to organizational DNA. “They keep a company focused on what motivates employees to go above and beyond for customers and the company,” he explained. “Just as our DNA defines us and makes us unique, it does the same for companies.”
After spending 20 years leading teams and studying the effects of work culture, he divided those connections into four categories:Meaningful Purpose. For positive work culture to take hold, employees need to feel like what they do matters. “Research has shown that meaningfulness applies across employees’ full lives , and is driven by finding a connection to the rest of the world through their work,” says Forbes contributor David K. Williams. “Organizations can support this process by developing and living a culture of ethics, morals and social responsibility that their employees can connect with and support.” When a company expresses their committed contribution to a community or an industry, it’s easier for employees to get behind the cause. Personal Growth. Human development evolves, and a desire for growth is a natural response. Building a culture that allows time for employees to expand their skill set, learn through unique, individualized experiences, and creating an environment sustained by mentorships and learning is an important part of the culture.“One of the most important things you can do to nurture and retain talent is provide them with personal development opportunities,” shared the Forbes Coaches Council. “This can encompass anything from leadership training or building a new skill, to simply pursuing a passion that inspires an employee in and out of the workplace.” Connectedness. A company built on a foundation of trust, transparency, and integrity will naturally transition into a solid company culture. But these traits must be modeled and not mandated. “Leaders who don’t display these traits on a daily basis shouldn’t expect to have a culture that values these positive traits,” said Barbin. Worker Experience. A trusting work environment that supports connectedness also impacts a worker’s experience. For example, your company may encourage employees to take a leadership training course. That’s a good thing. But on a daily basis, every decision requires a meeting with a department head before moving forward. Which encounter has a more profound impact on the worker experience? Barbin describes this lack of employee empowerment as friction. “The more friction that a company can remove from the work experience, the more time employees will have to focus on the company’s mission, their own career growth, and forming stronger bonds with each other and their customers,” he said. 4. Making The Connection: Culture=Business Performance.
Barbin believes in the correlation between effective work culture and financial performance. He referred to a study from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University where researchers surveyed almost 2,000 CEOs and CFOs about the importance of work culture in their business. “Nearly 80 percent of those respondents said culture was among the top five things that make their company valuable,” he said.
“Most leaders intuitively understand the connection between culture, employee engagement, and customer loyalty,” said Barbin. From finding a unique fit, to promoting a profitable culture connection, work culture is a proven method for empowering employees and strengthening a company’s foundation.