Build Your Corporate Culture
A Corporate Culture can just happen…or you can make it happen!
Companies, like people, have unique personalities that include: integrity (or a lack thereof), an individual way of doing things, and a particular way of responding to competition and to customers. In other words, companies have a culture. The crucial decision in any organization is whether the culture evolves on its own, or whether it is carefully developed to drive a company to great success.
Either way, once strongly established, as all cultures become over time, it directs the way things are done, and is one of the strongest drivers of success, failure, or just plain mediocrity in your organization.
The culture of a company will dictate how a company commits its assets, how it responds to challenges and opportunities, what kind of people are hired, what kind are promoted, what kind are fired and so much more.
The culture of a company is the most powerful driving force within that company, just as it is with individuals and with nations. Think of the importance of the culture embodied within the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and what effect that has had on how the United States has evolved. Culture is much too important a factor to just let happen.
So you must think long and hard about what kind of a culture you want, and what kind of culture will help drive your company toward the goals you want to achieve. Once established, there will be some core ideas in your culture that should never change, but there will be other elements of the culture that may adapt over time in response to competition and to customer needs and desires. For example, as their customers¹ understanding of technology increased, IBM changed their culture from that of focusing on “what we make” to focusing on “what the customers need.”
As with almost everything that goes into building a strong, profitable, good company, building the kind of culture that will make this happen is not some strange, exotic art, nor does it require some special genius. But, as with almost anything else in building a good company, it does require a lot of thought and effort to build the right culture, and then a lot of hard work each and every day to reinforce it.
Communicate Your Organizational Values
It’s not enough to just define your organizational values… you must support them with everything that you say and do – day in and day out!
Studies have shown that it takes 5 or 6 exposures of a message for it to be absorbed and understood. And your organizational values are some of the most important messages you need to communicate to your people. That’s why you need to support your vision and beliefs in everything you do – every single day. Tell them your values…then tell them again…and then tell them one more time. It’s the only way to ensure your entire organization is focused on your success.
Here are four clear steps to ensure that everyone in your organization knows your core values, understands how these values work within your culture, and embraces them with every action.
Step 1: Communicate – Don’t just whisper, SHOUT your organization’s vision and core beliefs at every opportunity: on your walls, at meetings, at every desk, through everything you do.
Step 2: Educate -Make sure everyone knows your values and understands their role in supporting them. Put your employee handbooks in themed binders, offer seminars and workshops that support your core values, and use other materials to constantly educate your people.
Step 3: Reinforce – From the pens they write with to the desktop images that inspire them to the mugs they drink out of, reinforce what’s important to your organization all the time.
Step 4: Recognize – Acknowledge those who embody your organizational goals with monthly, quarterly and annual awards. And when you see someone exemplifying your values, reward them immediately with instant recognition to encourage those positive behaviors.
When people at every level in your organization know your core values it will lead you to great success!
Reinforce Your Corporate Values
The values of your organization help drive your company to success. That is why it is imperative that you define what’s important to your organization, and then communicate those values at every opportunity.
Jack Miller, the founder of Quill Corporation and the current owner of Successories, has written a book about organizational values called Build a Winning Corporate Culture. In it, he talks about Quill and how their company values lead them to success.
“We never missed an opportunity to reinforce our values. At company events, during training sessions, at meetings, in one-on-one conversations as well as in our bonus programs and our yearly profit-sharing meetings…everywhere possible, we acted on and/or talked about one or more of our values.
Verbalizing your mission and values alone may work when you are a small firm, where you see and talk to everyone in the company every day. But even then, it isn’t the best way to create a culture. Being forced to carefully think through your mission and values by having to write them out and share them with others is a far better way to ‘institutionalize’ those ideas so that as the company grows, every new employee knows them, and every current employee is reminded of them.
But just writing them out and giving a copy to every employee isn’t enough either. All too often, the booklet ends up in a desk drawer, never to be looked at again. You must constantly communicate and reinforce the mission and values. Your actions and those of other employees are by far the strongest communicator and reinforcer.
In addition, your entire company should overflow with reminders…signs on the walls, messages on products employees use every day, the goals set for bonuses, the way your reward system works, and, very importantly, the way in which you publicly acknowledge those who have done an outstanding job.
A great culture, solidly reinforced day in and day out, until it becomes an integral part of everyone’s minds and how everyone thinks, can work wonders. It can mold the organization into an almost invincible powerhouse that can drive you on to great success, not to mention the great pride and satisfaction it generates in everyone involved.”
Strengthen Your Internal Brand
Strengthen your “internal brand” with an integrated motivation program.
Just as marketing and advertising strive to create a deeply ingrained awareness of a company’s brand through a series of integrated initiatives, many human resource departments are recognizing the value this same strategic approach has in the promotion of their core values within their organizations. This “internal branding” method instills the company’s guiding principles in employees from their first day on the job and seeks to reinforce those principles in varied and inspiring ways each and every day in order to leverage the power of the workforce. Curt Coffman, co-author of the best-selling book on management, First, Break All The Rules, stated in a recent interview with The Gallup Organization that the keys to creating a highly engaged workforce are to “set clear expectations, give employees the right materials, focus on the employee, and recognize your best performers.” A well-executed internal branding program addresses all of these elements through the implementation of four distinct initiatives, each of which plays a vital role in the process.
Introduce core values to new employees.
- Begin establishing your company’s emphasis on its core values from their first day on the job with motivational reinforcements they’ll encounter each and every day. Affordable desktop accessories including mugs, pen caddies, notepads and other items imprinted with your mission or values provide new hires with a basic guideline on which to base their actions and decisions.
- Exhibit a strong commitment to your values by giving a gift of a framed desktop print with a motivational message or artwork personalized with your logo and mission statement. Options are available for every size work area.
Provide ongoing reminders throughout the workplace.
Surround your employees with visual motivational reminders that reinforce your core value message throughout the workplace.
- Reception areas: Greet your employees each morning with a personalized banner or framed mission statement print reminding them of the core values they should use to guide their decision-making throughout their day.
- Conference rooms and hallways: Eye-catching motivational wall art provides constant reinforcement of key messages. Tailor your art selection to each workspace. For example, stress the importance of goals or focus in a conference room, the value of determination or perseverance in offices, work stations and hallways, and the significance of work/life balance or perspective in a cafeteria or lunchroom.
- Individual workspaces: Taking the opportunity to reiterate your values in each employees’ “personal space” helps to encourage ownership in those values. Framed desktop artwork, personalized desktop accessories and stress relievers are excellent choices.
Use rewards and recognition to further define core values.
Expand your awards program beyond the traditional once-a-year award ceremony with frequent and diverse recognition opportunities. This on-going approach helps to define your core values by publicly recognizing specific performances and behaviors that clearly support them.
- On-the-spot recognition provides instant affirmation of contributions that exemplify core values. Effective and affordable pins, medallions and keychains help keep core values top-of-mind and create positive energy through an awareness that recognition can come at any time.
- Progressive award programs have been shown to enhance the performance of both recipients and their co-workers. A monthly award plaque sets the bar for excellence by establishing top performers as standard bearers for the core values. The visibility and frequent regularity of a perpetual award creates an on-going focus on excellence and offers an inclusive opportunity for every employee, even the newest hire, to earn recognition.
- Year-end awards are powerful tools for establishing your internal brand. When reserved for key contributors in each department who consistently exemplify your core values, they provide a definitive clarification of your values that all employees can follow. An official presentation ceremony underscores the company’s commitment to those values and to those individuals who commit themselves to upholding them. With thousands of customizable award designs available, be sure to choose one that matches your corporate values.
Offer personalized reinforcement.
Management’s direct support of your core values strengthens and personalizes your internal branding initiative.
- Acknowledge special contributions, holidays or personal milestones with notecards reinforcing core values through both inspirational imagery and messaging. Personalize them with your company logo, name and/or unique corporate message. A handwritten card or note can have a significant impact on the acceptance and internalization of your corporate values.
- Create a company-exclusive annual award that specifically reinforces your core values while providing personalized recognition of on-going dedication to those values. Presentation of the award by a key executive helps to underscore the importance of both the award and the core values.
Administered individually, each one of these initiatives can have a positive effect in the development of your organization’s core values. Aligning all four of these methods in a strategic promotional approach, however, puts you on the path to creating an intrinsically understood “internal brand” that will guide your employees to higher performance and your company to greater unity and success.