Creating a Strong Organizational Culture

By Eric Dickmann

April 4, 2019

Collaboration, Communication, Culture Fit, Hands-Off Management, Mission Statement, Organizational Culture, Teamwork

"Why do you want to work here?"- is the most frequently asked question by interviewers to job applicants. The answer to this will often reveal if the person is a good fit for their company or not. This allows businesses to see whether the employee's mindset is aligned with their organization's mission, vision, and goals. When everyone in the organization understands and embraces the company's ideas and seeks for their organization's further improvement, they can move in a clear direction together. A strong organizational culture is essential because this will attract top talent and big investments to your company. Clients and employees will feel more motivated to work if they realize that the company they are working for has a strong reputation for running smoothly and efficiently. According to Harvard Business Review, design and culture are the formulae for excellence. The design is the organizational structure that directs activities towards the achievement of goals.

On the other hand, culture is an organization's personality that allows the business to be resilient and calm under pressure. A strong organizational culture is your team's initiative to make the right decisions at work every day, even when the leader is not supervising them. Howard H. Stevenson from the Harvard Business School believes that having a healthy and robust work culture promotes effective strategy. Every business setting is unique and has its strengths and weaknesses. Each culture worldwide has its way of motivating its workforce and rewarding its employees' best efforts. In our interview with business coach- Jennifer Thornton at The Virtual CMO Podcast, she discusses how talent management can accelerate growth.

Where workers usually work from

What is a Strong Organizational Culture?

A strong organizational culture can be simply defined as a working environment that is productive, motivated, and, most of all, not toxic. A strong work culture involves your employees' ability to work excellently under stress, and make the important decisions that can be game-changers for your organization. As a business owner, you have to understand that you can't handle everything alone and keep all processes under your supervision. With your business expansion comes your duty to train people to take over the management and supervision posts. This will allow you to monitor your employee's performance and overall business growth even if you are not physically present. Some business owners are so attached to their businesses that they have a hard time delegating work to other organization branches. At one point in your business journey, you will retire and have to let someone else continue your business' legacy. Developing a strong organizational culture starts with the owner's realization that the company is never solely about him/her; it's about serving the customers. For the business to continually thrive through the years, the management should engage the younger generation in the management system and train them to become your company's future leaders. According to Tutor2U, compared to a weak organizational culture with misaligned beliefs and poor communication among role players, a strong organizational culture is composed of employers and employees who have a mutual understanding of what they want to achieve and do what it takes to attain these goals.

Percentage of employees in virtual teams working with three or more cultures

What is the key to a strong organizational culture? A sound recognition system is crucial to the development of your business. Your employees want to feel valued by your company. This is why you need to give them a reason to work harder by rewarding them with incentives for their hard work and dedication. Sometimes, employers focus too much on profit that they forget that their employees make all the best things happen for the company. According to Smarp statistics, around 7.4% of employees consider recognition as the most important for them. Furthermore, proper credit in the work setting leads to increased engagement and a highly motivated environment. SHRM lists the four major assumptions about organizational culture:

  1. Human Nature- This aspect determines how you will effectively approach your employees in a way that they are not intimidated or pressured. You must also understand that people have different beliefs and temperaments, and respecting and recognizing these are your most significant advantages. You must build an HR team that can deal with employees from different backgrounds and walks of life. Just like your customers, your employees want to know how you can provide them with long-term value. Teach your team important life and work lessons.
  2. The organization's relationship to the environment- How do you define your business? What are your goals, and how do you want to achieve all of them? Your business should be directed to the improvement of your community. Take note that most of your workforce wants to be part of a cause that is benefiting someone or something. Doing something great for the community is an excellent way of giving back to the people who have helped your company to what it is today. 
  3. Appropriate Emotions- Communication is key in your business. How you can commend your employees when they accomplish requirements ahead of time or provide them with constructive criticism for unsatisfactory tasks plays a large factor in your workforce's stay. Remember that your team are also human beings who also get hurt. Don't be too harsh with them and help them become better. It may take much time and effort to train your employees, but trust us, they appreciate even the smallest gestures of compassion and understanding you show to them. Take note that loyalty is earned, not bought by any amount.    
  4. Effectiveness- Your company needs to run regular assessments on your business' performance and employee's conduct. Obtaining regular reports from each department will help you monitor each business sector's progress and determine which areas require more focus and improvement. An organization will only be effective when the culture is supported by an appropriate business strategy and employee initiative. Understand more about how to create a strategic marketing plan!         
A Caring and Strong Organizational Culture

The Importance of a Healthy Working Environment to a Business       

A healthy working environment and a strong organizational culture go hand-in-hand. A non-toxic workplace gives your employees more time to focus on improving your business rather than wasting time arguing with each other and trying to fit themselves in their company. You can start a non-toxic environment by starting with yourself. Don't be toxic, and start being an empathic leader! Take the time to go down to your company's basic levels and hear out the voice of your employees. As much as possible, eliminate the selfish and toxic employees because they are roadblocks to your company's success and provide no value to the organization at all. Value those people who are hardworking and loyal to you and your business. Keep those who are selfless and our working non-stop to beat the deadlines and guarantee results. Creating a productive environment not only needs a healthy state of mind; it requires a clean and fresh-looking workspace. 6Q Blog enumerates five ways to create a healthy workplace environment:

A caring and strong organizational culture
  1. Promote Wellness- Encourage your employees to groom neatly and dress appropriately. Proper grooming and observing professionalism is essential at all times. Your employees are the face of the organization and how they act and look reflects how things are going in your company. Organizing fitness programs and overall wellness seminars for your employees is a smart way to make them interact with each other. Your business can achieve many things if your team has good collaboration and chemistry. You are the business owner, and your team looks up to you. Be the role model and good example for them to emulate!
  2. Engage with Different Personalities- Diversity is healthy for your business. Having a strong organizational culture involves brainstorming and welcoming different points-of-view. Get to know your employees even more and understand whether they prefer a hands-on-approach or independence. Understand that your employees grow at different paces, and being patient with them is very important. 
  3. Fair employee policy- Treat all employees equally! You can reward specific individuals or teams for their exemplary performance, but don't come to the extent that you make the other workers feel they are underappreciated. Remember that internal issues are much more challenging to resolve than those that happen externally. Regardless of an employee's position or length of stay in the company, exceptions or special treatments granted should not be given. 
  4. Break Time- Give your employees a reasonable amount of time to relax and rest. Most employees are stressed or burnt out because they work long hours doing technical assignments and only receive a short window to unwind and refresh their bodies. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 30-minute nap can enhance alertness and performance and reduce the possibility of making mistakes. You can help them enjoy their break time by installing stress-relieving apps on their work computers or even install a coffee machine to keep their spirits alive. 
  5. Clean and Comfortable Office- A tidy and well-lighted workspace motivates employees to produce more output in time. Invest in building a spacious and relaxing office with comfortable furniture, fast-loading computers, and a very stable internet connection. It is also recommended to ensure that your employees have enough personal place and not be crammed up with other busy workmates. 
Percentage of employees that work harder when they are appreciated

Every organization needs a healthy set of values. These are the beliefs that your team should look back to when they feel lost or uncertain. SHRM enumerates the values that every strong organizational culture should consider having:

  • Outcome Orientation
  • People Orientation
  • Team Orientation
  • Attention to Detail
  • Stability
  • Innovation
  • Competitive Spirit

How to Have a Strong Organizational Culture

We understand that all company cultures are different, and business owners have their way of making investments and dealing with their team to secure maximum efficiency and profit. It is always vital for companies to realize what aspects of their business they have to focus on. In our interview with agile marketing veteran- Andrea Fryrear, she discusses how to deal with the roadblocks that hinder company's progress. Despite our differences, all businesspeople should understand that it takes a dedicated team to achieve all these objectives. Some business owners forget the importance of culture to the organization. According to Jeffrey Hayzlett of Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, culture is your organization's everyday reality; it is more than the mission statement and the text written in the employee handbook. Culture is all about what your company says, behaves, and treats its employees, partners, and customers. A strong organizational culture can be seen by how your team responds to pressure and roadblocks in the process. The mentality of the business leader plays a prime factor in the success of the business. Confidence and passion are contagious; if the employees see that their department heads are confident and passionate with their product or service, they will be more motivated to keep on par with the standards and contribute their best efforts to develop their cause. There are five elements of a strong organizational culture:

Benefits of a strong organizational culture
  1. Create a Clear Mission Statement-Mark Zuckerberg often describes Facebook as a movement, not a social media platform. A movement is the best way to get similar-minded people together. Doing something great and achieving things together where people's values are in alignment are great ways to encourage collaboration. For Zuckerberg and the people of Facebook, it's all about connecting the world. Facebook is built around that mission. Some companies forget the importance of having a mission and vision and accomplish short-term goals. Despite the crisis or struggles you may face in the years ahead, your mission statement will keep your company intact and directed. 
  2. Hire for Culture Fit- Robert Scoble suggested bringing a job candidate to work for a week. Employers can see how they work on a project and with the other employees. This is a great way to avoid hiring the wrong people. Hiring for cultural fit is one of the most recommended ways to build an engaged workforce. Zappos' filtering system makes sure that they hire people who fit their culture. They will even pay candidates who ended up not having a culture fit after training. Tony Hsieh pointed out that the people you hire represents your organization. One bad hire could have an unintended impact. A toxic employee can sow seeds of dissent like a virus and cause significant damage to an organization.
  3. Have a Hands-off Approach to Management- A hands-off management approach includes delegating authority and responsibilities to subordinates. Employee empowerment is the cornerstone for attracting and retaining your best talent. This is recognizing that there are brighter ideas out there and more voices to be heard and considered. Training your employees to become future leaders boosts their self-esteem and encourages them to take the initiative. Google's Khrisna Barat was not instructed to create the Google News Tool. He wanted to keep himself abreast in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Today, Google News Tool is one of the most popular Google services and one of the largest online news platforms. The freedom to explore ideas at Google is a cornerstone of their strong organizational culture.
  4. Foster Teamwork and Collaboration- Teamwork and collaboration work together for a common purpose. The interests of the individual are secondary to group unity and efficiency. Two heads are better than one. A team works best in solving problems and complex tasks. Brainstorming can result in ideas that are more developed and marketable with current trends. A sports team gains points from passes and assists. Team members should encourage one another and help each unleash their full potential. In the company, you are the coach. You have to determine if your team is still making the right plays and shooting the right decisions/ Even highly skilled individuals will suffer if they don't work with a supportive team. As the adage goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Teamwork builds strong chains. 
  5. Communicate- Communication builds a culture that people can trust. Clear communication is essential because misunderstood contexts may lead to unexpected and miscalculated results. Exchanging and sharing ideas with employees is a cornerstone of success. Policies should be well-documented and implemented. Organizational changes need to be transparent and fair; so that the team will know the areas where they should adjust in. These changes will help employees develop an appreciation of organizational goals. Employees and managers need to avoid the temptation of using communication as a tool for power and manipulation. By creating a culture of honest and free-flowing information, you empower employees with knowledge that helps them better support the organization's mission, values, and goals.
Reasons why employees stay

Now that we have established a strong organizational culture, it is now important to keep the culture alive and consistent in the years to come. It is essential for business owners to recognize that employees should be your best company ambassadors. Entrepreneur Asia Pacific lists the four ways to create a lasting organizational structure:

  1. Start with the purpose- Your company must have a purpose why it's operating. Identify "WHY" your business exists and what it aims to achieve in the future. Companies with a strong sense of purpose are most likely to last because they are well-liked by their employees and clients. Be original at all times, and don't copy ideologies from trends.
  2. Define a common language, values, and standards- Speaking a common language that every person from the management down to the room worker understands is essential in the development of your business. Regularly check if your team is on the same page with the rest of the company. The least you want to happen is your employees working toward different goals. Setting a standard is also essential because it will help you identify those employees who are stepping up their game and doing their best in the assigned tasks.
  3. Lead by example- Walk your talk! If you set up a particular policy, be the first one to adhere to it. Leaders who exhibit incredible hard work and passion for what they do and have an exemplary work ethic inspire your employees and job applicants to be better and more passionate about what they are doing. Being a good example and role model will make your team trust you even more.
  4. Identify your ambassadors-  Your employees are your business' most valuable assets. Don't fail to take recognition of those employees who talk and live your company's culture. You can see it in their actions and hear it in the way they speak or express themselves. The value of your company's ambassadors doesn't diminish with time. On the contrary, their role increases as your company grow and, in the end, gives you a competitive advantage against other businesses. These people are your closest link to your target market. They will be the ones to drive in more consumer interaction with your brand. In our interview with marketing expert- Andrew Deutsch, he explains how to make a strong value proposition for your brand advocates
Top issues on employees' minds

Your Human Resources (HR) Team are the people who are very interactive with all your employees. You may not be able to personally monitor all the people that your company hired. This is why your HR personnel are responsible for providing you with monthly reports of each department's performance and output. Feedback from HR will allow you to determine the strategies you have to apply to maintain or improve results. The key to proper employee management is the creation of a great human resources team. The Balance Careers enumerate the eight things that every HR team should do to help their employees succeed:

  • Guide the employees with career planning 
  • Continually monitor the performance of the manager of each department
  • Support the employee's education 
  • Giving a clear, reasonable, and unbiased performance rating
  • Help the employees build their resume
  • Treat the employees as family and extend a helping hand when it comes to personal problems
  • Hear out the views and opinions of the employees 
  • Provide legal assistance whenever necessary
What's keeping HR up at night?

Conclusion

A strong organizational culture is about hiring culturally-fit people and investing in the right tools, equipment, and system. As a business owner, your goal is to keep great and loyal people staying and keeping the toxicity out of your organization. To retain talent, you should create a healthy environment that would allow them to learn and grow. Just like your customers, businesses should also provide value to their employees. Some owners think that employees are drawn to the position only because of the salary they earn from it; this is where they go wrong. Many employees stay in the company because they believe in the company's mission and vision. You can pay for a worker's hours in the job, but you can never pay for his/her passion and loyalty to you and your brand. We urge you to take a moment to pause for a bit and take appreciation for the strong efforts and dedication that your team has put in building your brand. Starting a business, especially in these times, may turn out to be challenging; this is why we interviewed entrepreneur- Stephen Olmon to give tips on how to drive your company forwardWhere do you want your business to be five to ten years from now? What kind of people do you want to be involved in your movement? Answer these questions confidently and turn your goals into a reality by availing FiveEchelon's strategic marketing consulting services. Remember to invest in people and always believe in your team!

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About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a CMO On Demand for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies and bring innovative products to the market.

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