Creating a Strong Organizational Culture

By Eric Dickmann

April 4, 2019

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

The most common question asked in a job interview is: “Why do you want to work here?” The answer will often reveal if the person is a fit for the organization. It’s an opportunity to see if they’re aligned to the mission of the organization. When everyone in the organization understands and embraces the mission, they can move in a clear direction, together.

Design and Culture are the formulae for excellence, according to Frances Frei and Anne Murray. The design is the organizational structure, directing activities towards the achievement of goals. Culture is the personality of an organization. Moreover, how people within an organization interact with each other and work together. A great organizational culture is a guide to making the right choices at work every day, even when the leader is not around.

Strong Culture Quote

A strong organizational culture attracts the best talent. It helps organizations keep their top talent as well. Howard H. Stevenson from the Harvard Business School believes that maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy. While each culture is unique to the organization it represents, there are key elements found in every strong organizational culture.

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, together, where people’s values are in alignment. For Zuckerberg and the people of Facebook, it’s all about connecting the world and the company is built around that mission.

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 the best way to build an engaged workforce. While that might not be a practical approach for every company, it’s something to consider.

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 great damage to an organization.

Have a Hands-off Approach to Management

A hands-off management approach includes delegating authority and responsibilities to subordinates. This is what top performers in the organization want. Employee empowerment is the cornerstone for attracting and retaining your best talent.

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, it is one of the most popular among Google services and one of the largest online news platforms. The freedom to explore ideas at Google is a cornerstone of their organizational culture.

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 really better than one.  A team works best in solving problems and complex tasks. Brainstorming can result in ideas that are more developed and increase productivity.

A sports team works together in the form of passes and assists. Team members encourage each other. They communicate on the sidelines. Coaches penalize ball hoggers. Even highly skilled individuals will suffer if they don’t work with a supportive team. As the old adage goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Teamwork builds strong chains.

Communicate

Communication builds a culture that people can trust. Exchanging and sharing ideas with employees is a cornerstone of success. Policies should be well-documented. Organizational changes need to be transparent and fair. These help employees develop an appreciation of organizational goals.

Employees and managers need to avoid the temptation of using communication as a tool for power. Where secrecy and information hoarding become ways to exert control. In reality, there’s often very little that can’t be shared in business. Unless there are HR or regulatory limitations, most other information is available to share. By creating a culture of free-flowing information, you empower employees with knowledge that helps them better support the mission and values of the organization.

Conclusion

There are 5 elements of a strong organizational culture. First, have a clear mission statement that gives direction, explains what the company believes and the values it espouses. Hire for cultural fit to build an engaged workforce. Give employees autonomy to foster an environment where there’s freedom to explore new ideas. Build teamwork to increase collaboration and boost productivity. And finally, communicate clearly and openly to encourage the free-flow of information.

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the founder of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast - The Virtual CMO, 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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