5 Tips for Building the Culture You Want

culture ryan hansen values Jan 29, 2020

5 Tips for Building the Culture You Want, by Ryan Hansen

How do you feel about workplace culture? Does anything come to mind when you see those words together? Maybe you're thinking about bean bags and ping-pong tables. Some leaders managers will literally roll their eyes when you mention it (That's not a joke - I've seen it!) On the other end of the spectrum, some leaders value their workplace culture, hold it close, monitor it, and actively work to protect it. These are the organizations that I want to spend time with.

If it's not abundantly clear, Alloy Solutions believes in creating cultures where high-performing team members want to work and succeed. A great culture should bring the best out of the people that work in it. A strong culture is a competitive advantage for the organization: LinkedIn says that companies with strong cultures can cut their hiring costs by half, and Gallup says that companies with strong cultures see a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. (Source: CultureIQ) What manager would turn that down?

I just heard a quote from Ben Horowitz, a venture capital CEO and the author of What You Do is Who You Are, about how much he struggled to grasp culture as a new CEO: "I can remember starting out and I asked advice from really good CEOs, and they all said, 'Pay attention to the culture, Ben,' and I would say, 'Okay, but what does that mean?' Nobody ever had an answer for that, and the books I read were not focused on that." Horowitz went on to elaborate that, in essence, culture is about the experience of working for your company, but it is not taught as a management technique. According to Deloitte, only 28% of executives understand their company's culture, even though they all know that it is supposed to be important. (Source: CultureIQ)

So we know, unequivocally, that culture matters. The next question is: How do you feel about your workplace culture? Does it attract, nurture, and retain the level of talent you want in your organization? Is there a general sense of trust? Do you like the experience of working in your organization? If you wanted to make changes, how would you do it?

How to Build the Culture You Want

1. Identify and State Corporate Values

What do you want your culture to be? If you have not already asked, considered, and answered these questions, start here. Think about the elements that make your company great, and look to amplify those. What characteristics do you want from your team members? What do you want your customers to think of you? Jeff Henderson's book, Know What You're For, is an excellent resource for this process. Once you know your cultural values, be sure to clearly state them for the entire organization.

2. Designate a Culture Champion

At your company, who is responsible for the culture? Look, I know that culture is everyone's "job," but whose job is culture? Who is responsible for keeping a finger on the pulse of the organization and taking steps to adjust or reinforce the cultural values? Jamie and I spoke to a company with an Employee Council that was responsible for fostering culture. I love this model because it creates advocates on several teams and provides a broader perspective of the organization.

3. Ensure Leadership Buy-In

Culture cannot be someone's "pet project." Culture lives in the organization, but culture change comes from the top. Horowitz says that for culture change to stick, people have to "bump into it." This means constructing new systems that support the change - systems that will never survive if leaders do not participate. Whatever the culture, whatever the systems you put in place, you can bet they will slam to a halt as soon as the organization realizes that leaders are circumventing the new expectations.

So, how do you create buy-in? The short answer is communication. Include leaders in the cultural transformation from the beginning, gather their feedback, incorporate their suggestions, and update them on the progress. Equip them to overcome resistance by discussing expected push-back before it happens. 

4. Build a Feedback Loop

At this point, you have put a lot of work into your cultural shift. You have identified your desired values, put someone in charge of the results, and included leadership in the process. Surely the next step is to put this car in drive and watch it go, right?

Not quite. How will you know if your process has gotten off-track? How will you know if your best-laid plan is working the way you thought it would? Make sure to build in a means to receive feedback from your team. Unforeseen problems are bound to pop up, and you cannot work through them if you do not know about them.

5. Give it Time

Perhaps the most important ingredient to cultural change is persistence. Change simply will not occur overnight. As the saying goes, old habits die hard. Habits were not formed in a day, or a week, so they will not disappear in such a short time either. Throughout this time, remember why you got started. Envision your end goal and keep it at the front of your mind. Your allies will need encouragement, too. Be prepared for a long road with a great reward at the end. As Marie Curie said, "The way of progress is neither swift nor easy."


Thinking about investing in your organization's culture? Contact our team at [email protected] or 402-779-5846 today!


Our Insights, Sent Straight to You

From blog posts to training tips and our latest employee development courses, it's everything you want from a newsletter.
Complete the form below to subscribe.