No matter what your role is, you can change your company culture for the better. Even if it’s just aiming to be transparent in your communication, or going out of your way to treat colleagues with kindness, you’re making a difference.
It’s important to remember that people at any level of an organization—not just leaders—have the power to leave a lasting impression on their workplace culture.
And each of those employees has probably thought once or twice about how their culture could be different: what they would change, which values actually reflect the company, etc. We all have an ideal company culture in mind. The only problem: your ideal culture might look entirely different from mine, or your manager’s, or your CEO’s.
Our unique employee experience and professional background, combined with our values and beliefs, gives each of us a different perspective on what the ideal company culture might look like. So that leads to the question, how can we possibly make that culture a reality?
What’s your ideal company culture?
You’ve likely thought about what isn’t working with your organizational culture, but have you ever taken the time to jot down some key attributes of your ideal culture? Think of it as an exercise in utopianism. What would your perfect culture look like, what would it stand for?
Answering this question is no easy feat, mainly because there are countless aspects to consider that comprise company culture. For example, there’s company values, workflow and processes, decision-making, communication, employee engagement levels, getting along with colleagues, and so much more.
For the purposes of this article, though, let’s break it down into five key considerations:
Values and beliefs: this is essentially the moral framework of any company culture, and it ought to guide every action and decision that takes place within your organization. Some core company values are: transparency, empathy, craftsmanship, co-creation, and innovation.
Purpose: this is the why of your organization. Yes, you want to make a profit, but so does every other company. What sets you apart, what makes you unique? More importantly, would your purpose inspire your people to help work towards it every day?
Employee wellbeing: is everyone engaged in their work, motivated to succeed, and stress-free? Do they feel psychologically safe enough to openly share ideas? Are you paying enough attention to each employee’s experience?
Connection: this is the how of your organization—how people collaborate with each other, get work done, and exchange and debate ideas. It’s about people’s working relationship with one another. This throws a wrench into your utopian culture scenario, because people are people after all, and working together well takes practice. How would your organization help people improve this crucial skill?
Adaptability: as companies grow, their cultures can change. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing. In fact, culture is constantly shifting and evolving as new people come together. Would your ideal culture be malleable and open to change, too?
Try writing down how your ideal culture would address each of these considerations and then (this is the hard part) describe what that would look like practically, day-to-day. Get creative with it and see what you can come up with. This also makes a great team activity.
It’s really about small changes
Figuring out how your ideal culture would incorporate these attributes is the first step. But unless you’re starting from scratch with a small or newly formed company, you’ll need to work with what you have, which means finding small things you can do to effect change, to push your company culture in the right direction.
Unfortunately, changing your organizational culture overnight is simply unrealistic. It’s going to take many incremental improvements to move it even an inch. But charting a trajectory for where you want it to go, and concentrating on making a defining impact on your immediate microculture, is the way to help make your ideal culture a reality.
Think globally, act locally
Your microculture is your immediate team, the culture within your organizational culture. Your team or departmental culture might be totally different from the rest of your organization, or it might be fairly similar. Either way, assuming you’re not in a position to rule by decree, it’ll be here where you (and your team) have the most influence on how things are run, how people behave and treat one another, and what the culture feels like day to day.
You can start by sharing your vision for an ideal culture with your colleagues, or make it a group project and compare notes. Do you all support the same vision? Do they have ideas to help you expand upon your own vision? Better yet: try getting together to create a shared vision for what the culture could be like. Then it’s time to focus on which changes you can make right now.
The way forward here is to make small but significant changes to processes, relationships, team purpose, and more. Focus on only the achievable goals mapped out in your ideal culture blueprint.
For “purpose,” you could come up with a team purpose document that outlines the goals of your team in relation to the rest of the organization. Or, you could try polling your team members to see what values matter most to them, and then put together a list of team values.
One of the most influential things you can do to guide the direction of your microculture is to work on how you collaborate with people on your team. Your day to day interactions with each other form the crux of your relationship as a team, after all. Find small ways to improve upon them wherever possible.
Making an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of your team is not something to be shrugged off. Organizational culture shifts organically, by small steps. And that’s something you can do today, whether it’s in a formal setting as described above, or informally, through the daily interactions with those around you. Create your ideal culture where you can, and work with your team to find ways forward.
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