By Jason Richmond / December 28, 2016
They say actions speak louder than words and actions in the workplace can influence an entire company’s behavior. Companies are often described by a statement of words and values that all employees are expected to follow, but common beliefs do not necessarily lead to common behaviors. Company culture is not the prime motivating factor that drives your employees; it’s the result of signals employees receive from their bosses and the process that structures their work priorities. Expressions of commitment to culture by a CEO or executive team are helpful but do little to shape a company’s lasting culture. Instead of looking at the value statements in the employee handbook, an executive looking for a realistic evaluation of their company’s culture needs to examine the processes that structure an employee’s priorities. Culture is result of compensation, performance measurements and rewards; your employees do what you inspect, not what you expect.
What this article suggests is culture is a derivative of your corporate processes and the actions of your leadership team. And to a certain extent, this is true. Your company culture is largely determined by how your employees are treated and what types of motivators are used to encourage good work everyday. Words alone, like slogans and values written in a handbook, are not enough to unite your employees or to cultivate the type of culture you want.
For example, simply stating your company is committed to diversity will not actually shape your company culture. What will influence culture is the action that follows, such as implementing a cultural diversity program or creating workshops that focus on teamwork and business processes. Just saying the words aloud will not motivate employees to follow what you preach. Culture and the behaviors of your employee are shaped by what is seen as valuable or important in your company. To truly understand the culture of your business, you will need to assess what your employees expect you to do.
How you reward and compensate your employees influences their behaviors and attitudes in the workplace. When individuals are singled out and receive preferential treatment, it can create negatively impact your office culture and the behaviors of your other employees. Similarly, if you want to foster a workplace that values customer service, your company should emphasize the importance of customer-satisfaction data as much as profit and sales.
Culture alone is not a motivator that drives employees to be productive and value statements alone cannot be blamed when a company’s performance suffers. Corporate leaders are responsible for setting the tone in an office and they help define the behaviors of the people who work under them. In times of hardship, blaming the culture as the culprit suggests your organization’s leader does not truly understand how culture is created.
Suppose your organization prioritizes employees reaching their monthly sales goals and workers are rewarded based on how many sales they complete. Your company website stresses values of teamwork and collaboration, but you recognize your company culture is ultra competitive and employees refuse to work with one another. On the surface, you might wonder why your culture isn’t aligning with your company’s value statements, but if you take a deeper look at the way your business is organized you’ll begin to understand why your culture is toxic. In this scenario, employees are more concerned about their sales performance which is what they will be judge upon, instead of their ability to stick to cultural expectations you may have set. If creating a nurturing and teamwork-oriented culture is on your agenda, you may need to reconsider how you evaluate your employee’s performance and change what is prioritized at work.
Culture is a derived from workplace priorities that are set by senior leadership and executives will quickly learn that simply writing down cultural expectations is not enough to motivate your employees. Executives need to examine their organization from top to bottom, and understand what your team is being measured on to truly determine the root cause of your company culture. Once you can grasp what factors are pushing your culture in a specific direction, you can change existing workplace processes to guide your business in a new cultural direction.