There is no doubt that culture has a significant impact on an organization’s ability to achieve strategic results. But what is equally important, if not more important, are the values defined by the organization because it’s the values that govern how the strategy should be accomplished. Consistent behaviors based on a common set of values that can be delivered on at every level of an organization are the basis of a strong culture.
Harvard Business Review defines culture as, “the set of habits that allows a group of people to cooperate by assumption rather than by negotiation.”
Based on that definition, culture is not what we say, but what we do without asking. That is how a group of people generates something much bigger than the sum of the individuals involved.” It is your biggest multiplier to fuel innovation and growth. But in order to have a great culture you must have crystal clear understanding, which requires high trust and impeccable communication.
In a recent conversation with Kurt Voss, CEO of AmeriLux International, we discussed Kurt’s philosophy of building an intentional culture as the first and most important step in building a strong, successful brand and customer experience. Here are some key insights from that conversation:
Operationalize your culture.
• Involve members from all levels of the organization and spend some time defining who you are, your values. What are the things you’re doing right? What can you deliver on both internally and externally?
• Assign behaviors to those values. If one of your core values is innovation, what are the behaviors that drive toward that value? In a company who values innovation, challenging the status quo should be welcomed and encouraged. If not, there is going to be a gap in alignment, and culture (and customer experience) will suffer.
• Review and recognize these behaviors frequently. Make them a part of employee review process and celebrate success. Be yourself.
• During our conversation, Kurt emphasized the importance of truly speaking like your organization would speak. So, if your organization were a person, how would it talk? If your organization’s tone is casual and conversational, so to should be how you communicate your values, both internally and externally.
• This should go without saying, but just in case …You don’t have to be anyone other than yourself, but you do have to be intentional about defining and living out the best version of yourself.
Communicate your values.
• Begin with your internal audiences. Once you have done the work to operationalize your culture, you have to communicate it throughout the organization. This is not a one-and-done event. It requires ongoing, thoughtful communication and reminders to keep everyone on track.
• You don’t need fancy tools or astronomical budgets, but you do need a plan for how you will roll it out and how you will continue to communicate post-launch. We’re human. We slip up. We forget. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s a sign that people just need reminders.
• Share your values and behaviors with your customers and partners. For Kurt and his team at AmeriLux, they say, “This is how AmeriLux chooses to succeed.” They make sure their customers and partners understand what that means and it translates to stronger partnerships because everyone is operating from the same set of expectations.
Something else Kurt said really hit the nail on the head. He said, “a great culture leads to great employee engagement, and that leads to great customer experiences.”
When employees are engaged, they are more productive, miss less time and deliver far better customer experiences than those who are not engaged or actively disengaged (Gallup). That, ultimately, leads to profitability. So, make culture a key part of your business strategy — define values, assign behaviors to the those values, communicate, remind, communicate, and celebrate.
Melinda Morella-Olson is director of strategic engagement for Imaginasium.