Organizational culture is more important than ever. When crisis hits, culture is put to the test. And as a result, protecting your culture becomes a priority. It’s not always easy to see, but culture creates an aligned organization and affects business performance. During times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial for leaders to focus on what culture is, why it matters and the improvements that will propel you toward an intentional culture that matches the objectives of your organization.
What is company culture?
What actually defines culture are the collective values, norms and beliefs of your organization — also known as “how things are done around here.” Culture is not a surface phenomenon, it’s the very core of who your organization is. Meaning what you see on the surface is not culture — you have to dig deeper.
Culture is powerful — it guides employees to what to do. And it’s happening all around you whether you notice it or not. In fact, most of the time you become so a part of the culture that you don’t realize you’re in it. There are many characteristics of culture that go beyond the surface of an office that is described as “busy” or “formal” or “fun.” But those traits are not necessarily indicators of culture.
Culture is unconscious, dynamic and relative — it’s not good or bad — culture is only relatively “good or bad” based on the extent to which it is helping your company achieve its goals. Ultimately, culture is to organizations as personalities are to people.
Why culture matters
Culture matters because it tells your employees how to behave. Every single day your employees are guided by your organizational culture, and they learn quickly how they’re supposed to behave. Culture has the power to unite an entire workforce around common goals and values. It also sets behavioral expectations, helps organizations meet their most important goals and so much more.
How culture can make a real impact
1. It drives behavior. Culture tells your employees what to pay attention to, what things mean, how to react emotionally and how to behave.
2. It creates a more aligned organization. When you’re clear about the path of your culture, you can use that to create a much more aligned organization. Culture can help you socialize new employees, set expectations and inspire connection.
3. It helps you get better results. According to a study by Kotter and Heskett, companies with aligned cultures have higher growth — revenue, employment, stock price and net income growth. Culture is also a competitive advantage. According to the recent Limeade Institute Cultures That Care study focusing on the importance of culture in the employee lifecycle, there are high levels of favorability on the importance of culture:
- 92% agree that culture influences their desire to work there
- 73% agree culture is the reason why they would choose one workplace versus the other
- 81% agree culture influences whether they put as much effort as they can into their work
- 88% agree culture influences whether they keep working there
4. Your board is going to start caring about it (if it doesn’t already). According to the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on Culture as a Corporate Asset study, it’s time for boards to start caring about culture and strengthening their oversight of corporate culture. Boards need to develop concrete incentives, policies and controls to support the desired corporate culture.
5. It is uniquely yours…it’s what makes you special. The reality is: You can’t copy and paste someone else’s corporate culture. You need to do the culture work — and you should want to do the culture work.
Why you should care about company culture during times of crisis
When we experience hard or devastating times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, all we really have is our character — at an individual and organizational level. The character of organizations is being defined right now, and it’s more important than ever to protect company culture.
Human beings are struggling. We have an opportunity to help at a human level. What if work could create a feeling of trust and humanity? A feeling of positivity? Organizations can play a unique role in calming senses of fear or doubt, and ultimately be that calming force for human beings.
And organizations that can care for employees and protect company culture will see it’s better for their business. The Limeade Results Model illustrates the active and reciprocal commitment between companies and employees that leads to better people and business results. Companies achieve better people and business results when they actively show care for employees, and help their employees care for themselves.
What is intentional culture?
Intentional culture is the idea that there is a way to operationalize your culture. And make sure that people do and act in the ways that you want and need for your business to be successful. From creating a vision to measuring change, the following diagram outlines steps for creating an intentional culture.
5 ways to protect company culture
1. Increase trust and transparency
- Be honest about your organization’s challenges
- Explain why you are making the decisions you are
- Fill communication voids with multimodal, multileader approach
2. Quadruple communication from leadership
- What your mission is and how each employee is contributing to it
- What your values are and why they matter
- Support for the values and how they come to life
- Importance of employees to the success of your business
3. Recognize employees for living the values
- Company and peer recognition for employees who are role models of your company values
- Talk about it, write about it, create videos about it
4. Create opportunity for more social connection
- Formal and informal
- Employee resource groups
- More fun
5. Care about people as human beings
- Focus on whole person well-being
- Actively support your employees’ well-being
Protect company culture and care for your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in the future. Think about people as a person — and understand all aspects from financial to emotional to work well-being. Keep making it clear that focusing on culture and care is important for your business going forward.
Visit our Care in Crisis Resource Center to access our latest resources available to help your company and employees stay safe and connected.