Many leaders are approaching company culture the wrong way. Instead of consciously creating their company culture, leaders are letting it develop on its own.

Not surprisingly, this has led to sub-par results. In a survey of 1,518 CEOs from U.S. small and midsize businesses conducted by my team at Vistage last September, just 11 percent of CEOs indicated they are satisfied with the strength of their company culture.

That means that the majority of small and midsize companies are missing out on the business benefits that come with a strong culture. Our research suggests that companies with a great culture have a pipeline of top talent, regardless of how many open positions they have, and a high rate of employee retention, coupled with a low rate of voluntary turnover.

Companies with a strong culture also have a consistent stream of referrals from employees, who recommend qualified and high-quality applicants, and highly engaged workers, as measured by annual engagement studies or pulse surveys.

As a leader, you have the authority and responsibility to be deliberate about the culture you create in your company. To do this well, start with these four steps.

1. Put culture on the top of your agenda.

Is developing culture part of your daily work? Is the strength of your culture truly important to you? Have you consistently made your culture a priority? If you're not answering "yes" to each of these questions, remember that cultural development starts at the top.

As a leader, you have to create, promote and reinforce your ideal culture. Leverage your leadership team to ensure your employees understand and embrace the culture and demonstrate behaviors that exemplify it. 

2. Evaluate your culture with quantifiable metrics.

Culture is a tricky thing to measure, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to quantify. Culture is directly connected to hiring and retention, so metrics related to employee turnover, time-to-hire and employee engagement can shed light on your cultural strengths and weaknesses. Annual engagement studies and pulse surveys are valuable tools to begin with.

3. Live your cultural values every day.

Ask yourself: How do I show up to work every day? Do my actions reflect our cultural values? Am I walking the talk? If you don't live your culture, your employees won't, either. Lead by example and expect what you accept.

4. Communicate your mission, vision and purpose clearly and consistently.

After you articulate your mission, vision and purpose, communicate it visually and verbally. Make sure your actions and attitude communicate the same messages that your email campaigns and posters do. Culture is a living thing, and it will weaken or mutate if it is not continuously reinforced by what you say and what you do.

Culture is the powerful, unseen force that connects and motivates the behaviors of your employees, and it becomes the brand of your business. Culture should not be taken lightly. Leaders who want robust business results and an office of productive, thriving employees should use these four steps to create a culture with intention. 

Published on: Jan 28, 2020
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