Whether you acknowledge it or not, your company's culture is its vitality.
An overwhelming amount of CEOs and HR leaders now recognize culture as a key driver of employee's behavior, business innovation, and customer service. In Deloitte's 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 82 percent of respondents indicated that culture is a competitive advantage.
It's also an effective tactic for talent acquisition. There are many examples; this line from HubSpot's culture code sums it up well: "Culture is to recruiting as a product is to marketing."
Okay, you get it: Culture is a big deal.
So, how do you simplify the equation and solve for "x"? Consider this little piece of advice, with a minor tweak:
"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, values."--Augustine of Hippo
In other words, let's break this down into three sections: essentials, non-essentials and values.
These are the components of your organization that are nonnegotiable. They include policies, procedures, and employee conduct, along with many others.
We all love compliance training and rules (hint of sarcasm), but necessary evils are better than unnecessary damage control. Whatever your company's essentials are, make them loud and clear.
In the presence of well-defined essentials, you will find law and order. In their absence, you'll find uncertainty, which breeds assumptions (and we all know what happens when we assume).
Unity in this area is a must. Companies become a collection of the processes they implement and reinforce.
These are the areas of the business that do not need to be micromanaged. They should be open to creativity, independence, and free will. Examples could include dress codes, formatting, tools, etc.
Imposing strict regulations around things that aren't vital fosters a bureaucratic environment. I've been reprimanded for sporting a five o'clock shadow. I've been sent home for wearing pants with pocket flaps. I've been forced to follow a 10-step process to record a voicemail message.
These are comical examples, but the truth is that predetermination negates the significance of autonomy, stifles innovation, and turns our employees into unmotivated, status-quo robots.
In non-essentials, the goal should be to create a climate of possibility--which, in my opinion, is the key to developing a high performing culture.
Values guide employee behavior and decision making when managers are not around. They also provide meaning to otherwise mundane and menial tasks.
For instance, I used to have to fill out these things called new employee request forms. They were an overcomplicated means of ordering new equipment, assigning software access for new employees and gathering approval signatures... not a favorite responsibility of mine, to say the least.
But it was important. This task ensured that new hires had access to all of their hardware on day one, a welcome package, and log-in credentials to needed software--all culminating in a great first-day experience. It was the virtue of caring about the employees that made the work worthwhile.
When you provide motive and purpose, people persevere in the face of adversity and behave altruistically. For the well-being of any company, it is imperative to have well-defined values.
Otherwise, you run the risk of divisiveness which can lead to inconsistency, poor attitudes, and a lack of motivation. The beneficiary of this discord is typically a company's customers--which is never ideal.
In situations when all else fails, values should be your organization's saving grace.
At the end of the day, a company's culture is a summation of decisions. By applying the wisdom behind this simple quote, companies can establish parameters and offer autonomy while organically shaping culture through values advocacy.