More than 200 Google employees are organizing a company-wide walkout, scheduled to happen on Thursday. The protest is in response to an uproar stirred up by a New York Times article published last week that reported the company protected Andy Rubin, the founder of Android, after claims of sexual misconduct, and paid him a $90 million exit package.
In response to the story, Google held an all-hands meeting to explain their actions with Rubin and apologize to employees. Following the events, Google CEO Sundar Pichai issued an email noting the company's position of being "dead serious about creating a safe and inclusive workplace."
Unsatisfied with Google's response, the group of employees is organizing the walkout to ensure their voices are heard and spark positive change. That's an important move--for them, all women at Google, and Google itself.
It should also teach you an extremely important lesson about company culture.
No company is too big (or small) to ignore company culture.
If you don't shape your culture, it will develop on its own. You may not like what it morphs into.
United Airlines, Uber, and Starbucks have all been in the news over the last year because of the fallout associated with employee behavior that was a direct result of negative traits of their cultures that were allowed to percolate.
The culture that exists within your company impacts the experience your customers have with you. That's why no matter the size of your business, it takes diligent effort to nurture and cultivate the environment you want to exist throughout every part of your organization.
Jeff Bezos has declared that Amazon needs a culture of high standards. Its leaders ensure that standard is met by focusing on excellence even in minor details, like how information is presented at meetings. And even Amazon has culture problems, in the form of reports on harsh factory working conditions.
Google continues to struggle with their culture because there don't seem to be enough mechanisms in place to induce the behaviors and standards that support it. Creating a safe and inclusive work environment is more than about firing people who behave badly. Not getting sexually harassed at work should be the status quo. It's not a hallmark of a safe and inclusive work environment.
To create the culture you want, you need to proactively define what good looks like. Provide extensive training for your team on the manner you in which you want them to show up. Then model those behaviors, especially at the senior levels. Continuously reinforce the behaviors by rewarding those employees who embody those values through their actions in their day-to-day work.
When Starbucks realized it had a problem with unconscious bias that threatened the culture within the company and their customers' experiences within the stores, it put every employee through a half day "unconscious bias" training. And when you do have team members who act in a manner that is in conflict with the how you expect anyone associated with your company to operate, act swiftly to condemn the behavior. That may mean ending relationships with those who don't comply.
How to maintain and nurture your company culture as you grow.
Company culture is shaped at the executive level. It's lived by the actions of what employees do each day. Everyone throughout your organization has a role to play in building your culture.
That's why your culture is defined by what you allow. There can't be gross disconnects between what you say you value and what is actually done in practice.
Google has seemingly allowed sexual misconduct to permeate through its culture over the years. There have been numerous reports of senior executives, mostly men, having extra-marital relationships with women in the office, fathering children with colleagues, as well as other forms of harassment.
Pichai's email that noted 48 people were fired for sexual harassment in the last two years alone, including 13 senior managers. The women of Google are fed up with what management has allowed and are taking matters into their own hands to impact a culture that makes them feel like they belong.
Support your team in doing the same. Enroll them in the vision for how you will go about accomplishing your mission as a company. Then empower them to speak up boldly when they see deviations. Encourage them to execute initiatives that bring the culture to life more vividly.
And above all, let your actions speak louder than your words to demonstrate what really matters to you.