Over the past decade, there’s been a sea change with regard to company culture. Where once this may have been considered something of a “soft” concept, culture is now almost universally recognized as an important driver of employee morale, retention, and productivity. In short, most business leaders understand culture to be something that creates strong teams, and benefits their bottom line.
Even among the best-intentioned business leaders, however, there can be a disconnect: Their stated beliefs about company culture don’t always square with actual workplace policies and procedures.
This is where employees can play a role in shaping culture, specifically by openly advocating for the kind of culture they want to see. The question is how.
One important step is changing the way we think about accountability in the business world.
Here’s an example: Most employees have an annual performance review. During this review, their supervisor will list a number of areas where the employee has proved their mettle, and perhaps also spell out a list of criticisms or areas for improvement. The review might even end with the supervisor providing the employee with a checklist, or a set of goals they can work on in the months to come. Ideally, the review will also feature the supervisor asking the employee if they have any feedback or criticism; sadly, this turning of the tables isn’t as commonplace as it needs to be.
Now imagine how company culture could improve if leaders were held accountable in this very same way. For example, what if business leaders provided each new hire with a list of employee benefits, and a clear sense of expectations regarding how the company or supervisor will help the employee? And what if employees showed up to those annual review meetings with checklists of their own, prepared to speak up about ways in which the company culture or benefits structure has failed to live up to expectations?
How Leaders Can Hold Themselves Accountable
The scenario outlined above is just one example of how leaders can hold themselves accountable to their employees, and of how employees can have more agency in shaping culture.
But of course, there are also plenty of ways in which leaders can hold themselves accountable for the kind of culture they wish to create. This can be as simple as creating a list of values, boundaries, and limits, then sticking with them. For example:
- If you want a culture where work-life balance is protected, make sure you’re not the one staying to burn the midnight oil. Set an example to your employees; leave at a reasonable time each day, and don’t send work emails or texts after-hours.
- Likewise, if you want a culture where employees feel like they have the freedom to use their vacation days and recharge their mental health, make sure you take your vacation days, too.
- Other ways to promote a culture of balance include being willing to say no to extra projects when your plate’s already full or talking openly about mental health concerns in the workplace. Again, it’s all about setting the right example, and living up to the values and cultural talking points you profess.
The point in all of this is that building a positive culture may start with leadership, but everyone in the company can hold one another accountable for the kind of culture they wish to create together.
Questions about forming a positive, healthy company culture? We’d love to hear from you. Connect with WhiteWater Consulting at any time.
And for additional insight into the subject of creating an intentional company culture, WhiteWater Consulting recommends Culture by Design, by David Friedman. Check it out!