Creating the Culture of Your Office


How do I create a culture for my office? What do I do to create a culture. How do I define a culture? Even if I definite it, can I change it? Developing the culture for your office requires clear definition and concerted effort. Supported by lived attitudes and behaviors.


What is culture ?

We speak of various cultures around the world and even in our work space. However few are able to define the culture they are so readily able to “discern” that they either like or dislike. Culture many times is referred to as the arts. However the word is used in conjunction with the arts as in “arts and culture” causing one to think that culture is more than just “the arts”. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary in one of its definitions of culture states, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”. This definition suggests there are key components to a culture. These components as established here, when affected would then enable the culture to be adjusted.

This is usually seen as the domain of the Human Resources(HR) practitioner. The view being, this is way too difficult to do and to adjust. Heck where are the tools that even enable the measurement of the culture. In frustration knowing that it is not working, we seem unable to address the issues of culture. However given the definition used above, this is actually doable and measurable.


The Descriptors of Culture

Like many other things in business and in life, if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it. A simple but true maxim. Therefore, let's look at the descriptors of culture. The first word addresses the collective. A culture is shared by all that are in the space of the culture. By action or inaction the culture is fueled to continue as is or be adjusted. The attitudes, values, that are held as paramount are the things that would then influence the goals and practices. It is not by mistake that companies become as they are. They have been designed that way by conscious effort or inactivity of those that know better. If you are concerned about the culture of your office take note of your own action or inaction. It is said “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing” a quote that has no clear origin and attributed to several people from the 1800’s and 1900’s including JFK.


This creates the setting for the next question how do I measure the culture that I can adjust it?

Driven from the Top

It is well known that the organization reflects the leadership. The reflection is seen more directly in smaller organizations than in the larger ones. As the span of influence diminishes in the removal of direct supervision and contact, the direct influence of the leaders of the organization is diluted, but still felt. However there is documentation support. The vision and mission of the organization for the better part answer the question of where we are going as a company. However, it's in the policies, goals and objectives that the culture is enabled. The rules and norms that exist reflect the underlying values that the organization holds dear. It is in this space at the root we can begin the work required to design the culture.

Creating a space where all your staff feel comfortable and safe, requires commitment by management to consistently evaluate its position against decided direction. However this is not just the management, but the staff for which they are accountable both for and to. Establishing an open conversation with the staff, enables organizational leadership at all levels to respond to feedback and collectively find solutions to cultural challenges.


Developing Metrics

What is important to your organization? What kind of people would be able to create those important things? Yes product does matter but more than the product or service, is the way in which it is produced. In the current environment with a more aware work force and public it is useful of not downright prudent for organizations to be clear on the production process for their products and services. Any practice that can be deemed unethical or as I would say less than optimal in the treatment of employees such the Google issues among others. These challenges cost the organization's bottom line concerns as the team of lawyers have to be paid to defend. An issue that could be avoided by having decided differently.

Having an understanding of the culture and what you want it to be is critical. From inception, the initial job specification, the talent search, to completed on boarding, the staff that are hired are to meet the cultural match as well as the other soft and hard competencies. Key metrics for culture design would include things like measuring staff engagement, work life balance, community involvement, accountability matrices for the staff, clearly defined roles and responsibilities. These are just some of the attributes that would be observed and measured. But it is a start. This coupled with an open acceptance of your own fallibility, you would be well on your way to developing the desired culture.

Conclusion


Culture is designed by default or by concerted effort. The key is to decide the culture you want for your office. Then act on that decision have discussions with your staff and document that which identifies the culture you want. Work out metrics, that would indicate whether or not we are doing this well. Support the decisions with documentation i.e. policies, accountabilities and responsibilities. Do what needs to be done, including continual assessments of the way forward.

At RESH Global we leverage various tools in the REM Tool kit that enable organizations to get a Jumpstart on shifting to the next level. Improving culture along with other key business metrics for your organization’s sustainable growth.


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