Over the course of my career, I’ve had many conversations with peers in jobs that just didn’t feel right.
In most cases, my friends reported that although they loved their work (and their coworkers), things seemed off. Why didn’t folks chat in the break room? Why did every meeting seem tense? Why did people keep leaving?
As hindsight makes obvious, these workplaces had significant culture problems.
There’s a lot to learn from experiences like these. What strikes me most, however, is that my friends’ coworkers didn’t seem to notice their organization’s day-to-day problems, even as they witnessed their negative effects.
At Giant Voices, we believe one of a company’s most important target audiences is internal. If your employees aren’t your biggest fans (and strongest advocates), there’s likely something amiss.
Still not sold? Allow us to offer up why we deem it a critical and profitable strategy for your organization.
Taking your cultural temperature
We all develop cultural blindspots. It’s normal—and can even be healthy: accepting the status quo allows us to focus on the tasks at hand instead of being endlessly overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
The problem occurs when this baseline requires a change. Practices that struck me as odd or problematic were, for my friends’ colleagues, “just the way things are.” It’s the boiled frog effect in real life.
So what is a leadership team to do? How do you evaluate culture when you’re inside of it every day?
It’s a sticky wicket, but we’re here to help.
Ask your newest employees.
To assess your company culture, we recommended interviewing employees who have been with your organization for three or fewer years. Consider questions like “How does the climate and workplace culture here differ from that at your previous companies?” “What do you like about our culture?” “What feels odd or surprising?” “What might help you do your job better?”
To empower your interviewees, go ahead and lay your cards on the table: “I am asking you these questions because you are newer to our company. This gives you the ability to notice things that others might take for granted.”
You might be surprised at just how helpful (and observant) your new hires can be. A bonus? By soliciting their input, you’re making them part of your positive culture task force. They’ll be on the lookout for ways to help your company become stronger.
Conduct an anonymous climate survey.
Climate surveys, often administered by third-party consultants, can assist in driving cultural change by identifying areas on which to focus attention. Gathering data also allows you to monitor progress over time and can be useful in your annual ESG reporting.
These surveys typically focus on work-life balance, leadership and management, employee experience, and inclusion. They can help increase employee satisfaction and engagement and, if needed, can form the basis of a cultural reset. We can help you get started.
Seek outside help.
Don’t underestimate the value of an outside eye. Much like your newer employees, independent consulting partners are in a better position to evaluate your company culture than your long-term employees are.
They’re also well-versed in interpreting data and in developing workplace and industry-specific solutions. At Giant Voices, we use data to locate organizational gaps (both operational and cultural), then make strategic recommendations that help our clients build stronger companies and reach their goals.
At Giant Voices, we believe a strong organizational culture is one of the most important determiners of business success.
After all, the world’s most brilliant idea will fall apart if a team is disaffected and burned out—while an engaged, happy, thriving team can take a so-so business plan and burnish it into something powerful and lasting.
And, like all things of value, culture doesn’t come cheap. There’s no one-size-fits-all culture-printing machine because culture can and should be specific to each organization.
We’ve been hearing more and more from our clients lately that culture is on their minds, too. We’ve got a lot more coming your way in the new year.
And if you don’t want to wait—just give us a shout! We’ve been helping clients build strong company cultures since our founding, and we can help you preserve what’s unique and special about your team while identifying ways to make your company even stronger.