In most companies culture just happens. In the absence of a concerted effort to define, shape and reinforce an intentional culture, your company will define its own based upon what they see their leaders do (not what they say). Assumptions of how to behave will also be influenced by new additions to your staff, based on the experiences they had in their previous company. And most frightening of all, many assumptions of how to behave and how things work around here are based on the projections of your staff’s biggest fears. (In the absence of information or clear direction, people will make something up to fill the void.)

Is this how you want your company culture defined? If not, it’s time to reassess what kind of culture you want to create and get on with the work of defining, shaping and reinforcing your desired culture. Here is a high level overview of the work that needs to be done.

Leadership defines the desired culture with specific outcomes & behaviors

  • Define 3-6 cultural norms (values) that when embodied in everyday behavior and actions throughout the company, create the desired cultural environment.
  • For each norm:
    • define how this behavior positively benefits customers, employees and the company vision and goals
    • list a minimum of 10 examples of how employees would think or act when demonstrating this norm
    • identify the company processes and procedures that reinforce this norm behavior 

Leadership articulates and demonstrates the Cultural Norms

  • Leadership communications –  newsletters, coffee talks, all-hands meetings
  • Walk the talk – purposely demonstrate the norms in visible real-time situations
  • Participate in and promote 360 feedback
  • Norms imbedded in Managers Development Plans
  • Norms imbedded in Employees/Staff Development Plans 

Create Materials/Program for training staff

  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Laminated cards for employees’ desks
  • Themed Bulletin boards in the lunchroom 

Train Employees – Employees recognize their role in supporting and promoting the norms

  • Managers provide cross-departmental mandatory training to provide thorough understanding of the norms and behaviors and provide skills and tools to use
  • Incorporate in all future new employee onboarding 

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

  • Quarterly meetings
  • Employee development plans
  • Awards and recognition 

Incorporate into all business materials – Policies and Practices Align with the Culture

  • employee handbook
  • evaluations
  • recognition program
  • award criteria
  • development plans
  • hiring practices

As you can see, this is a big initiative. It is not your responsibility alone to make this happen. It is, however, your responsibility to be the champion for it. If your leadership team doesn’t yet understand the intrinsic value of an intentional culture, then it is your job to be the change agent and mentor them, advise them, cajole them, and educate them. Create enough curiosity and you will soon find them exploring what this “culture” idea is all about. Once on board, help coach the leadership team to sponsor and lead this process. You may never be involved in a more rewarding endeavor. 

Michael Saul is co-founder and CEO of Human Potential Tools, building software platforms to assist organizations to improve employee accountability and communication. HPTs first product, meetingSamurai™ is now in beta. Michael is also the co-founder of Possibilities Consulting, where he specializes in guiding organizations through cultural and values-based change by facilitating visioning, strategic planning, transition management, leadership development and high performance team development. Michael’s clients include Fortune 100 companies such as Hewlett Packard, Intel, Cardinal Health and Medtronic. Michael also serves on the Board of Directors of San Diego HR Roundtable.