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A Fresh Start: Make 2022 the Year to Improve Your Company’s Culture

By Candace Coleman, CultureWise Content Manager

Much has been written about “The Great Resignation,” the turnover tidal wave eroding the workforce at many companies. Massive employment churn and other unexpected business developments have presented a host of new challenges for CEOs over the past two years. But they also created an opportunity.

Pandemic-related setbacks, problems, and forced adaptations also prompted many leaders to take a closer look at their companies and evaluate what is and isn’t working in a rapidly changing business arena. Consequently, 2022 could be the year CEOs use their assessments of COVID’s fallout to chart a new course.

Given the magnitude of change thrust upon us, CEOs aren’t just opening the books on a new year; they’re arguably learning to operate in a new business universe. So it’s an ideal time for companies to take stock, course correct, and emerge better equipped to succeed going forward.

Why Company Culture Needs a Cure

One of the pandemic’s biggest revelations for many organizations was an undetected disconnect between employers and their staff. After COVID forced legions of employees to work from home, bosses often had a front-row Zoom seat to view their people’s stressors and challenges.

Without the veil of “business as usual,” they could see the conditions that make it hard for many people to excel professionally—whether they’re working remotely or in the office.  Leaders could also better identify how their staff’s challenges impact lagging elements of their businesses.

As a result, numerous CEOs are looking for ways to better support their people. They also want to bridge the divide between the C-suite and the workforce to build efficiencies and boost performance. The solution to all these related challenges is for leaders to analyze and overhaul their company culture.

Despite numerous definitions and misconceptions, company culture can easily be summed up as the behavioral norms within an organization. It’s displayed in each employee’s work ethic, how they collaborate with team members, and how they interact with the public.

Consequently, a company’s culture has a significant impact on every part of a business and the well-being of all who work there.

Nothing will influence an organization’s potential for success more than a conscious effort to improve its culture.

Putting Culture Under the Microscope

An impactful culture initiative should address numerous behaviors that fall into three categories:

  1. Work ethic
  2. Collaboration
  3. Interacting with the public

CEOs should focus on helping employees improve behaviors associated with all three areas to give their staff and enterprise the best chance to thrive in 2022.

1. Work Ethic

Various attitudes and behaviors dictate employees’ overall work ethic. These characteristics show up in people’s perspectives about how they approach their jobs, and how they perceive their role impacts overall company goals. These traits include conduct relating to:

  • Taking ownership
  • Making quality personal
  • Focusing on continuous improvement
Taking Ownership

A huge factor in people’s work ethic is how much they feel their contributions matter in the big picture. People unaware of the significance of their jobs are less likely to feel a sense of responsibility toward their output. But employees develop an attitude of pride and accomplishment when leaders illustrate how their work connects to the organization’s success.

A crucial part of any culture initiative should be making every team member feel valued for their work. Leaders should cultivate a sense of belonging and significance for staff, beginning with the onboarding process and regularly reinforcing it thereafter.

When employees believe they are vital team members, they hold themselves accountable for getting things done to the best of their ability.

Making Quality Personal

This behavior involves having a passion for excellence—not merely acknowledging and trying to live up to the company’s commitment to quality. When an employee makes quality personal, they take pride in every task they perform.  

Making quality a personal issue is closely tied to feeling connected to organizational goals, but it’s a more granular pursuit. For example, a hallmark of superior work is paying attention to details. Building this behavior into company culture helps people see how even the small things they do add up and affect outcomes.

A highly effective way for management to reinforce this outlook is to extend and encourage others to provide meaningful acknowledgment for great work. Employees are much more likely to develop a pattern of quality accomplishments when their boss and peers applaud their efforts.

Focusing on Continuous Improvement

Some companies struggled during the pandemic because their organizational culture didn’t promote a passion for continuous improvement. No matter how well they managed to operate before COVID, the pandemic revealed unseen weaknesses.

Part of a CEO’s job is to have an eye on constantly improving their organization. But for the company to remain competitive and prepared to address adversity, every employee should always be on the lookout for:

  • New ways they and their team can perform tasks better, faster, and more efficiently
  • How to proactively enhance the company’s ability to respond and adapt to change

This kind of behavior takes commitment to quality to the next level. Strong company culture should help employees understand that no matter how good a product, process, service, or idea is—it can always be improved. Continuous improvement builds a more resilient organization.

2. Collaboration

People can’t effectively work together if they don’t have confidence in one another. To facilitate productive collaboration, CEOs need to weave behaviors into their culture that promote trust. These qualities are important to teams who work under one roof, and they’re even more vital for remote staff members who don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interaction. Some key behaviors supporting collaboration are:

  • Having a team-first attitude
  • Giving others the benefit of the doubt
  • Actively communicating and sharing information
Being Team Players

For an organization to succeed, its culture must promote a team-first orientation where people acknowledge that everyone’s accomplishments advance company goals.

Leaders should coach staff members to:

  • Set their egos aside
  • Not worry about who gets credit for a win
  • Not take things personally
  • Pitch in and help others succeed

“Me-first” personalities can be top contributors, but they also drain a team’s energy and make it less effective. So leaders must develop a culture in which people understand the difference between being a star and sharing their strengths to form a championship team.  

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Employee morale and productivity are in jeopardy in a workplace riddled with blame and judgment. These negative traits typically arise in companies where those in power use fear to incentivize their team. But workplace drama can also erupt in organizations that lack a strong core culture.

It’s up to leaders to create an environment where their staff members aren’t worried about repercussions if they make a mistake. To do this, they must build a solution-focused culture that encourages people to learn from errors and then develop better systems to prevent them from recurring.

When people work in this kind of atmosphere, they don’t need to point fingers, hide mistakes, or dream up conspiracies. Instead, they give others the benefit of the doubt and pull together to overcome problems.

Strong Communication

Fluid communication, which hinges on a series of linked behaviors, is essential for a business to operate successfully. Moreover, a workplace where management and team members don’t effectively exchange ideas and information can quickly become dysfunctional. Yet surprisingly, most organizations don’t build communication strategies into their company culture.

The building blocks of strong communication include:

  • Generous listening
  • Speaking honestly to help make progress
  • Sharing information freely
  • Expressing ideas clearly

Employees operating in a culture that facilitates communication are less likely to become isolated in silos. Instead, they pay attention to what others are saying and are comfortable expressing concerns and making suggestions. They also make an effort to consider who else would benefit by sharing what they know, and take care to articulate their thoughts clearly.

Leaders who prioritize communication in their company’s culture make it far easier and rewarding for their people to work together.

3. Interacting with the Public

Employees’ work ethic and ability to collaborate affect the public’s perception of an organization. But an additional set of behaviors address how staff members interact with customers, vendors, and other stakeholders. As leaders evaluate how well their people connect with these key groups, they should look to reinforce behaviors that include:

  • Acting with integrity
  • Providing exceptional service
  • Investing in relationships
Acting with Integrity

People want to do business with companies they trust. They may be cost-conscious or attracted to the latest product or service, but it only takes one lapse of integrity for a customer to shop elsewhere.

Most workers intend to act conscientiously. But they may have various interpretations of integrity, making it hard for a team to demonstrate it consistently.  To counter this disparity, CEOs must clearly define what acting with integrity looks like in their organization.

For instance, they may describe integrity as a commitment to doing the right thing in all situations and always telling the truth regardless of the consequences.

But leaders can’t just tell their people to do the right thing—they must model ethical behavior. Staff members take their cues from and emulate their boss. This is how acting with integrity becomes embedded in a company’s culture.

Providing Exceptional Service

After struggling to keep their doors open during the pandemic, many businesses now find themselves operating in an increasingly crowded and commoditized marketplace. Online options abound for customers who can literally choose to do business anywhere. Faced with so many choices, the level of the service people receive often tips the scale in their decision-making.

Leaders can elevate the quality of the service their customers experience by reinforcing key behaviors in their company’s culture.

They should coach their team to:

  • Be easy to do business with by being extraordinarily helpful and making transactions as effortless as possible for the consumer.
  • Be highly responsive to all questions and concerns, and keep customers informed about the status of outstanding issues.
  • Go the extra mile to exceed expectations. Do the little and big things that make customer experiences memorable.
  • Deliver results, don’t just put in effort. Follow up on everything to make sure customers are delighted.

Leaders who coach this conduct empower their team to win business by making exceptional service the norm instead of an occasional experience. In addition, mastering these behaviors energizes employees, builds their confidence, and enhances their pride in working for an organization that customers love.

Investing in Relationships

Companies can’t rely on a series of one-off transactions to remain viable. They only develop a solid customer base when people regularly choose to do business with them.

To cultivate enduring customer relationships, leaders should emphasize behaviors that help employees understand the value of the long game. For example, guiding a client towards a product or service that best fits their needs instead of one that will generate more profit builds their trust in the organization.

Another trait that customers sincerely appreciate is empathy. When associates take the time to understand their customers’ challenges and frustrations instead of adopting a “one size fits all” attitude, they’re better equipped to meet their needs.

Strong customer relationships provide companies with a reliable profit margin and also enrich the experience of doing business for everyone involved.

It’s Time to Reset Your Company’s Culture

Given the challenges of the past two years and what looks to be continuous change ahead, rebooting your company’s culture is a smart way to kick off the new year. Leaders who take this step will boost morale and diminish turnover, rev up productivity, and insulate their companies against whatever the year may have in store.

The most effective way to reinvigorate and improve company culture is to do it systematically—but this process doesn’t have to be complicated. CultureWise offers organizations a turnkey solution to developing an outstanding culture that is easy to implement and sustain. Influential speaker and author David J. Friedman created this unique program after decades of building high-performing culture in his companies. Since its inception, CultureWise has helped CEOs across North America realize the benefits of a dynamic culture initiative.

Explore the CultureWise website or schedule an information session to learn more. And subscribe to the Culture Matters newsletter for the latest business culture news, access to informative webinars, and insightful videos.