Way back in the 1990s, only the hope of a snow day, fear of torrential rain, or expectation for sunshine occurred—not the level of certainty we see with today’s weather forecasting technology. Regardless of your area, doppler radar can predict with utmost accuracy everything from wind speed, inches of snow, and the exact time you will need your raincoat during the day. The actual weather forecast of your company culture is much more challenging to predict. The positive is that we have a real opportunity to change the weather at work for good.
Can Culture Really Be Measured?Culture is difficult to measure because it’s multidimensional. The aspects that make up culture—its values, assumptions, and norms—cannot be fully assessed using only quantitative metrics. They require pulse checks, conversations, and qualitative data points. At the core, a strong company culture (one that emphasizes inclusion, belonging, and opportunity for all) also produces a set of trackable behaviors. People look to these normative behaviors to understand what is acceptable.
While one organization may protect psychological safety by encouraging the sharing of mistakes and lessons learned, another organization may have norms that encourage people to “fly under the radar” and avoid speaking up and sharing information for fear of retribution. Employees at different organizations quickly learn that knowledge is power and begin to hoard that knowledge versus sharing openly with colleagues and new employees, perpetuating inequitable systems and processes. Defining your culture in terms of actionable habits is an important part of the process, and grounding those habits in diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to true culture transformation.
Culture Compared to What?People wake up every day and choose where they work. Part of an employee’s commitment to working for your organization should be demonstrating behaviors that align with company values. According to the digital advertising company, Lucidity, the top four most common company values are teamwork, customer focus, respect, and integrity, all of which are values deeply intertwined with inclusive equitable behaviors. Thus, examining the degree and consistency of teamwork, respect, and integrity would be the starting point for a company with those values to gauge the current or future direction of their people culture.
Getting StartedMore than words on the wall, bringing company values to life can be as simple (or as challenging) as bringing people together to talk about what they mean and reaching agreement on what behaviors match up with each value. The action steps listed below can be used with leaders as well as small groups of cross-functional teams:
1. Values in action planning. Assemble a diverse team to plan a series of work sessions. Be intentional about assembling a group that includes a strong “out in the field” presence to avoid any perception that this is an HR program only.
2. Real stories discussion workshops. Begin by hosting several elective sessions for people to come together to describe what they see and hear to unearth patterns of biased or exclusive behavior that should receive emphasis or a greater sense of urgency.
3. Values one by one. Send your people on a learning journey that includes a deep dive into each company value. Involve operational leaders and individual contributors to describe their personal connection to each value. Craft a learning journey and inject small learning moments that help employees recognize the distinct advantage that comes with aligning their behaviors around each value.
4. Relaunch your values. The final step in this process is essential. Gather everything people have learned and share this in an authentic way. Paint a picture of how values have played out (or have not) in the past and then offer an inspiring message about how to move forward together. Pull in charismatic leaders to reinforce this message.