Craig Forman, Lead People Scientist at Culture Amp provides his expert knowledge on the topics of company culture and the power of values.

Craig Forman - company culture expert

“Before we start we need to define culture. The big umbrella definition is ‘the way we do things around here,’” said Craig.

Every day we move in and out of multiple cultures. There is a culture at home, a certain culture at the grocery store, and you also have a workplace culture. 

Culture Amp’s CEO, Didier Elzinga, defines culture as, “Your brand is your promise to deliver to your customers, your culture is how you deliver that.”

So the question becomes, how do we come together as a company to achieve something collective?

The core thing to keep coming back to is… values.

A workplace tends to be the most diverse coming together of people. Everyone brings their own personal values, but their commonality is the company they work for, and working together to achieve the organizational mission.

Culture is unique to that specific company.

What works really well for one company might not work well for another. 

For example, Google is well-known for providing an excellent company culture, but implementing a free cafe isn’t something that every company is able to do. It’s a great idea that can be tweaked to suit you, such as pizza on the last day of the month to help kick month-end goals.

Google Employee Rewards

Read more: Best Employee Rewards & Recognition Programs. Reward and Recognize Employees like Google.

It’s good to be inspired by other companies, but don’t feel like you have to copy everything exactly the same.

Let’s get back to values.

If you don’t have values, how do you get started?

When you don’t already have values in place, it’s a blank slate and a great opportunity for your business. 

“It’s a great way to come together. What we help build, we support,” said Craig.

Craig’s advice for value creation is to host a group session (including as many people as possible, from multiple departments and seniority), and talk about the following items:

  • What individual values do staff bring to the table.
  • What values do you see around you in the workplace.
  • Write a list of all these values and group them together. There should be a lot of common elements that can be used to create an overarching value.
  • You shouldn’t have to search too far (or hard) for values. They are already visible in the actions of your employees.
  • When exploring and finding values, keep them simple. People should be able to remember them. Try and keep it to 3 or 4. 

To maximise support and buy-in from staff, it’s recommended to involve as many people as possible. This might not be practical for a large company, but there are tools out there, such as surveys, where you can listen to as many people as possible.

“If you’re going to ask the questions to your staff, follow through on them. Let people know you’ve heard them and make the appropriate actions,” said Craig.

“Keep communication lines honest and open throughout the process. People like being heard and will continue to provide you with feedback as they know you are listening. It shows you care,” continued Craig.

Leading by example.

Whether you’re implementing new values, or trying to improve an existing culture, it needs to start from the top so it can ripple down.

“Humans don’t trust leadership who aren’t living the values themselves,” advised Craig.

“Culture ripples from the top. When there’s a mismatch in values and management behaviour, it creates fractions and subcultures within departments or teams. There is nothing worse than a subculture which is a misaligned leadership culture”

“Culture is always going to exist, it’s just whether it’s an intentional culture or not,” said Craig. 

It’s a simple philosophy and one we all grew up hearing – treat people the way you want to be treated. In a workplace you also have the added layer of holding those accountable who aren’t living up to it.

So, how do you make values the backbone of your company’s culture, and bring values alive on a daily basis?

“Behavior. What gets recognized gets repeated. I recommend implementing an employee recognition program as it’s an easy and scalable way to showcase the positive behavior and values you want repeated on a daily basis by all staff,” said Craig.

Read more: Employee Recognition Generates Amazing ROI

This way, behavior is visible every day through recognition, but managers also need to lead by example.

“People want to see the leaders live the values they’re expected to live themselves,” said Craig.

Maintaining culture in high turnover workplaces.

Some industries naturally have a high turnover, which is not a reflection of the culture. An example could be staff at a restaurant chain as it tends to attract students, who move on after they complete studies or move away to college. If this is you, there is still a lot you can do to ensure you’re attracting the right type of employees and creating a fun working culture.

If you could wave a magic wand.

When asked what his one magic tool is to improve culture at an organization, Craig responded with, “Open and honest, two-way communication.”

Over time your organization can change. When this happens, it’s good to re-look at your values to ensure they still align with the company’s vision.

Read more:
How to Create Core Values The easy Way To Maximize the Performance of Your Team
How to Create an Award-Winning Culture and Engage Top Talent

To find out more about how a corporate rewards and recognition program can help your business, book in a free demo