How to build an intentional culture, part 3

This is the third installment in a three-part series on building an intentional workplace culture. What tips and suggestions do you have for building a better organizational culture? Join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn this week to share your thoughts. –Andrea Davis, Managing Editor

Commentary: We’ve been talking about culture in this space for a while, so by now you know your organization’s culture doesn’t have to be an accident. In fact, if I were to give you a pop quiz, you’d tell me that it can – and should be –completely purposeful and cultivated with intention. That it’s more than just a mission statement, a casual dress code, or spontaneous push-up challenges – it’s really about “how things are done around here.” And that it needs to align with your business strategy because it’s the single most important factor in your organization’s success or failure.

In our first and second posts in this series, we talked about how to articulate the culture, set expectations around it and educate people on how to live the culture. We also discussed the importance of holding people accountable for doing just that, setting metrics to make it happen, empowering your culture champions and regularly communicating about your culture. Now let’s look at the final three steps that reinforce your culture so you’re well-positioned for success:

7. Create opportunities to live the culture. It’s important to help people understand how to participate in the culture. For example, at Limeade, we have “Own It Day,” when employees pitch their own ideas for improving our product and delighting customers. This is an important part of our open and collaborative culture (and always results in making our engagement platform better and stronger!).

Also see: How to build an intentional culture, part 1 and part 2.

8. Align the culture with internal policies, procedures, and systems. This means always asking if what you’re doing reflects the culture when it comes to policies, procedures, systems (especially your people system and organizational structure), communications, benefits and more. In looking at HR, how do you hire for cultural fit? How do you talk about culture in new hire orientation? How do you incorporate your culture into performance management? For example, if you’re trying to ensure a collaborative work environment, stack-ranking your employees against each other at performance reviews isn’t a great idea. Instead, reinforce collaboration by drawing on peer feedback and offering rewards when team goals are met.

9. Recognize and reward employees who live the culture. This one is huge. In order to truly live your culture, you need to create a recognition and reward system that calls out those who live it and determines appropriate consequences for those who don’t. And when it comes to giving shout-outs, whatever you’re doing has to align with your culture. The gold watch was once a great way to mark tenure when years of service mattered. These days, if you’re a financial services firm focused on closing deals and making money, a cash bonus is meaningful. Or if you’re a work-life balance consulting firm, try a few weeks of bonus PTO. It’s about recognizing the right people for the right behavior with the right rewards.

With these nine steps, you have everything you need to build an intentional culture. So what’s next? Reach out to your leaders and secure their ownership in this endeavor. Make sure they understand the importance of aligning culture to business strategy – and how key culture is to your organization’s success. And then – start over. You’re never really “done” being intentional about culture. So continually monitor your environment and make strategic adjustments – which will sometimes require corresponding cultural shifts as well. Just keep in mind that when it comes to culture – as with life – it’s more about the journey than the outcome.

Laura Hamill, Ph.D., is chief people officer with Limeade. For more details on how to partner with leaders or to learn how Limeade lives their culture, check out Laura’s webinar.

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