Let’s keep it real.
Sometimes what we cherish most as a society . . . freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to express how we think, feel, and react to milestone moments . . . can have a less than desirable effect on how employees think, feel, and evaluate their value within an organization.
Taking intentional, proactive steps that immerse employees in your culture shifts their perspective from a surface understanding of what they do, to a deep-rooted love and appreciation for why they do it.
You Can’t Stop the Rain from Falling Down
Clermont is a charming little gem of a community nestled within Central Florida’s gently rolling hills. Miles of scenic lakefront adjacent to a vibrant historic downtown continues to attract new residents and fuel widespread civic development.
Which has also fueled widespread concern over protecting natural resources vital to the region’s overall wellness. Runoff from the area’s abundant rainfall encounters pollutants and debris, carrying them into lakes and streams, threatening water quality and surrounding wildlife habitats.
The community’s response was to develop Victory Pointe, a state-of-the-art stormwater treatment pond that uses biological filtration to remove harmful elements.
Instead of being treated with harsh chemicals, water is allowed to travel naturally through a series of ponds, absorbing pollutants organically through settling and uptake into aquatic plants.
The ponds appear static and unassuming, just another civic project among many. But the deeply innate value they bring, every second of every day, protects the quality of the area’s water supply.
Along with the quality of life of everyone who chooses to call Clermont home.
Nutrient-Rich Social Awareness
Your employees and your customers, citizens, patients, clients, guests, etc. co-exist in the society that surrounds you.
Which is a good thing.
Exposure to trends and changes in the world around us fuels an employee’s ability to see from fresh new perspectives, adding value through real-life ideation and contributing to a sense of “what could be.”
Which is also a good thing.
This active participation in society’s twists and turns creates Nutrient-Rich Social Awareness, necessary for the continued growth and adaptation of your product or service.
Exposure also comes with its share of distractions, leaving your employees with the responsibility of determining how the awareness will influence their thoughts and actions moving forward.
Which is an even better thing . . . if your culture is strong enough.
Like the process at Victory Pointe, a strong culture enables your employees to organically identify the presence of what matters most within their existing environment: fairness, diversity, equity, honesty, equality, etc.
External distractions are absorbed within a series of constant and consistent reminders of why they chose your organization. Daily Rituals filter voices that cast doubt regarding your loyalty to the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of your employees.
Happiness enriches your environment through self-awareness of and deep appreciation for the opportunity to live a rich, fulfilling life.
Which is the best thing . . . if your culture is strong enough.
Strengthening Cultural Influence
Countless organizations address workplace concerns over values such as fairness, diversity, equity, and inclusion by hiring external subject matter experts or investing in online awareness programs.
Many participate in surveys that solicit employee input only to struggle with creating meaningful action plans that influence overall acceptance and supportive behaviors.
It’s all white noise.
Strengthening the influence of your culture begins with a return to your core purpose; your reason for being and the reasons why your employees chose your organization in the first place.
The following techniques will assist you in the process:
Select the Right People
Notice the purposeful reference to people in place of talent. While it’s true that you need great talent, the right people will be the key to your success.
Ensure that your People Selection Process includes frequent, meaningful references to your culture. Interview questions should be structured to reflect core values and performance competencies. Leaders must develop an acute awareness for identifying cultural fit.
There may be dozens of candidates with the ability and experience necessary to do the job . . . you’re looking for ones who will relish the opportunity to perform.
For example: I visited a national neighborhood bakery-cafe chain promoting a work environment that “serves clean food, fosters high-energy, and wants you to bring your authentic self to work.”
Except that the handful of employees working that day focused little, if any, energy on the customers they were serving; display cases were almost empty; the product received was inconsistent and disappointing; the restrooms were dirty, out of hand soap, and out of paper towels.
So, if this appeals to your authentic self, don’t hesitate to apply.
Find people that believe in your story and share an ultimate vision, regardless of what position they’re applying for.
Without this foundation, an employee will be extremely susceptible to external influences throughout their duration of employment.
Static As In “Stay”
We were working with a client who stated with great pride that “One of our primary strengths is our culture.”
I asked, “What is it?” The momentary pause inspired an even more important question: “Where is it?”
We devote an incredible amount of energy attracting people to our organizations. Moving forward, channel more energy into reminding them why they stay.
Not “should stay” . . . simply “stay.”
This needn’t be expensive or time consuming.
Whether on-site or remote, posters, pocket cards, flyers, mugs, stationary, etc. populated with your organizational values and beliefs serve as Static Reminders of the perpetual choice to return tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.
Respect that choice and never take it for granted.
Move it from back-of-mind to full-frontal exposure with every reason why this is the best and only place to be.
What We Repeatedly Do
Rituals are another great resource for strengthening culture.
Daily meetings, group huddles, and town hall meetings inspire a sense of community. They must be consistent and habit-forming, create value by relating directly to your culture, and breathe life into the soul of your organization.
Face-to-face interactions, even those when the faces populate a computer screen, bring Oz out from behind the curtain. Engage in useful and purposeful dialogue. Have the confidence to listen to new ideas and initiatives that inspire trust among employees.
Realize that establishing these rituals may require working through change. It’s common for employees to say, “I just want to be left alone to do my job.” Believe that, and they’ll be doing their job for someone else soon enough.
Involve your team in determining the best available time and schedule. Then stick to it.
Routine, consistent meetings establish and maintain a sense of place: the human desire for a higher purpose beyond day-to-day activities.
Trust In self-Awareness
Cultural initiatives should never promote a self-centric orientation: “Look at everything we’ve done for our team.”
If you polled one million employees, most of them would respond favorably to attending happy hour activities, ordering in lunch, having their birthday off, and any initiative that promotes a healthier work/life balance.
What they long for is trust.
Trust is the foundation for any lasting, loyal relationship. While these activities have value, they are not strong enough to overcome whispers from society that can jeopardize the promise of a better tomorrow.
Like the plants in Victory Pointe, practices that strengthen culture through self-awareness may appear unassuming: just another corporate promotion, picture on the wall, or date on the calendar.
But the deep-rooted value they bring, every second of every day, protects the purity of your culture and your employees’ appreciation for it.
This is Tall Tim, and I am At Your Service!