If You Want To Future-Proof Your Business, Focus On Culture
Rhoan Morgan is a Forbes Agency Council Influencer and Thought Leader. This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
One year ago, in May 2021, Texas A&M University professor Anthony Klotz predicted that the vastly changing post-pandemic workplace would experience a mass volunteer exodus called the Great Resignation. Since then, several variations of Klotz’s theory have emerged: The Great Resignation. The Great Reimagination. The Great Reset. And most recently, the Great Regret. No matter which moniker resonates with you, all represent phenomena impacting employees and employers across the United States.
The pandemic prompted millions of people to reevaluate their careers and, in many cases, how their work impacts their personal lives. It also forced corporations to reevaluate the physical workplace and the workplace culture.
To effectively respond to the evolving nature of the workplace, companies must reexamine their relationship with employees and reimagine the workplace to provide a supportive, encouraging environment that works in harmony with an employee’s personal goals and interests, both in and out of work. People come for the opportunities, but they stay for the culture. Creating and sustaining a positive and empowering company culture and a strong corporate value system will help companies retain their top talent and stay competitive in a tumultuous environment. This starts from the topmost levels of the organization, and it requires intention and hard work.
Be more human.
Companies of the future will need to ensure that their corporate values prioritize wellness, self-care and mental health (“team-first” values). Employees deserve to be treated with respect and compassion by leaders, managers and peers. As leaders, we need to connect with our team members as much as possible to understand their needs—not just related to job performance but also to sustainable productivity. This is the only way to support the well-being of our team members.
It’s also our responsibility to ensure that everyone operates under the same core values and principles. You may not always get it right, but you should ensure that you have open lines of communication, safe and nonjudgmental communication pathways, and regular engagement with your core values and culture.
A great culture will atrophy without constant care and feeding. Companies must continually evaluate how they are doing and where they can do better.
Put your team in the driver’s seat.
One of my tenets as a business leader is that culture should not be just a top-level directive. It must be developed by the people that make up your organization. Culture is the foundation of many of our business decisions—from hiring, firing and promoting, to the clients we work with. I have found that the best results come when the team is in the driver’s seat and empowered to inform or make decisions. Trust (both the leaders’ trust in the team and the team’s trust in their leaders) is an essential component of positive company culture, and that trust can only happen when we’re all on the same page on culture and values.
Twice a year, I review our values and culture to ensure that they still align with who we are as a company. Last year, after a series of 1-to-1 meetings with my entire team and several roundtable conversations with smaller groups, we renewed our culture principles.
Inviting employees to take a central role in developing, defining and sharing your cultural principles is the best way to ensure that your business will move in the right direction. Be open to listening to any concerns that may exist. Ask hard questions and prepare for some uncomfortable answers. What isn’t working right now? Are we living up to our promises? Where can we do better? We must rely on the people that drive the business to uphold our values. If your employees are a part of the process, your corporate culture and values will resonate with them.
Communicate culture from the top.
An elaborate culture statement posted on your website is not the answer. An organization’s culture has a life of its own and requires deliberate practice through a strong leadership presence. As a business leader, your commitment to your company’s culture is demonstrated through the authenticity with which you lead and how you live the values.
It begins with communication that is:
Regularly send out companywide emails on topics that reinforce culture and values and provide insight into how the company is doing, including details on vision and goals. Sometimes repetition is the key to ensuring that the values are fully realized.
Holding monthly, companywide team meetings provides a platform for company growth and ongoing work transparency. It’s important for the team to know that their work is creating something important for their colleagues, their clients and themselves.
An open-door policy is a must. Leaders and managers should encourage all employees to connect with them to discuss topics—from facing personal and professional challenges to improving company processes and policies. You may not always get everything right on the first try, but the goal is open communication and enough trust to support maturation and growth.
Futureproofing your organization means that you must work to prioritize the evolution of your cultural principles. By treating your team members fairly and compassionately—by listening, communicating and showing empathy—your company will be differentiated in the market, and you will attract the high-caliber team members that will propel you in each stage of growth. You’ll clearly define your organization’s culture, both for your current employees and for potential new team members. You may even breathe new life into the ever-changing nature of work, perhaps creating the Great Reinvigoration.