How Leaders Shape Company Culture

The term “culture” has become something of a buzzword in the world of business. Many corporations and large companies like to talk about how they have “strong” or “innovative” and “modern” cultures, but what does this mean, exactly? An organization’s culture, personally, is defined by how the people within this organization behave and interact with one another. This includes management, mid-level management, team leaders and the people at the very bottom of the organizational hierarchy.

Culture is something of a learned behavior and the people at the very top have a huge role to play in the shaping and development of a company’s culture. Culture is not a mere by-product of a company’s operations; a company’s culture is created by the actions taken by the people at the very top, not the people at the bottom.

The very best way that a culture can be shaped and reinforced is from the top-down, with management who lead by example through their behavior and by taking actions which promote the interests of the company. It is all too easy to think that creating a culture is about the behavior of your lower-level employees alone, but it is not. Culture begins to change when leaders start to emulate the behaviors they want reflected in their companies.

1. Culture Drives Results

The primary reason upper-management and executives like to talk about culture so much is because it drives results. When CEOs want to take an approach to their business which is driven by value, the most important aspect of achieving this is by putting culture first. A strong, positive corporate culture contributes to a company which is more sustainable, successful and profitable. This is why companies are so keen to invest lots of time, effort and money to promoting their culture and developing it from within. Culture is more than just a mere buzzword, it is an actionable and measurable indicator of success.

If you are an upper-management executive who is interested in learning more about developing company culture, you may want to read this L&D Report on which could benchmark your strategy for workplace learning.

You can view the importance of culture by considering it from the perspective of a smaller business. In a very small business, it is the character and personality of the company’s owner which defines its culture and how it is perceived as an organization. As companies begin to grow and expand, culture can either fade or take on a life of its own.

A strong workplace culture is built on more than just fun activities or things such as “Bring Your Pet to Work Day”; culture is built on the backs of upper-management who set the overall tone for the entire organization. Building a culture which is innovative and modern starts by considering how you or your team operate as leaders, leaders of those very people you are trying to inspire and innovate. It all begins with the behavior and attitude of your leaders – if you are interested in changing your company’s culture, the best place to start is by looking in the mirror and ensuring you are the reflection of what you want your company to be.

2. Promoting an ‘Employee-First’ Culture

Although the general saying is that the customer always comes first and is always right, have you ever considered putting your employees first? Promoting an employee-first culture is a great way to improve the overall culture of your organization.

Many companies have adopted this approach and always strive to put their employees needs and concerns over that of the customer. The results of this have been surprising; employees become more engaged and have more job satisfaction when they know that their wants, needs, interests and concerns are being put above all others.

For an organization to be successful and competitive in the long-term, it needs to have a stable team of employees. A stable team of employees can only be achieved where employees are put first, no questions asked. It is not as arbitrary as always viewing your employees as right, rather it is about putting the development and training of your employees above all else. Employee development and training is not arbitrary either, and it should be closely linked to your company’s strategic objectives for long-term development. Without truly committing to your employees, your company’s performance will be hindered, and you may struggle in the long-term, especially when it comes to attracting new talent to your organization. Unqualified employees who are not properly trained and are not given the opportunity to develop is a recipe for disaster and failure.

An employee-first culture is more than just a buzzword – senior managers must be 100% committed to delivering on this by promoting the development of their employees at all levels. This does not just mean promoting their professional development, it means putting their personal needs first too and addressing them through changes in attitude or corporate initiatives. Flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, professional development and an open-door upper-management policy are all ways by which you can put your employees first and make them feel like they are a valuable asset to your organization, and that you are willing to go out of your way to accommodate their needs.

3. The CEO’s Role: Training and Development

CEOs play a huge role in their business(es), even if they are relatively inactive and have passed the buck on to executives. Their work starts from the very beginning of the company. By setting the tone of their company early on in its infancy, CEOs can help support the retainment of talent pools by supporting values and professional development.

A great way a CEO can develop their culture is to give their employees a degree of control over their employment. If you perform employee performance reviews (if you don’t, you really need to fix that), you should encourage your employees to identify an aspect of their job role which interests them. When they have identified this, you should help and guide them as managers to further develop their skills which apply to this role. This method of talent driving employees towards career development helps an organization thrive in more ways than just by improving its culture.

Organizations which undertake training initiatives generally have the very best cultures. It is important for any CEO to play an active role here and the CEO must truly believe in the training initiatives and their impacts on the organization as a whole and, of course, the employees. The very best learning, training and development initiatives are those which have a high level of endorsement and sponsorship from a company’s CEO. When a company’s leadership is vocal about the importance of such development training, a tone is set which has a massive and positive impact on the company’s overall culture. CEOs and senior managers who take on these learning and development responsibilities to support junior staffers help to create a culture of learning.

Developing a culture requires a great deal of effort from all members of upper-management; it is not the actions of your employees which influence culture, it is your actions as a senior management as these set the tone for the entire company.

Thanks to Zoe Price

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