Creating a Culture-First Organization

It was a long six months of helping one of our Fortune 500 clients design a roadmap for shifting its culture and creating a movement to reengage and inspire its employees. The company was at the end of a major transformation—arguably one of the largest in modern business history—and needed to rally employees, bring back pride and reinvigorate the essence of who they are as a company.

After months of defining the culture shift and fine-tuning the execution plan, we were ready to launch the efforts internally. Then, we heard the news. The company would soon undergo yet another major transformation.

So, what now?

We had to step back and reevaluate our path forward. Given the major transformation ahead, and the change fatigued workforce, we knew there was a huge risk in abandoning the culture work. We made the case that culture wasn’t something that could be set aside for the sunny days—it’s what was needed to get them through the changes ahead and to keep employees focused and engaged.

I’ve commonly heard culture referred to as “how things are done around here,” but what if the way you do things isn’t working anymore? In today’s era of constant change, culture should be your north star and constant. So when, (not if), you have to change your organizational structure, operational model, business strategy, or need to digitalize, simplify or become more customer-centric, your employees have something to hold on to. Culture can be the connective tissue, so change doesn’t seem so scary.

Test whether your culture is your “true north” by asking the following questions: 

1. Do your leaders have a culture-first mentality? 
Culture starts and ends with leaders. The best leaders understand the importance of culture and realize that creating a great work environment with engaged employees will lead to better business results. Make sure your leaders are walking the talk.

Research overwhelmingly shows that purpose-driven companies outperform those who lack a sense of identity. Your purpose should be the cornerstone of your culture. A strong purpose answers why you exist and why you are unique.

2. Do your employees understand why you exist, and is your culture tied to that purpose?
Research overwhelmingly shows that purpose-driven companies outperform those who lack a sense of identity. Your purpose should be the cornerstone of your culture. A strong purpose answers why you exist and why you are unique.

3. Do your employees have a clear understanding of your values and how they translate into on-the-job behaviors? 
A strong culture drives employee behaviors, which ultimately shapes customer experiences. While some behaviors may need to shift over time, its essential behaviors are clearly outlined and understood. If your employees can’t recite the behaviors or values by heart, then they aren’t as ingrained as they should be.

4. How often do you use the word culture?
This is a trick question because companies with the best culture rarely use the word itself. Instead, culture should be woven into everything you do—your HR processes, employee engagement strategy and value proposition, internal and external communications and even your physical environment.

It is critical for every company to define and celebrate the essence of its culture. Don’t wait. Take time today to think through the foundational elements of who your company is, and be really clear on not just how things get done but why you exist. Because, let’s face it, tomorrow the how could change.

 

Katie Sibley, Associate Principal

Katie Sibley, Associate Principal

Katie is an Associate Principal at Daggerwing Group, where she spearheads the Culture and Inside out Marketing Community of Practice. Katie works with industry-leading companies to design and execute culture and change strategies. Katie is from Texas so when she's not traveling with her clients, she prefers to wear cowboy boots and eat Tex Mex food for every meal.

Careers

Find out about Daggerwing positions available around the globe.

SIGN UP for Daggerwing Group’s Hot Topics email series