In Town Halls around the world, leaders are standing up and telling employees that they now have permission to “fail fast.” If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Of course, it’s easy to say what characteristics an organization needs to display in order to remain competitive and grow, but making it real is where the rubber meets the road. When an employee hears one thing, but they aren’t seeing senior leadership or their managers exhibit the desired behavior, it creates vulnerability and fear. “Talk is cheap,” and if the organizational say/do is not aligned, you will not get the evolution you want.
In part 1, Creating a Culture That Drives Growth, we defined what a high growth culture is and shared the six key elements that high growth organizations have in common. So, what can you actually do to bring these six elements to life at your organization? Here are five actions you can implement today that will give you the results your CEO is looking for:
1. EMPOWER AND EQUIP YOUR PEOPLE TO LIVE THE CULTURE
If your people aren’t set up to succeed, they won’t. It’s plain and simple. Your people and business processes must support the change you want to be. Do your ways of working enable and empower employees to make decisions without requiring an overwhelming amount of approvals? Do you have programs geared towards continual growth and learning (and ensuring people find the time to use them)? What and how are you rating employee performance? Do you hire for the cultural attributes you want to see? It’s critical to ensure all your key processes are in sync with the growth culture you’re working towards.
2. CELEBRATE WHEN PEOPLE ARE DOING IT RIGHT
High growth cultures encourage smart risks, but also celebrate failures that you can learn from. Take Google for example. Google employees are publicly applauded by their co-workers and supervisors for their success, but also for their failures. They’re even rewarded with time off and monetary bonuses when they kill an idea because of a fatal flaw1. Director of Google X (the research division of Google’s parent company Alphabet), Astro Teller says: “If we can create a culture together where you feel stupid because you haven’t tried something new this week, you’re going to try something new every week.” This attitude allows employees to innovate and helps them get to the right solution faster.
It’s important to celebrate the people who are bringing the growth culture to life. This can be done in whatever way works best for your organization – maybe it’s an informal recognition program, during team meetings, or more formally at Town Halls. Either way, find the time to celebrate those who are bringing the culture to life.
3. MAKE TIME FOR LEARNING AND EXPERIMENTING
Everyone talks about speed and agility, but there is something to say for taking the time to put yourself in a different environment. By taking employees out of the day-to-day and building in time for learning and experimenting, you enable them to bring the outside in, to take a different approach and to come up with something new, and disruptive. This of course can and should come from formal training and development programs, but also through encouraging people to explore outside the confines of the workplace, where people feel truly inspired, such as an art exhibit, a walk in the park, or a great podcast.
Apple has used outside inspiration to help their employees understand certain processes and further enrich their own ideas. At Apple University, they used Pablo Picasso’s “The Bull” to help teach the company’s design process. The gist? Just as Picasso eliminated details to create a masterpiece, Apple strives for simplicity when designing their devices2.
4. CREATE A COMMON PURPOSE
Every member of your company should be working toward a common goal – i.e., WHY your company exists. This happens when one common purpose is instilled in the culture and the day-to-day work of employees and leaders. Starbucks is the poster child for this. Their mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time, is why they exist, and it’s why their employees come to work every day. But they don’t stop there. They stay true to their mission by making a positive impact on the communities that they serve through food donation programs and grants that benefit young people3.
Purpose is a powerful driver of productivity. When employees feel they are part of a larger mission, it creates a higher level of employee engagement and a positive culture. Not only are you more likely to recruit the right type of talent, you’re also more likely to retain top talent.
5. DELIVER AN AMAZING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
In part one of our series, we shared the story of Microsoft. They reinvented their culture and it ultimately paid off in the marketplace. When an organization cultivates a culture that values employees, it will, in turn, value customers and create a positive experience for them. A company’s customer experience says everything there is to know about what is happening internally. And can either make or break brand loyalty.
High growth cultures help companies reinvent and win in the marketplace by focusing on the people that matter most — employees and customers. Infusing the six elements of high growth cultures into your company can help bring new life, and invest in the people you already have. Focusing on learning engages employees and delivers strong financial results. Get ahead of the curve and create a culture of growth.
1 Leber, Jessica. How Google’s Moonshot X Division Helps its Employees Embrace Failure, 2016
2 Chen, Brian X. Simplifying the Bull: How Picasso Helps to Teach Apple’s Style, 2014
3 The Pursuit of Doing Good, 2019