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It’s no secret that culture can lead to the success or ruin of a company. Culture can be tricky and it certainly isn’t built overnight. It’s more than a list of values on the wall. It’s how your leaders and teams show up every day, how you collaborate, celebrate and lead meetings. It’s how you make people feel like throughout their entire work life cycle – from the application process to hiring, promotions and leaving. Culture is a collection of actions and behaviors that your collective team observes and nurtures on a daily basis.
I’m certainly no culture expert, but I’ve learned a lot over the past year about what a healthy culture looks like for our team and how important it is in helping us achieve our goals. In fact, we know that corporate culture internally affects employee retention and satisfaction and is related to workplace productivity. Externally, company culture can also influence customer satisfaction, retention and more.
During my time at Pushpay, and the last year in particular as CEO, we have certainly met our share of challenges with varying levels of employee engagement – especially amid the pandemic, and now on our way to the big layoff. Most of you can understand, right? Let’s face it, the past two years have been tough. Really, very heavy. They have challenged us in ways we could never have imagined, and as leaders they have demanded more mental and emotional energy from us to lead well in the midst of rapidly changing social and business needs.
As with many companies, we noticed a dip in morale and corporate culture. As an organization that previously thrived on the personal connection, many of the traditions and rituals we had didn’t translate very well virtually. We had to reinvent ways to bring our vibrant culture to life so that people felt connected to the heart of our business. Culture quickly became one of our top three initiatives for 2021.
As we embarked on the journey to move the needle, it was very important for our executive team to have a clear alignment with the values and norms that affect day-to-day operations. Employees thrive in companies where they share the same beliefs and can stand behind company values. We used data from our employee feedback tool, Culture Amp, to determine where to focus our time and action — and off we went.
Here are just a few ways your executive team and leaders can change culture and create an environment where employees feel valued, fulfilled, and welcome.
Related: How Embracing the Big Redefinition Will Help Your Business Thrive
1. Provide transparency to your employees, customers and key stakeholders
Transparency in the workplace creates an open door policy and helps build trust between leadership and employees, stakeholders and customers. Providing transparency encourages clear communication and collaboration, enabling the entire team to commit and invest in the goals of the organization. Transparency also falls under employee assessments and feedback. Creating a regular cadence for reviews and feedback gives leaders the opportunity to highlight successes, while also using the time to share “opportunities” to discuss tactics to improve.
However, transparency isn’t just about giving and being open to feedback. It’s about having systems and rituals in place to cascade information and provide support (and resources) to your leaders so they can have meaningful conversations with their teams about company victories and pain points.
2. Set clear goals for internal teams and regularly share results and progress
People feel involved when they understand their role and feel that they fit into the bigger picture. A fundamental skill of leadership is helping individuals set and pursue goals through effective collaborative practices that align with business strategy. Setting clear goals for internal teams that align with organizational progress will provide a clear path to success.
Again, this starts from the top down. As an executive team, have you clearly stated the company’s goals and initiatives for the year? Are they measurable? Do you visit them regularly and follow the progress as a company? Do the objectives of the business unit also fit in well with this? We use our monthly all-hands to achieve goals across our three key initiatives this year — culture (as noted above), retention and growth — and provide transparency about where we are and how we work to achieve our goals.
Related: How to better manage corporate culture in times of transition?
3. Improve external and internal communication
From a leadership perspective, we do our job well when everyone from the front desk clerk to the VP of Engineering knows where we are going and what we are all working towards. To achieve this, improving communication measures for internal and external stakeholders is essential. At Pushpay, we’ve included monthly leadership newsletters and Q&As and increased visibility for our corporate-level executives. This helps minimize employee concerns and keep everyone informed about upcoming events and goals. The keyboard ninja is real, but putting a face to someone who has a question or problem is where and how you pick up the culture and improve it.
Related: 5 ways to create a corporate culture, even if your workforce is virtual
4. Resource your ERGs
Our employee resource groups are an essential part of our culture. They give a voice to our employees and enable people to come together and unite behind a common interest. They have self-government, but are still critical to the success of our organization. I admit, we hadn’t properly resourced them. It’s important to work with your employees’ resource groups to better understand what they’re trying to accomplish and how the company can support their success. We started giving them more airtime during new hire orientation and in our monthly all-hands to showcase the impactful events and conversations they host. We allocated a budget so that they had the freedom and opportunity to plan retreats or bring in world-class speakers and thought leaders. At their request, we also equipped each group with an executive sponsor so that they had a trusted leader to support the success of their program.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
Consistency is key. Culture is not a “set and forget” initiative. It takes intention, discipline and daily buy-in at all levels to move the needle forward. Let data be your north star as you work to address business pain points and opportunities — and visit regularly. We’re still learning, but being honest in the process and opening up new opportunities when things don’t align with business goals is the foundation of maintaining a culture where employees, stakeholders and leadership thrive.