A workplace team is bumping their fists together during a meeting.

Workplace culture is a fluid, often elusive entity. As Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code writes, “While successful culture can look and feel like magic, the truth is that it’s not. Culture is a set of living relationships working towards a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”

Organizational culture consists of the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment at work. How do those beliefs, etc., penetrate the workplace? Like any organizational system, culture is influenced by the leadership and strategy at the top. So we have to start there.

Tips for Influencing Your Organization’s Culture in 2019

This year, my organizational development consulting firm, Brighter Strategies, is focusing on culture, specifically the creation of positive workplace culture. We want to help our clients improve teamwork, raise morale, and reduce stress to enhance collaboration and performance.

Here’s a 3-step process we encourage leadership to follow as one of their new year’s resolutions. I hope it helps you and your organization.

Identify Your Desired Culture

This can be a thinking-and-writing exercise for your CEO, or a series of meetings with the leadership team.

First, describe the current organizational cultural norms you want to uphold. Then, using your mission as a guidepost, list the values that you envision for your organization. These values should align with and support your existing business strategy and performance goals. Describe in detail the behaviors you envision employees exhibiting and the practices the organization will endorse when these values become part of your culture.

Model Culture Norms

Influencing culture is not possible without the buy-in, support, and action of all your leadership. Not only should leaders be involved in culture conversations, they must commit to communicating and living the norms you’ve identified. (Remember, workplace culture flows down from the top.) Any culture training that takes place, start with the leadership team. And, we’ve found that having leaders conduct employee training solidifies their own commitment.

Hold Employees Accountable

Incorporate your organization’s culture norms into goals that are part of employee performance scorecards, and make sure employees are held accountable. Reward employees who routinely show desired values – with public recognition as well as compensation increases. When your staff sees that workplace culture is celebrated, they are more likely to buy into it.

Growing To the Next Level

Your 2019 goal may be culture evolution if you’ve already done significant work to build a positive workplace culture.

An evolution process begins with an assessment involving all organizational stakeholders: employees, funders, Board members, community representatives, and individuals served. These are the people who can help determine if your norms, philosophy, and values support (or hinder) the organization’s intended impact.

Here are some sample questions to pose to stakeholders during a culture assessment:

  • What is the organization’s reputation, both internally and externally?
  • Does the organization’s current culture accurately reflect its mission, vision, and values?
  • In what programs, products, and services does the organization invest most of its resources? Does investment align with cultural values?
  • Are stakeholders recognized for exemplifying the culture? If so, how?
  • Does the organization’s culture support its strategic outlook?

In your assessment results, summarize emerging themes and outline a simple action plan to give your culture a tune-up. Following through on the action plan is a required piece of your commitment to continuous improvement.

Taking small steps right away to influence your organization’s culture can have a big impact. You don’t have to wait to act until you have some grand plan in place. Just like with any personal resolution – to lose weight or learn a new skill, for example – the hardest part is getting started.