By: Daniel Stewart, President & Executive Consultant
Every group has a culture of some sort. Families, communities, affinity groups—anywhere people gather for any length of time and purpose; culture will form. The workplace is no different, and everyone benefits when employees align with company culture.
Your company culture is the totality of your processes, practices, values, and expectations as expressed across the organization. It often develops organically, at least in part, as founders and early employees bring their perspectives and preferences to the organization. If a culture is intentional, it may only be developed partly or as a secondary effect of writing out specific values or practices.
Any culture has nuance and depth that makes it unique. We’ve identified the Eight Dimensions of Culture, and within each dimension, most companies fall somewhere between two ends of a spectrum. In most cases, neither end of the spectrum is good or bad—it’s just an aspect of culture. There is one exception—on the dimension of engagement, morale, and dedication, a company culture on the “committed” end of the spectrum is preferable to one on the “indifferent” side. Employees can’t be aligned to the other seven dimensions if they are indifferent!
Culture is sometimes tricky to define in its entirety. For many employees, aligning with company culture can feel almost as challenging as moving to a foreign country. Employees may be able to identify one aspect of the culture, such as leadership transparency and openness. Or they may be drawn to the company by specific policies, such as flexible schedules and practices that reveal a family-oriented culture.
Cultural alignment is the idea that employees know not only how to define the culture but also how to practice it. They know the unspoken rules and preferences, and ideally, they believe in the culture and become champions of it.
When employees align with the culture, business outcomes improve. Gartner found that when employees and workplace culture are aligned, there is up to a 9% improvement in revenue goals, 8% in talent management goals, and 22% in employee performance.
The first step in achieving cultural alignment is to define your culture. At this point, a cultural assessment performed by someone outside your organization can be valuable. Someone with an outsider’s perspective can more objectively identify strengths and areas for improvement.
Next, with this information in hand, make a plan to address areas of improvement to strengthen the culture. This plan could include everything from the practical, such as reorganizing people to make teams more aligned with your organizational culture, to the more amorphous, such as encouraging transparency. While behaviors are associated with the areas targeted for improvement, changing something that’s more of a soft skill will likely take considerably longer than some practical, hard-skill-oriented shifts.
Consider employing a guide to help you align your employees with your company culture. If you were traveling to a foreign country, you might hire a local guide at first—someone who can help you navigate challenging scenarios and improve your interactions. Stewart Leadership’s experts can serve as your guides to help implement changes and improve alignment.
As you implement your plan, remember—aligning employees with your culture takes time, patience, and a lot of practice. Leaders may need to build trust with employees, and employees may need time to “learn a new language,” metaphorically speaking.
Focusing on aligning employees with your culture may be challenging, but the results can make the effort worthwhile. Just as someone who has become immersed in another culture comes away richer and more fulfilled as a result, your employees and your organization both can find great personal satisfaction and improved business outcomes by improving cultural alignment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant
Daniel Stewart is a sought-after talent management and leadership development consultant and coach with proven experience advising senior leaders, leading change, and designing leadership-rich organizations. He leads Stewart Leadership’s extensive consulting practice, business development, and international partnerships.
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