Let’s start with the opposite end of the spectrum and explore how an unhealthy workplace culture impacts growth.
What does a toxic workplace culture look like?
Have you ever worked in a place where one of more of these factors was evident:
- People didn’t make you or others feel welcome, involved and included
- It was risky to admit you had made a mistake or got something wrong because you would feel punished or told off in some way
- There was little support, opportunity or encouragement for learning, development and professional growth
- There was too much pressure to deliver unrealistic expectations
- Goals and targets were set by senior leaders and you were told what to do, rather than being involved in shaping your work priorities
- Information was disseminated via rumour and gossip far more so than organisational communication
- Teams worked in a silo, focused on their own priorities with little or no cross-cutting interaction to align with the overall company growth plan
- Where in the end you left because whilst the work could be interesting, you weren’t enjoying your job because of your relationship with your manager and / or other colleagues
If you can identify with one or more of these factors, now take a moment to reflect on how you felt when you worked there. Were you able to grow, as a person, as a professional? Or was most of your energy taken up with doing your best to get the job done, despite the culture?
Why is workplace culture important?
If you’ve experienced an unhealthy or toxic workplace, you know and understand why a healthy culture is essential for business growth! And that’s because it takes conscious effort, time, resources and consistently authentic, adaptive leadership to create a positive organisational culture and the behaviours that are aligned with the company values and how we want to do things round here.
So why is it that humans need a certain set of cultural conditions in order to be able to grow a business? In some ways, it’s really simple and in other ways it gets complex!
Simply, all humans have the same core needs to feel safe, included and valued. We’re talking about both physical and psychological needs here. Once we have those basic needs met, we are much more able to connect with others, learn, contribute and collaborate.
If those needs are unmet, or unmet for too long or inconsistently, we find it much harder to step out of the patterns of behaviour we have developed to get those needs met, and work effectively with others.
Company performance and growth
Creating a healthy corporate culture is such a critical investment for any business that wants to grow. Much can be achieved within a culture that isn’t healthy, but as people’s loyalty, commitment and willingness to give discretionary effort starts to run dry, not only will morale drop but so will performance. At that point, organisational growth becomes much less likely.
That’s a simple explanation of why at the most basic level, we want to create positive organisational cultures so that the people working within them can do their jobs, well, productively and effectively. Without that, there is likely to be a significant risk that the aspirations for growth won’t be achieved.
The benefits of a positive culture in the workplace
When we are able to create the kind of culture in which people feel psychologically safe, welcomed, included, valued, supported, encouraged and rewarded for transparent value-driven behaviours, then we have created a culture within which the next natural evolution is business growth, innovation, creativity.
That’s because once our basic human needs are met, our “higher order” needs for personal and professional fulfillment, to contribute, to make a difference, to do something that you feel proud of and inspired by, kick in. At this point, we can collaborate much more effectively, we can achieve much more together and what may have seemed like an impossible growth dream in an unhealthy culture can become a reality in a healthy one.
The challenges of changing your organisational culture
It gets more complicated when we overlay the simple explanation of basic human needs with the number of people in a team or business, the individual nature of how we behave, this history of the organisation, previous and current leadership styles. All of this will impact our behaviour and our need to get our needs met, or keep them met, whether we are aware of that or not.
How to improve workplace culture
Here at There Be Giants, we have significant experience of helping leaders create healthy cultures and have developed a number of principles around how to do this:
- Senior leaders must be aligned in communicating the vision and consistently role-model the behaviours you want, and appropriately challenge and address the behaviours you don’t want, in themselves and with others
- Engage and involve as many people at all levels, locations and roles as possible in dialogue about culture, values and behaviours
- Recognise that you can’t impose a culture, values or behaviours on people – help them connect to it in their own way and then you’ll bring hearts and minds with you
- Use an organisational cultural values assessment or team psychological safety assessment to give you baseline data. We can only manage what we measure and these assessments are great for helping us understand the current culture, what and how you want the culture to be and what needs to change in order for that to happen.
The great news is that implementing OKRs is a great way to create more healthy culture. Successful OKR implementation requires psychological safety, a healthy culture, a shared understanding and commitment to values and behaviours and engaging everyone in the team.
It’s also important to remember that you will have to pay attention to and work on cultural issues while you go through the OKR process. If you don’t, chances are the roll-out will take longer, it will become more challenging and you won’t see the growth you want. But bringing in OKRs with conscious focus effort on culture, values and behaviour alongside the implementation will make a difference.
We’re always happy to talk about culture. So, if you’re wondering where to start and how to approach this in your own organisation, we often find that a few hours “thinking time” with us is enough to identify your approach and how to get going.
Get in touch today to get started!