Every CEO knows that a healthy culture is a vital part of the business. Despite this knowledge, however, few CEOs take the time to work at it, and fewer still get it right. Developing a culture that supports a comprehensive human capital strategy might not be easy, but it need not be shrouded in mystery. The following are time-tested practices essential for building and sustaining a successful corporate culture.
1) Create a mission, vision, and values statement
This task is the first step to establish a culture, and it’s so elementary it almost doesn’t bear repeating. Almost. In truth, leaders do overlook this basic practice. In some cases, the mission, vision, and values statements are created but never updated, so they become stale and inert. In other cases, these statements are articulated but never acted upon—philosophical wallpaper.
The values statement is particularly important because it provides moral guidelines for how employees (and execs) should act. Strong values (integrity, accountability, perseverance, embracing change—to name a few of Insperity’s values) are the building blocks of a successful culture. But good ideas, however eloquently expressed, are not enough. You must also…
2) Hire the right people
A culture is only as good as the people who embody it. For that reason, you have to hire the right people—those who are not only proficient in their job but who also fit well within the spirit of the organization. The kind of people who will bring a positive attitude and collective, teamwork-oriented outlook, who are inspired by those around them and in turn inspire their colleagues as well. It can be hard to quantify “culture fitness,” but in time you (or a good hiring manager) will develop an instinct for picking individuals who operate on the same cultural wavelength.
3) Employee surveys: Taking the organization’s temperature
Even if you’re a hands-on kind of executive, don’t assume you’ll always understand how your employees are thinking and feeling. Conducting annual, anonymous employee surveys is an excellent way to find out how well you’re upholding your values—and where you’re falling short. Don’t take these insights for granted; failing to acknowledge the employee feedback and make adjustments in your organization can result in disengaged employees who don’t feel valued.
4) Show the culture
Actions speak louder than words. Showing the culture simply means practicing the core values in visible ways, and doing so consistently—daily, if possible—so that these values become part of the very fabric of the organization.
You must think long-term. Organizational cultures are sustained over time. Creating programs that support the core values “institutionalize” the culture and help solidify it as a permanent part of the business’ identity.
5) Maintain a giving spirit
Philanthropy doesn’t necessarily have to be part of every organization’s culture, but it is certainly a cornerstone of ours. “Contributing to the communities where we live and work” is one of our values and something we practice through charitable giving and volunteer programs. Our employees also maintain strong support networks and hold generous fundraising drives for colleagues in need. These measures aren’t just PR stunts or feel-good initiatives; they reinforce the positive, uplifting spirit that is the emotional core of any successful culture.
Over the years as I have focused on building Insperity, my leadership team has revisited these five principles many times, focusing on taking care of our people and preserving the culture that has strengthened our company for more than 30 years.
Over the years as our leadership team has focused on building Insperity, we have consistently put these practices to work many times, focusing on taking care of our people and preserving the culture that has strengthened our company for more than 30 years.
More insights on developing a winning People Strategy can be found in my book, Take Care of Your People: The Enlightened CEO’s Guide to Business Success.