I saw a meme on LinkedIn recently that read “Company Culture is not an HR function, it comes from the top.”  I really thought that was powerful.  Some people wouldn’t think that culture is something an amusement park, an entertainment center or really any small business would need to worry about.  However, what’s interesting about culture is that, regardless of whether or not we think about it, it exists in every single organization.  I’m new to CenterEdge and one of the things I’ve been charged with as “an outsider” is to help assess our current company culture.  The idea is to ensure that we’re portraying ourselves and our company the right way.  While this may not seem that brave of an initiative for a company to take, imagine inviting a complete stranger into your home and asking them to tell you, with absolute honesty, whether or not your baby is ugly. And you’ve given them truth serum.   Sound terrifying?  Well, it’s exciting!  Okay, for the team it’s probably one part terrifying, two parts exciting but I have never been more thrilled by a team’s ‘top down’ level of readiness to tackle a tough challenge like this.   

In 2015 Deloitte surveyed over 3,300 businesses for their annual Global Capital Trends Survey. It came to the conclusion that, while lots of people want to know about company culture, many fewer are actually ready to do something about it. And why is that? Well, it’s hard, for one. No one wants to hear that their baby is ugly (I’m sure yours is beautiful).  Taking feedback is a tough skill to master (as is giving it).  Effecting change means learning new habits and behaviors.  Is it worth it? You decide.

First, what is company culture?  Simply stated it is a system of shared assumptions, values and attitudes. These will create a philosophy that dictates not only the way employees treat each other, but ultimately their customers as well.  Think about it.  It’s more than just whether or not team members want to take on extra projects or stay with you long term.  What if your facility had a culture that believed teens were lazy workers? How do you think team members would treat each other or even your teen guests?  What if you had a culture that suggested information should be given out only on a “need to know” basis, how willing do you think a team member would be to explain to a guest why they couldn’t bring in outside food?  Or the need to walk instead of run? So now you might be thinking, “I’m convinced! But where do you start?”  You’re half way there!

In order to take on a culture initiative, below are a few steps to help:

  • Assess the current culture: Take an unbiased look around. How are your team members treating each other and your guests? Read your guest feedback in surveys and online.  While onsite, ask guests what they like and what could be better about your service. Survey team members.  Survey Monkey and Qualtrics have lots of free resources with good questions to ask and templates to use.
  • Decide the culture you want to have: My biggest advice here is not to do this in a room with just a couple of managers. Get your teams together and decide on the fundamental values that you hold dear about the people you serve, both externally and perhaps more importantly, internally. From there decide what key behaviors are necessary to stay true to those values.
  • Take action: If you wait for the perfect action, you’ll always be waiting. It’s often more important to act at all than to do so perfectly. Make a plan with desired actions and behaviors and get moving. Then be the change, as Gandhi said. It starts with you modeling what you want from your team.
  • Manage the shift: As you see changes, small changes and large, honestly any movement in the right direction, praise them. Build a culture where doing the right thing is sought after, visible and rewarded. Praise your team. Encourage them to praise others. Create a system where teammates feel comfortable identifying one another when they’re living the values, and when they’re not.

Think it will be easy? Absolutely not. But it’s worth it.

Purpose, once found, creates passion.

You might make mistakes. But you also might make history.  Are you ready?

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