Building Culture on Purpose (A Case Study)

building culture

AS AN EXECUTIVE, how much time do you spend cultivating the culture of your organization? Company culture often seems amorphous, and you may be tempted to write it off as “someone else’s job.” But, when your remote team is growing rapidly, ignoring culture can impede progress and create stress for your managers and employees. That’s just what happened to one of our clients.

Company Background

As a fast-growing, global software company with approximately 5,000 employees, it was not uncommon for the company to have around 40 percent of its staff as “new hires” each year. However, this rapid growth can also lead to issues with company culture and the connection between executives and their teams.

Uncovering the Culture Problem

My team and I conducted over one hundred interviews with employees across various departments, countries, and management levels. We determined that culture was inconsistent within the company. Specifically, the executive team had lost touch with the various cultures that were forming in different departments and offices. Because executives weren’t building culture intentionally, they couldn’t manage it.

In addition, we reviewed public reports and internal documents. It was quickly apparent the company lacked clearly defined processes, procedures, expectations, roles, and responsibilities, which made it difficult for both leaders and employees to make decisions.

While many of the leadership team and employees were supportive of the findings and recommendations, some executives were hesitant to let go of the “startup” culture that had originally attracted them to the company.

Key Takeaways

The biggest takeaway for the executives, in this case, was the realization that good culture doesn’t happen by chance. It cannot be managed or maintained organically as a company grows from a startup to a global enterprise. Executive leaders should not only set business goals, but also set the culture they hope to nurture, with clarity, specificity and intention.

One of the biggest challenges for the team was identifying their success measurements. Without clear definitions and ongoing socialization of culture-related terms, teams had no basis for enforcing policies, procedures, and behavioral expectations. This lack of consensus and accountability made it difficult for managers and employees to work together effectively.

Clarity and Consistency Build Culture

We provided several short-term recommendations to improve performance. These included clarifying roles, responsibilities, and policies; strategically integrating the diversity and inclusion function; and operationalizing human connection within and across teams. We also advised leaders at every level of the organization, from executives to front-line managers, to be accountable for scheduling and conducting regular one-on-ones with their direct reports.

Better One-on-Ones with AIM Insights

Leaders should hold one-on-ones monthly, if not weekly, with both their direct and second-level reports. They can maximize these conversations through the use of training, templates, and third-party software solutions like AIM Insights. AIM Insights can provide data and coaching to the leaders of this organization on how to drive their team’s performance, empathize with their team’s concerns, and ensure consistency across the culture. (Disclaimer: Lead at Any Level is an authorized distributor of AIM Insights. Learn how to get your first month free by booking an exploratory call.)

In Summary

The work you do in your organization matters. Focusing on how you get the work done—your culture—is critical to your success. Use every communication channel available, from the employee handbook to hallway conversations, to set clear and consistent expectations.

amy waninger

Amy C. Waninger (pronouns: she/her/hers) works with organizations that want to build inclusive cultures and diverse leadership pipelines for a sustainable competitive advantage. She also works with emerging and aspiring leaders who want to create opportunity for themselves and others. As a leader, speaker, author, and consultant, Amy is passionate about helping others achieve their full potential at work. She is committed to lifelong learning, and inspires others to expand their knowledge and skill sets. Learn more at www.leadatanylevel.com.

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