Perhaps you’ve experienced this. There are are tense workplaces and others that feel invigorating, motivating yet comfortable.
Why are they so different?
Most would argue the culture.
Understandably this drives many brokers with larger offices and multiple branches to wonder how they can improve their company’s culture in a tangible way to impact the motivation (and most likely the results) of those working there.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no set way to build an organization's culture.
But there are guides. In fact authors Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, J. Yo-Jud Cheng provide a handy framework in their Culture Factor for diagnosing your office’s culture from which you can plan how to turn things around.
What is an organization’s culture?
Investopedia defines corporate culture as the beliefs and behaviours that set how an organization’s team members interact with each other and clients.
So in essence, it’s how people think and behave in your organization.
They point out that culture is usually not openly declared, but happens just naturally as the result of who works in your team and how you have setup your business.
Why care about company culture?
Thankfully, research has shown that improved company cultures do impact organizational effectiveness. Companies that have better cultures have:
- more satisfied employees
- lower team member turnover
- better financial performance
Building a culture: Where do you stand now?
In order to build a culture, it is worthwhile to understand first what is your current workplace like?
In the Culture Factor, the authors explain that you can understand culture by two main factors:
How people interact with each other
How people deal with change
People may interact and rely on each other in one organization, whereas in another they may be highly independent. Much like an individual agent versus a real estate team versus your office administration staff.
Likewise, in some workplaces, your team members are very open to new developments in the industry such as new technologies, techniques or new market opportunities. In others, like presumedly large established old industries, people may prefer to maintain stability and take less risks with new ideas.
From these two factors you can draw a classic 2x2 grid which plots out 8 different styles of organization based on their openness to change and interactions between team members.
These 8 types each show a different combination of company culture, with their own pros and cons:
- Caring - Warm workplaces with great teamwork, engagement, and belonging but may have too much focus on consensus and be less open to other ideas and competitiveness. This style is fairly dominant.
- Purpose - Idealistic and tolerant environments can feature good diversity, sustainability and responsibility focus, but may focus too much on the long term and ideals rather than practical issues.
- Learning - Inventive exploratory organizations are more innovative, agile and open to learning across the organization at the risk of losing focus and under exploiting existing advantages.
- Enjoyment - more employee morale, engagement and creativity - but may have too much autonomy and lack discipline.
- Results - better execution, external focus and goal achievement. However, this may create communication and collaboration issues, with increased stress. This is another dominant style.
- Authority - decisive and dominant workplaces that improve decision making speed and responsiveness. The risk is increased office politics and increased conflict.
- Safety - realistic and careful office spaces, stable and better at handling risk. May standardize too much and become too rigid through bureaucracy.
- Order - rule and co-operation driven environments can be more efficient and reduce conflict. However they may lower individualism and creativity, making the organization less agile.
Using the above, you can see how your own organization stacks up. Are the majority of your team members in a safety style culture? Do they clash with other colleagues who prefer to enjoy their work environment and work independently, in a more enjoyment style culture?
Thinking about Zipi from this perspective, we apply the same framework to our organization.
- We know that we promote individual responsibility primarily, yet all Zipi staff are required to work well with others.
- We enjoy fielding new ideas and trialing new techniques or technologies - keeping us open to how the market changes and the needs of our users.
- We are focused on making our platform an amazing, powerful and simple experience for our users, and we expect our team members to have a passion for it.
Using this framework, the authors suggest you can then get a grip on how your current culture has developed.
What does amazing mean for you? How will you get there?
With this model you should be able to understand your current culture. With this in hand, the authors suggest you can now think through what culture you would like to move towards and take several steps towards change.
The key consideration here is whether or not your culture fits with your business goals.
For example, do you need to improve openness to change in order to accommodate changes including technological, technique or consumer preference changes in the market? Or do you need to improve autonomy and goal focus.
With your ideal culture determined, you can now take steps towards recruiting and changing your workplace to support or reinforce your ideal workplace culture.
The possible changes that you could make to a workplace are likely to depend on the goals and existing culture. However, examples of this in practice could involve:
- Implementing additional rewards for results achieved, to promote results driven workplaces
- Adding evaluation criteria to staff reviews, such as teamwork or recognizing innovation to improve interdependence or openness to change
- Hosting team building events which require colleagues to work together to solve particular challenges
- Giving staff opportunities to test or implement new technologies or procedures, etc.
No framework can provide a failure-proof method to diagnose and change a culture, however the guide provided by the Culture Factor can be a useful way to understand the workplace environment. We hope this article helped you spur ideas to promote or reinforce an effective organizational culture.