What does it take to create a healthy company culture?

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Starting with the basics, we know every business’ culture begins before the company’s founder opens the door to conduct business.

Initially, the culture is built from the business leader’s personal values, beliefs, education and experience.

But, what happens on “day two?”

When employees join the company, they bring their own set of personal values, beliefs, education and experience.

If the company’s leader constructed the culture on a foundation that included a rock-solid and straightforward mission, vision and set of values, it will be easier for employees to integrate their personal cultures into that of the business.

On the other hand, if the culture is weak, lacks focus and motivation – and instead promotes an “us and them” mentality (management vs. employee, department vs. department, company vs. customer or vendor) – most aspects of the business will be more difficult for everyone to achieve than it needs to be.

Every business should be working on its culture, every day, and forever. It’s not the kind of thing that can be worked on one day, put aside the next and addressed only when it’s convenient.

Healthy business cultures evolve when everyone knows why the company exists and where it is going, and feels connected to the values. As a result, positive attitudes, behaviors and actions will be more consistently modeled throughout the company, and the healthy culture will continue to gain momentum.

And, the momentum will drive improved personal and company wide performance, as well as a better quality of life.

Can healthy company cultures require periodic adjustments or alignments? Absolutely. Humans are human, things change and life happens.

But, in a healthy culture, people are usually quicker and more responsive to repairing the gaps before they become too damaging.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Neither can healthy business cultures. Just look at global giants such as Wal-Mart and Google, or companies based closer to home such as Wegmans, East Penn Manufacturing, Just Born and Sealstrip Corp.

These companies may have faced many challenges and changes over the years. But, by continuing to consistently work on their cultures, they have gained brand awareness, respect and significance that can only be achieved and sustained when a company has a culture that everyone in the company owns.

What does your company culture look like, sound like, feel like and smell like today? Is it a culture that promotes engagement, growth and development of the people who help build its success?

At the turn of the last century, New York City received people from all over the world who wanted to build better lives for themselves and their families.

Even though most of the people who immigrated to the new world wanted to assimilate and become part of the fabric of this country, many were challenged by the different set of rules and laws.

As the individual cultures became more homogeneous, New York City gained the reputation of being a melting pot. The culture of the city became a fusion of nationalities, individual cultures and ethnicities, making it at the time one of richest and most sought-after places to live in the world.

From the port of entry to the places where people lived, worked, worshipped, educated their children, and shopped, every aspect of life for the new citizens was different than anything they had known before. And, as more people arrived, things continued to change, except for the rules and laws that governed the people.

Every time an employee joins a company, it is a “new world” to them.

New York City’s rules and laws remained consistent. Is your company culture rock solid, making it easier for employees to assimilate?

New York became one of the most sought-after places to live. What will it take for your company to be sought after by top talent?

NYC gained the status of a melting pot. Melting pots are the creating of one community. How does your company culture create one community in the business?

You must make time to do the work:

(1) Make time to identify the company values. Apply fair process to gain input from others in the company. Make sure the values are clearly stated, understood, acknowledged and supported by everyone in the company.

(2) Make time to find the right people. Network and interview until you find the right people. A candidate who has the technical skills, but lacks passion and commitment, may not be a good fit for the company, regardless of the industry.

(3) Make time to take action with people who have not earned, or have lost the right to be part of the company. Those who have made a commitment to the company will probably say “thank you,” or ask “what took you so long?”

(4) Make time to communicate with employees frequently and consistently. Keep in mind listening also is a key element of good communication.

(5) Make time to celebrate the diversity and value that employees bring to the company. Let them know they are appreciated, and specifically why they are appreciated.

(6) Make time to invest in the company’s number one asset – its people – and get the people invested in what they do within the company. Don’t get distracted running the businesses and forget to grow the people who are helping to grow the businesses. Help them grow, so they can help the company grow.

Bonnie Sussman-Versace, business leader, entrepreneur and principal of Focused LLC in Wyomissing, is dedicated to helping business leaders and their teams achieve work environments that foster cultures of excellence, improved quality of life and bottom-line performance. She can be reached at bversace@focusedllc.net.

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