If you have applied your best efforts, but are still missing your business goals, perhaps there is an invisible culprit.
If your organization has invested time, effort, and money to create a future-focused strategy, yet the plan is unsuccessful, costs are over-run, and meeting objectives are still elusive, some may point to the market. Others may claim breakdowns are caused by competition, employees, budget, or the plan. Yet the problem may be more fundamental: your culture.
If your company culture has drifted from aligning with company purpose and the supporting business strategy, or if it is unhealthy and potentially falling into problematic patterns, you’ll experience a blockade to achieving business goals. And, you’ll hear comments like:
“Our company talks about its positive values. They’ve even got them written on the walls. But it’s just a poster – in reality, they do the opposite.”
“Everyone here does at least two jobs.”
“Who do you turn to for personnel issues if human resources is the problem?”
“I don’t really care anymore.”
To find strengths within your culture, as well as identify and understand blind spots, mis-alignments, or even toxicity, an introductory culture assessment will take a look inward so you can redirect commitments and actions that will truly map to achieve intended results.
We’ve identified nine signals outlined below to help you identify when to take a closer look and plan for effective action:
symptoms experienced when strategy is eaten by culture
Sometimes it is unclear what broken culture looks and sounds like. But there are telltale symptoms, and if these appear familiar and indicate the health of the organization’s culture, let’s talk.
1. 'No' Is Not in the Dictionary
When employees refrain from speaking up and saying “no”, it indicates your culture expects approval only…versus authenticity and thoughts that could protect or propel your organization forward. This leaves you to operate blindly in an artificial environment. People who disagree with you or express concerns can be one of your strongest assets, because they see what you might be missing and allows you to strategically address it for an improved ooutcome.
2. Limited Talk About Innovation
Innovation is vital to the survival of a company. Low levels of communication about innovation are culture indicators…warning signs that leaders can recognize and change. If communication around innovation remains low and reduced attention continues to trend culturally, leaders can anticipate challenges ahead to the longevity of business and the ability to continue building the company for the future.
3. Aversion to Taking Risks
Lack of innovation is often a symptom of a culture that is risk-averse. If employees are penalized or feel they cannot take a risk for fear of retribution, they will be less likely to try new approaches or even perform to the best of their ability. How people experience responses and rewards affects your behavioral norms within your culture.
4. Cross-Departmental Collaborations Stall Out
The lack of a central company vision or strategy may make it harder for employees to see where they fit into the mission of the larger organization and team. This impacts their understanding of how to effectively connect and collaborate. Also, if employees in different departments seem to get along but fail to engage in collaborative efforts across departments , it is a signal that organizational culture is siloed and thus limiting your maximum results.
5. Something other than Meritocracy Is the Guiding Star for Promotions/Opportunities
If you lack inclusion of a diverse workforce and perspective, then unaddressed unconscious bias and playing favorites can result and are signs that company DNA is missing the value of an embedded meritocracy mindset. High employee turnover, diminished capacity for innovation, and smaller talent pools are symptomatic consequences of ignoring meritocracy among your talent.
6. High Attrition Rates
One of the most consistent and critical signs of a struggling culture is high attrition rates. Talented people typically don’t leave a company, but they do flee bad bosses and the toxic cultures they create – and often end up strengthening your competitor! If your HR is doing several EEOC investigations, you are experiencing high turnover, or you have unusually high rates of people being fired, you can register this as a signal of a toxic environment.
7. Disgruntled, Rude Employees
Employees who are disgruntled, complain, gossip, become rude and offensive, or the opposite may happen where employees shut down and isolate completely in self-preservation.
8. Fear, Apathy, Exhaustion, and Over-Politeness
Employees who avoid speaking transparently with their leaders and react with fear, apathy, exhaustion, or over-politeness are expressing a few cultural behaviors that negatively influence and create a systemic toxic work environment. With respectful, candid and timely feedback, leaders are able to affect improvement across the organization in a continuous and healthier way and there are exceptional new performance and coaching models that can help if expertly implemented.
9. Colleagues are Routinely Thrown Under the Bus
Blaming others for failed results is a typical indicator of mistrust. In these situations, people are protecting their own immediate interests even though doing so creates long-term problems for them and the entire organization. A healthy culture has created a basis of trust for their foundation for teamwork and collaboration, and that removes the bus from the organization!
From an inability to successfully implement strategic plans, to a failure of retaining talent, an organization with a toxic culture will consistently find themselves fighting an uphill battle – unable to grow or operate successfully. The good news is that there are ways to evaluate and fix company culture, and we will guide you along as we explore how in the rest of this series.
Stay tuned for the next blog posts in the series where we will cover:
The Case for Culture: Why employees and customers care about culture
How Did We Get Here?: A perspective on some root causes for a culture in need
How to Improve Your Company or Team Culture
How to Align your Culture to Your Brand and Impact Your Strategy
How to Tell if You’ve Done Enough
Credera is here to help. We can rapidly conduct a Culture Assessment which will provide you with a temperature check highlighting the health of your culture and suggests a road map for maturity. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more about our Culture Alignment engagement.