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How Is Organisational Culture Created?

Lots of organisations believe that culture happens organically, but at The Happiness Index we believe that the best organisational cultures are created mindfully. By building a positive work culture you can get the best out of your people and help everyone in your organisation thrive. Plus build your bottom line!

Organisational culture is created mindfully, as is illustrated by this image of collaboration around the table, we see several people in the background as well as laptop, phone, notebook etc.

We’ve talked before about what culture is, but actively building and maintaining your culture is an ongoing process. Something that is encapsulated by the fact that culture comes from a Latin word meaning to grow.  


Who Creates Organisational Culture?


There are two schools of thought when it comes to who should be creating organisational culture. Some people are team Top Down, while others are team Bottom Up. At The Happiness Index we think it should come from both, but more about that later


Creating Culture Top Down


The benefit of creating culture top down is that as an HR team and leadership group you have more control over work practices, policies and your vision than other people in your team. By creating culture from the top down you can ensure that culture is more uniform across departments, teams and locations. You can also help to enshrine diversity, equity and inclusion into your culture in more meaningful ways. 


BUT. There are pitfalls. Culture created top down will not be as engaging for your people because they will likely feel less integrated into the process. It’s also possible you could be implementing things that won’t work for your team or run counter to their preferred ways of working or thinking. Finally, your team needs to uphold and live the culture, so involving them from the beginning will help to ensure this happens. 


Creating Culture Bottom Up


Bottom up culture creation can avoid some of the pitfalls discussed. It allows for the creation of a culture that works for your team. 


However, there’s a risk that certain characters will hijack creation leaving others out, and it may not be as inclusive a process as you’d like. Another risk is that culture will become stagnant, with things continuing as they are because “that’s how it’s always been done” leaving newer members of the team feeling isolated and unengaged. Lastly, bottom up culture creation means that policies, philosophies and vision might be more reactive than proactive, leaving them less effective. 


The Best of Both Worlds


At THI we advocate for culture creation from both top and bottom. This is a little more challenging - it means a lot of open and honest two-way communication and ongoing touch points, you can’t set it and forget it. But we think it’s worth it. 


What Can I do to Create Organisational Culture?


Now we’ve established that organisational culture needs to be created by both your leadership team and wider employee base, the next question is “how do we get going?”


1. Assess Your Current Culture


There’s no such thing as a company without a culture, so another important step is to ensure that you understand what your current situation is and how well it’s serving (or not!) your people! Our Cultural Assessment survey is designed to help you benchmark your current culture. 


As the survey is underpinned by neuroscience we enable you to really get under the hood of what’s driving both employee happiness AND engagement within your workforce, and the powers at play when it comes to your organisational culture. 


This means you can understand what’s working well, and where you have room to improve in your current culture. Don’t forget that it’s important to segment the data you get to make sure that your culture is working for all your people. This is where our powerful analytics come in as you can dive deeper to check on particular teams, divisions or demographic groups. 


2. Define Your Values & Vision


This is where your whole culture should spring from. If you don’t have clearly defined vision or values, you’re going to be like a ship without a compass when it comes to your culture. Having a clear direction of where you want to go will be invaluable to building a workplace culture you’re proud of and that gives everyone in your organisation the environment they need to thrive. 


It is key to define your vision and values. We have a survey designed by our neuroscience experts that allows you to ascertain exactly how well you have done this by asking your employees not only how well they understand what your organisation's vision and values are but also how aligned they feel to them. 


This will give you a clear jumping off point to start creating a holistic strategy. 


What Levers Can I Pull to Influence Organisational Culture?


There are a number of factors which influence workplace culture. In order to create your organisational culture mindfully and deliberately, you will need to take all of these into account. Let’s take a look at some of the factors…


Policies


Policies are often overlooked when people are thinking about workplace culture. But, how flexible hours are, your benefits and bonus offerings, when and where people are expected to work and how teams communicate are all things that should be codified areas of your culture. Once things are written down and understood by everyone, how your team works together, and by extension your culture will become more clear. 


Work Spaces


Ensuring your physical spaces are inclusive and usable to everyone goes a long way to making sure you’re building a culture you want. Creating spaces that encourage teamwork, open communication, collaboration and so on is also important. Not all your spaces need to be physical! Virtual spaces for those working remotely are also important. 


Leadership Practices


If your leadership team never takes holiday, sends emails and expects replies late at night, or makes comments or jokes which aren’t inclusive, this will have an effect on culture. You also need leadership buy-in to ensure that your overall business strategy, vision and direction tie into the organisational culture you’re trying to create. 


Communications


How and when you communicate with your team will also have an impact on your organisational culture and how it moves between different teams, departments and locations. Without a strong communication plan you may find micro-cultures forming which aren’t aligned with your overall strategy. While it’s impossible to create a mono-culture, you still want everyone to be pulling in the same direction. Remember, communication must be two-way so that everyone feels involved and part of creating and maintaining your organisational culture. 


How Can THI Help With Creating Organisational Culture?


Two way communication is so important when creating culture. Particularly when you’re building culture both from top down and bottom up. This means having a robust system in place to facilitate feedback. Our platform has over 20 surveys designed to help you do just that! Alongside the Cultural Assessment survey mentioned before, you may consider our always-on offering. Our Employee Voice survey allows your team to give feedback whenever and wherever they want. This means that you’ll get real-time data on the success of your company culture and be able to react with more agility to the needs of your team. 

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Elle Whitehead-Smith

"Elle is happiest when given plenty of puddings, popular novels and, particularly, perfect grammar."

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