Most business owners recognize the importance of developing a coherent company culture. Actually, doing so, however, can be one of the most challenging aspects of business ownership, as it involves drawing together employees from very different backgrounds and with very different sets of values, uniting them behind a common goal. Most organizations have a strategic plan for sales, marketing, and finance; however, very few organizations have a strategic plan for how they are going to develop their culture in the year ahead. We encourage you to include culture as part of your Goal Planning session.
As the business owner along with HR leads the culture building efforts, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the most common pitfalls and obstacles. Here are a few of the most notable.
Obstacles to Effective Culture Building
- Developing a culture that can scale. Establishing a shared vision and a common set of values is one thing when you are early in your entrepreneurial journey and have a small startup team, consisting of just a handful of people. As the company grows, it can be challenging to sustain the culture; however, infusing the company’s core cultural values into the hiring and onboarding processes can be a good start. Developing a curriculum and regular training for all employees that focuses on each of the values helps keep everyone from the business owner to the newly hired employee aligned.
- Contending with “office politics.” Another common problem is having employees who are eager to get ahead in their careers, to the point that they may disregard your cultural values or simply not be as committed as they could be to building a coherent team. Again, a critical safeguard is to hire employees who are aligned with the culture and who already jive with your vision and values
- Lack of trust. It can be tough to build a meaningful culture if your leaders don’t have sufficient trust in the rest of the team. You can curb this tendency by being clear in defining roles and expectations, and in ensuring employees have the resources they need to succeed.
- Lack of appreciation. Another impediment to culture building is when employees feel like their hard work isn’t fully appreciated, making them less eager to buy into your company’s broader sense of mission. Be sure you have an infrastructure in place to express appreciation and to offer meaningful feedback through ongoing conversations, without forcing team members to wait for their annual review.
- Lack of transparency. It’s also problematic when team members feel like there’s no transparency among leadership. Company-wide feedback systems, including regular town hall meetings and small group discussions, can be helpful here.
Addressing Common Problems with Culture Building
These are just a few of the obstacles you might run into as you devote yourself to the work of culture building. We’d love to talk with you more about practical solutions to any problems you’ve experienced. Reach out to WhiteWater Consulting any time you’d like to chat.