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Corporate Culture: How To Instill A Positive Organizational Mindset

SBI CEO, Mike Hoffman, shares about his experience as CEO and chief culture officer in his latest contribution to Forbes Business Council.

As CEO, my job is to help all the people on my team realize their full potential. Everyone comes to work with varied strengths and aptitudes. Given a person’s natural talents, different parts of the job are easier or harder. My job is to help people develop the ability to win, even when the path is winding and obscure. To do this effectively, CEOs need to establish the right environment, which means playing the additional role of chief culture officer.

Fostering A Nurturing Culture

Since problem-solving and creating alternative paths often require collaboration, a big part of success relies on organizational culture. Like any good habit, achieving a great corporate culture involves reinforcement and repetition. The following is a checklist of activities to help foster and encourage a positive company culture:

1. Submit your company for workplace awards.

Many trades have at least one publication that ranks best workplaces. As part of the process, the ranking company often conducts surveys of employees. These survey rankings may examine things like career development, employee satisfaction and leadership. So, the mere act of completing the survey is a mini-pep rally.
 

2. Promote culture in an internal newsletter.

A company newsletter is a great tool for highlighting company values and showcasing employee stories of teamwork and collaboration through personal accounts and testimonials.

3. Create corporate bonds through collective philanthropy.

Invite employees to submit meaningful community organizations or charities they would like the company to support. Caring about what your people care about can deepen loyalty and align commitments.

4. Initiate team-building exercises.
 

To level up, combine your philanthropy with a team-building exercise.  For example, our organization created a “100 million step” challenge as part of our charitable contribution, and it has evolved into an incredible teamwork exercise that has inspired our people to support one another and surpass the expectations of their own limitations. Think about how you could implement a team-building exercise with your employees.

5. Recognize and reward employees and their success stories.

Highlight people who are going above and beyond to embrace your company’s values and celebrate them publicly. At SBI, we recognize team members during our weekly All Hands meetings for living our values with the "Unforgettable Person of the Week" award. For additional recognition, we share this accomplishment on LinkedIn.  SBIers greatly appreciate this peer-nominated award.

Hiring To Preserve A Collaborative Culture

At the individual employee level, corporate culture work starts with hiring. It only takes one bad hire in a critical position to create a toxic culture. As tempting as it is to hire people with stellar resumes, it's crucial that you also prioritize hiring personality types who will thrive and grow in a collaborative culture.

I've found the key to success is not hiring people who will win at all costs, but people who will embrace teamwork to support and be supported by their team. HR should also reinforce this during the onboarding process. Many companies pay lip service to culture and collaboration during the hiring process, so it's important to reiterate to your new employees that this is a critical part of the company’s ethos, not just window dressing.

Retaining Employees And Preserving Culture In A 'Down' Economy

The current economic climate has company leaders looking for ways to reduce expenses. Many leaders who will stop short of eliminating positions may think they can cut employee benefits to preserve cash until the recession is over. Yet, if you sacrifice employee experience, you may damage your culture and lose people. The bottom line is that employee experience should never be on the chopping block.

Part of being diligent in preserving your culture requires retaining your people. Retention is usually more affordable than hiring and retraining. This is particularly true in a recession when you should focus on upselling customers and strengthening those customer relationships through your existing people.

Why Culture Beats Strategy

When it comes to mindsets, success is typically dictated by an employee's ability to find a way around a problem, whether that is exhibiting massive resolve in doing something they never thought possible or finding a different way to solve the problem. Think of the 5’9” point guard in the NBA. The athlete's height limitation was an unavoidable obstacle, but the ability to overcome that limitation and make it into the NBA is inspiring. Many of us will not have the ability to overcome such tough odds alone. However, I've found that if leadership takes the job of chief culture officer seriously, and the entire team embraces a culture of teamwork, supporting colleagues, and investing in those relationships, there is nothing your business cannot accomplish.

Author Mike Hoffman's deeper dive into this topic was recently featured in Forbes here.