In Part One and Part Two of this series I talked about creating jobs that are challenging and enjoyable, and about getting the right people into the right jobs. Now let's talk about building the culture you want.
Culture is an extraordinary, powerful force in a company. It can make everyone happy and productive or miserable and unprofitable.
Almost everyone has worked in a company with a bad culture. In fact, one of my pet theories is that bad managers and bad cultures create independent consultants. We hate the way someone else is running the company, so we start our own. At least when you're self-employed, your culture is consistent with the boss.
It may not be obvious why a three-part series on employee happiness concludes with a discussion of culture. Quite simply, culture is the ongoing set of habits and behaviors that reinforce everything you do in your business. If you create great job descriptions and hire great people, it will mean nothing if your style of management doesn't reinforce every day that your employees are valuable, trusted, and critical to your success.
Any environment can be "poisoned" with bad attitudes. Good attitudes flow from the top down. Good culture happens on purpose - never by accident. It requires that you set the goals and hold the evaluations that guide employees, give them feedback, and allow them to achieve great things. It requires that you pay attention to the tone and the feel of communications within your business.
Culture is an interesting combination of values and habits. It is, in a sense, the living reflection of your company values within your company behavior. Culture is visible in a way that values and mission statements are not. So you have to constantly work to implement the culture you want - one behavior at a time.
Beyond the "rules" you want people to follow and the checklists you give them to complete their work, culture involves the very generalized values of supporting each other, respecting each other, and working on the overall environment that employees belong to. I always say, nothing happens by itself. Well, culture can happen by itself. There will be some culture, whether you create it or not. But YOUR culture won't happen by itself. You need to decide what kind of employer and manager you want to be. Then you need to be consistent in doing whatever it takes to make that happen.
I always enjoy creating a work environment where people are challenged, doing the right job, and where employees feel appreciated and valued. And even though I can't make other people happy, I can create an environment that allows people to be happy. In the long run, I think that's very good for my business.