Author, speaker, and award-winning company culture expert MaryBeth Hyland explains how organisations can create a healthier workplace culture for the benefit of all.
Workplace culture is the buzzword today as thousands of workplaces are hemorrhaging employees who aren’t willing to stick it out in unhealthy environments. Culture comes down to the shared values, attitudes, and beliefs that characterise members of an organisation and define its nature. It’s all about feelings and emotions that people have before, during, and after they engage with work. We all know that for better or worse, that energy lingers and crosses over the superficial work-life lines every day.
These aren’t just nice ideas. Research proves that businesses with a strong culture enjoy employee engagement and retention rates around 30 to 50% higher than those that don’t (Robert Half). Companies with strong cultures saw a fourfold increase in revenue growth (Forbes). While poor workplace cultures lead to a 157% increase in the incidence rate of moderate to severe burnout and disengaged employees can cost companies up to $550 billion a year (O. C. Tanner.)
So where do you start to learn if your culture’s health is on track or misaligned?
Consider: values × behaviour = culture
While it’s far from an exact science, this formula provides a basic framework to utilise when looking at your own culture. Company values are intended to be the heart of how you are expected to get your work done and behaviours are the specific ways that you do it.
Let’s consider the value of integrity—what behaviours could you list that were commonplace for you and your people as it relates to this value? Would they be in alignment with behaviours like transparent communication, ongoing accountability, or trusting relationships? Or might there be disconnected behaviors like siloed communication, lack of accountability, or ongoing unkept promises? When you can see and make note of the behaviours that are in or out of alignment with your stated core values, you can start to understand what’s driving your culture.
Using the formula, it might translate to something like this:
Integrity × transparent communication = intrinsically motivated, engaged, reliable.
Or on the flip side:
Integrity × lack of communication = insufficiently motivated, disconnected, unreliable.
According to Brene Brown’s research in Dare to Lead, less than 10% of organisations truly live their values. Meaning that 90% of leaders don’t practice what their values preach. When you use this framework, it’s impressive how quickly you will be able to understand whether you and your team lives are a part of that 90% or 10%. We can change these statistics today and it starts with you.
If you’re looking to ignite proven power skills to embody your company’s values to create a healthier workplace culture, begin here:
1. Meet yourself where you are, not where you want to be. Using the exercise listed above, where are your behaviours currently in alignment with your company’s values, and where are they out? Take one value at a time and think through it with intention. Be honest about what you have to celebrate and where you have opportunities to grow. To take it a step further, have your team members share their feedback too. The key is to have the self-awareness to meet yourself where you are instead of pretending you’re further along.
2. Take it one step at a time, without judgement of pace. Now that you have a better understanding of your starting point, begin to determine what needs to change in order for you to embody your values and where you can lift your proven practices up higher by sharing them with others. From the example with integrity, perhaps you’re awesome with transparent communications with your team members, but you’re not so great at it with the company at large. Ask yourself, how might I apply my skill at communicating with my smaller team to the organisation at large? Remember – you can’t do it all at once, so just start with the lowest hanging fruit and make short and long-term plans for each value in your journey to alignment.
3. Create accountability measures. This values work is all nice ideas until there’s accountability in place. Where might you be able to set benchmarks for each of your value alignment goals? And looking at the bigger picture, how might you bring your values into your hiring process, one-on-ones, annual reviews, promotions, budgets and policies? When you have firm accountability measures in place, they are truly a part of the operations that each person is expected to adhere to.
4. Look for values mentors. Mentoring is one of the best ways to feel valued and supported at work. But instead of looking at mentorship as a more established professional taking a less established one under their wing, consider values mentors. This would shift the focus to learning from someone who has mastered the embodiment of a certain value and is open and willing to share their wisdom with others who want to grow in that area. So who in your office is the picture of the value(s) you want to embody? Why not ask them if they’d teach you how they got to that point so you can nurture their proven practices in your own life?
5. Give yourself and others permission to be human. We’re all going to have bad days, we’re going to mess up and we’re going to try something new and not get it done perfectly. It’s part of the human experience. What might be possible if you owned what makes you perfectly imperfect? If you kept trying over and over again knowing that you’re strengthening a new muscle? What might the ripple effect of your self-compassion be for your team at large? It’s better to embrace yourself fully than fight against your human experience.
Each of these concepts is worthy of investing in at work and the quality of your life overall. When you can slow down, tune in and make positive steps to aligning your behaviours with your values you’ll begin to own your role and power in creating the culture around you each day. Culture exists whether or not you do anything about it, so generously start with yourself and embody your values to create a healthier environment for everyone at work.
Author, speaker, and award-winning company culture expert MaryBeth Hyland found her passion as a facilitator and mindfulness coach, engaging with leaders within all industries to create possibility and ignite alignment between their values and their actions. MaryBeth is the founder and chief visionary of SparkVision and her awards include Circle of Excellence, Innovator of the Year, and Top 100 Women. With a BA in Social Work, MS in Nonprofit Management, and over a decade of experience transforming workplace cultures into flourishing and connected communities, she is committed to values-based mindfulness in the workplace. The Washington Post, HuffPost, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal have recognised her as a powerful thought leader in workplace culture.