Creating A Corporate Culture Of Sustainability

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures Article |Sustainability|Creating A Corporate Culture Of SustainabilitySustainability isn’t just a crusade for eco-warriors or environmentalists; neither is it the latest trend on social media. The world has agreed to bring global warming to a halt, and businesses must act now to ensure they build a culture of sustainability throughout their business. Changing their core values and committing to reducing emissions.

Industry leaders now realise that there is an added economic opportunity within the fight to offer a more ecological and socially aware brand. Sustainability can enhance your relationship with the consumer and build more ground for trust. It shows your business has accountability which leads to honesty and to trust. The ability to act will help you attract your next generation of consumers, customers that prioritise ethical business practices. Your employees are also expecting you to shape up, with many of us making changes to our lives at home to help reduce global warming, it matters that our employers are doing their bit too.

It’s not possible to change overnight. You need to ensure there is a corporate culture amongst all of your internal and external stakeholders. From your shareholders through to your suppliers, every part of the business needs to believe in your focus to become a more responsible manufacturer, supplier or team.

Start by speaking to your suppliers and get to know how they are reducing their impact on the environment. Find out more on how your printer has worked to be more sustainable and what products they can offer to help reduce your carbon footprint. You may need to consider logistics, are any of the components you need for your product or services made overseas? If so, are you sure that the labor conditions are fair? Connect with your whole supply chain and find out where there are changes you can make, which will lead to a more responsible business.

You also need to talk to your shareholders. You may find that they are willing to help you invest in your sustainable future and put more money or time in to make that happen. Bringing your team together and discussing the changes you want to make to create a more responsible culture within the company could help you to highlight other ways you can improve your impact on the environment.

An area that can benefit you financially and your reputation is investing in new energy sources. Whether that is wind, solar or hydro, multiple renewable energy solutions are carbon neutral and will also lower the cost of your energy usage while protecting fossil fuels.

It’s essential that the consumer sees you act and that you communicate this through your branding and your marketing. It’s no longer enough to just talk about making changes you need to implement those changes and show your target market what you have done. This will attract respect, and you will find you have more trust from your customers. Even if your prices change slightly, it won’t deter your customers from using your services.

Departmental Culture Tribes Can Be Great Motivators

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures Article |Departmental Culture|Departmental Culture Tribes Can Be Great MotivatorsDepartmental cultures are a big thing and always have been. The strange thing is, they don’t often get talked about openly among leaders in public. However, they are talked about and encouraged behind closed doors. It’s kind of like the armed forces. The best generals all throughout history, have fanned the flames of internal rivalries in their units. If you don’t have departments vying to be better than each other, how will their fare when it comes to trying to beat the competition? Hence why good business leaders will always encourage their workforce to have cultures that symbolize their skills, abilities, and way of doing things. Department cultures can be extremely motivating, becomes a brotherhood can develop among peers who are in the same company, the same department, have the same background and are trying to achieve the same goals.

Why they exist

Departmental cultures exist because we all come from different backgrounds. The marketing professionals in your business, don’t think the same as the risk department. Although they’re on the same team, they talk differently, use specific language and if you really get down to the human psyche, they even dress in a similar fashion. The reason why departmental cultures exist is that we all come from different houses or schools. The school of economic thought is very different from the school of design. It’s kind of like a task force mentality. You’re all going to work better when you feel like you belong. And not just having but being a part of their specific culture helps many employees feel like they are in the right place.

Marking their patch

You don’t want your departments to set up boundaries because you’re all on the same team at the end of the day. But you do want to create ‘checkpoints’. These are not physical barriers or borders, but they’re subtle hints that you’ve entered a different part of town. For example, the spaces that you have allocated to your departments in the office, should have their own distinct vibe and look. You can stick custom made morale patches around the room where the different departments begin and end. For example, a custom patch might be of an artist that the design employees look up to. For the risk department, you might have an owl because they watch over everything. You might also want to have a flag of a nation that represents the department such as the sales department for your Asian partners, etc. These small things add up to the culture in a big way.

Showcase cross-departmental skills

Departments can work together to solve problems. In fact, in modern-day business, they have to. But you can encourage this further by playing a solving game. For example, the marketing team has a project for which they don’t know the risk. The risk department can work with them to analyze their specific goals and give them solutions as to what is possible. It can be completely made up scenarios, but when your employees are together in the room, they can see how each other work.

Departmental culture is vital to the life and soul of your business. Every employee should feel as if they belong. Not just in the wider business, but in a department that they can call home.

5 Myths About Combining Purpose With Profit

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures Development Article |Business Culture|5 Myths About Combining Purpose With ProfitHow do we put aside the connotation that purpose and profit can’t co-exist? Let’s start with addressing these 5 myths:

1. Purpose doesn’t resonate

According to Forbes’ analysis on Cone Communications’ 2017 CSR Study, letting employees lead around social and environmental sustainability issues from within helps a company evolve into a true leader. This goes beyond being purely philanthropic…it’s identifying ways for company employees to feel vested in the future of the company and not just “what it stands for…but what it stands up for.”

2. Purpose is the same as philanthropy

Being philanthropic is not the same as being a social impact, leader. If a company seeks to achieve some sort of social, environmental or economic development goal, philanthropy won’t cut it alone. Those businesses that have truly ingrained purpose and mission into their way of operating are doing more than giving away money or time. They are learning that changing their operations to address social impact challenges is pivotal to making the world better through their decision making, and not just by writing a check. When companies recognize that there are other needs outside of the philanthropic domain for their active engagement, making the world a better place is not only possible, it’s inevitable. And guess what?! Companies are making money this way too!

3. Companies will stay profitable no matter their view on “purpose”

Companies must answer to many constituents: employees, customers, partners, shareholders, boards, etc. ? This puts pressure on companies to be almost everywhere at once and be everything to everyone. They must make good products, provide an excellent level of service, and also invest in employee engagement and internal operations, processes, etc. It’s no wonder that many companies scoff at the added responsibility and cost of investing in other programs around “purpose.” The realization that many companies have made, however, is that these “outside” programs are way more than “nice to have.” They are indeed critical for many consumers that prioritize this level of commitment to issues other than making money.

4. Bigger companies don’t need to worry about purpose because they are already making so much money

I can name six massive companies investing in social enterprises or socially-responsible, purpose-oriented brands, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because these brands are making (more) money from them. General Mills and Annies. Kelloggs and Kashi. Clorox and Burts Bees. I could go on. Companies recognize that to evolve and stay relevant, and to make an impact in a long-term, sustainable way, they must consider different types of models, like social enterprises or B Corps, as viable and necessary partners. The notion of purpose is evolving as new ways of doing business take into account the personal and professional impact of doing the right thing.

5. Businesses are putting purpose before profit

Last year I was in Kenya for a convening of big brands and social enterprises. I was asked to facilitate a session with the big brands on partnership for social impact, and as I sometimes do in these scenarios, I led the 50 or so attendees in a “four corners” exercise where participants self select which corner of the room to stand in based on their response to: “What is the main role should business play in society?”

The answers were: (1) produce goods for consumption; (2) advocate for pro-business government policies; (3) inspire change in local communities; (4) invest in innovation.

Which answer do you think everyone picked?

Of the 50 or so participants in the room, 49 traveled to the corner assigned to “produce goods for consumption.”

A few did change their answers after we discussed what a business role in society looks like. That’s because while businesses exist to produce goods for consumption, they also exist for all of the other reasons we gave in our exercise. This may seem lofty, but it’s happening. The growth of social enterprise models is just one example of the recognition that making money and “doing good” are not mutually exclusive.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Joanne SonenshineJoanne Sonenshine is Founder and CEO of Connective Impact and author of Purposeful Profits: Inside Successful Businesses Making a Positive Global Impact, out May 22.

Culture Change – Slow Down to Go Fast

StrategyDriven Article |Workplace Culture|Culture Change – Slow Down to Go FastWhen my children were taking violin lessons and were given a new piece to learn, they would start from the beginning and race through the song at breakneck speed. One day, their teacher offered an insight that radically altered how they were able to progress. He told them that if they wanted to play fast, they would first have to practice slow. Similarly, taking the time to slow down and plan improvements to workplace culture also produces more effective results down the line.

Workplace culture isn’t something you can instantly fix, swap out, or quickly reboot. It’s not like a used car you can trade in when it no longer runs smoothly. Culture change requires culture work – and success necessitates effort and attention. Rather than being daunted by this task, we need to take a breath, slow down, and intentionally chart our course forward.

We recently worked with an organization who took the advice to slow down and take the time to invest in their long-term workplace culture to heart. Their decision was precipitated by a harassment complaint that revealed many layers of dysfunction – they could no longer ignore the impact their unhealthy culture was having.

Management was distant and unaware of the tension between employees, staff turnover was high, valued customers were leaving, and the human resources department admitted they were overwhelmed with the flood of complaints. The task of improving their workplace seemed enormous, but they decided to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Senior management started by doing a cultural assessment and mapping out a plan. They began with a number of simple fixes to jumpstart the process. They revamped their respectful workplace policy, as well as held a training day for all staff to inform them of the current cultural assessment. Supervisors and management began joining employees in the common area during breaks.

To begin the long-term work of culture change, the organization initiated dialogue with staff and instituted weekly check-ins. They also revamped their performance management process to include a quarterly focus on employees’ goals, and provided all supervisors with training on conflict resolution and how to give effective feedback. These, along with a number of other changes, started to slowly shift their workplace culture in the right direction.

Now several months into the process, they are beginning to see the positive results! Staff are happier and more engaged, which has led to better productivity and an improvement in the quality of work being done. Their human resources department feels supported by management, and complaints have dropped as supervisors gain confidence in their ability to coach and support employees.
This organization realized that it would take time to replace the unhealthy culture with a healthy one, and that it couldn’t happen all at once. As a result of their patient and intentional work, they have seen a slow but marked improvement in their culture.

Culture is often so ingrained that people take it for granted. When we recognize that there are long-standing issues that we need to address, the work ahead can feel overwhelming, but culture won’t be improved with one-off initiatives like taco Tuesday or yearly surveys. Culture develops over time, and therefore takes time to change. Taking small steps to create a culture that will become the new standard may feel like slow work, but the rewards of a healthier culture are more than worth the wait.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Wendy LoewenWendy Loewen is a mediator, facilitator, and the Training Development Specialist at ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance. She is co-author of the book, The Culture Question, and is the author of many ACHIEVE workshops including Respectful Workplace, Assertive Communication, and Performance Management. In her work as a mediator, speaker, and facilitator, she is committed to helping organizations create dynamic and engaging places of work where people care about each other, are productive, and deliver quality services and products. Wendy believes that learning is a dynamic and life-long endeavor, and with commitment, guidance, and individualized support, this process should be enjoyable and motivating.

Why Ethics are Essential for a Strong Team Culture

StrategyDriven Corporate Culture Article | Ethics | Why Ethics are Essential for a Strong Team CultureBuilding a team culture that is magnetic or lasts means better productivity, positive engagement, and higher retention. However, what has been largely overlooked by many business leaders is the essential foundation for a culture that sustains and thrives: Ethics. An understanding and common ethical language is missing for many organizations. This makes it impossible to establish a strong, cohesive culture where the interests of the individuals and the collective move forward together. In order for both the individuals and the collective whole to move forward together, a common language and appreciation for ethics is essential.

The Culture Fad

Culture is a company’s collective personality. To fit into a company’s culture, your personal attributes as a team member should be compatible with the personality of the workplace. Culture entails work environment, vibe of the people, values, and mission. Examples of cultural attributes are values like collaboration, creativity, learning, and professionalism. Culture also entails environmental preferences like a casual workplace with a dog-friendly environment. Culture entails policies and rules, like a work-from-home policy or a vacation policy. A strong collective culture fuels the individuals and therefore fuels the mission, since when the individuals are supported and motivated, they contribute toward the collective mission with energy and dedication. With a strong cohesive culture, the individuals are aligned and united around the mission, as well as around how the mission is achieved day-to-day in practice. A strong culture is one where individual peace and progress thrive, and therefore the company’s progress thrives.

Ethics as the Essential Foundation

Why are ethics essential for a strong culture to work and sustain? Ethics are principles that guide our behavior toward what is most good or guide as to what is the right thing to do in a given situation. Ethics guide how we conduct our work and how we interact with and respond to others. Aren’t these the most basic, universal actions of any organization? Surprisingly, these basic requirements can be very tough to align around without a common understanding and appreciation for what is ethical. Though the individuals in an organization may all value the work-from-home policy and free lunch, without a common understanding for how to communicate with each other, build relationships, and foster development for each person, the work environment and perks become obsolete. Though a company or team’s culture may change with time – the policies, the environment, the people, a common language for ethics are timeless. A common language, understanding, and practice of ethics is the basic foundation for any strong culture.

Modern Obstacles to an Ethical Culture

An ethical language is challenging to design and align around. Many companies define their culture as built around Integrity as a value. Most organizations describe integrity as “do the right thing” and stop there. However, this leaves many individuals asking: What is the right thing in a given situation? There are a few reasons that this isn’t so straightforward anymore. Firstly, we have become so accustomed to hearing “do the right thing” that it has almost lost its meaning. Secondly, organizations have diverse teams of individuals that have different perspectives on what “the right thing” is. Finally (and most relevant for our need for ethics now), with the fast-paced, dynamic society we live in, new products and situations arise everyday that require a newly interpreted understanding of what “the right thing”, or the ethical thing, to do really is. In many organizations, people on the same team are speaking a different ethical language and this causes misunderstandings and does not serve the mission. Many organizations believe that is human-centered action is prioritized, business progress and impact will be jeopardized. However, actually the opposite is true. If human-centered action is not prioritized, business progress and impact will be jeopardized.

Ethics in Practice

In a business environment, the culture is often professional and mission-driven, however, it so often lacks an ethical backbone. This is to say that it lacks a common understanding for what is acceptable and conducive behavior toward work and toward each other. In interpersonal situations like meetings, team projects, or when giving feedback, people do not know how to treat each other in a way that both serves individual peace and progress, as well as collective peace and progress. The result? Lack of ownership, lack of productivity, high stress, low morale, and ultimately poor retention. Teams become environments of animosity that are not aligned or focused on the mission. Without this foundation of ethics, productivity and retention are impossible. Therefore, without ethics, a strong culture is not possible. Building a culture without building it upon a common language and appreciation of ethics is like building a skyscraper on a foundation of sand. In harsh weather, when misunderstandings and debates arise, the shiny skyscraper you have built will waiver and come tumbling down.

The Solution

Ah, the good news, finally. A culture built upon a foundation of ethics is a culture that will sustain and continuously thrive. How can you build a culture that that is build upon a foundation of ethics?

To build a strong culture, you must build a common language, understanding, and appreciation of ethics into your own cultural DNA. A common language of ethics can be found in Awake Ethics. This language of ten principles is a timeless system with clear, universal appeal. The interpretation and stories from the field are from recent business experience. Next, schedule regular ethics trainings for your team every quarter. With an understanding of ethics and time to share recent experiences as a team, you will feel more confident in your own decision-making. You will have a shared team understanding about what positive, constructive collaboration and interacts look like. Finally, encourage ethics. Incorporate ethics into performance reviews and acknowledge outstanding ethical behavior. Incorporate ethics into your cultural values, as the foundational value.

A common language, understanding, and appreciation for ethics is the foundation of a strong culture. Once you have the ethical foundation in place, then feel free to add your perks, policies, and decorations. A shared practice of ethics enables individual peace and progress, which fuels collective success. Ethics align and accommodate the desires of the individuals and the whole.

Get started in building your culture upon a solid foundation of ethics.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Hilary Jane GrosskopfHilary Jane Grosskopf is the author of Awake Leadership: A System for Leading with Clarity and Creativity (2018) and Awake Ethic: A System for Aligning Your Action with Your Core Intentions (2018). She is a leadership guide, strategist, writer and Founder of Awake Leadership Solutions.