In my opinion, a good organisational culture creates an atmosphere for your staff to give you the best of their abilities. In other cases, because they believe so much in the common cause they’re willing to give you better than their best.

Most organisations feel that this is fulfilled through indoctrination, forcing all staff members to memorise the values, with senior managers doing spot checks from time to time as a confirmation of you having learned them. What an old and archaic way of doing things. Don’t get me wrong, learning about an organisation is important for any new staff member, so they’re aware of the organisation’s dos and don’ts. It’s the shoving of it down your throat that I am completely against.

In this era, being treated like a Manchurian candidate is met with the utmost resistance. Gentle persuasion is the way to go, emphasizing what stands to be gained by both employee and organisation through identifying with the organisational culture. It is, however, made easier by getting it right from the onset. Key steps to building a winning organisational culture are outlined below.

An Enabling Brand Strategy

To build a winning organisational culture, an enabling brand strategy should come first. An enabling brand strategy defines an organisation’s purpose, positioning, values, personality, behavior and proposition. An enabling brand strategy is strongly linked to the business strategy which outlines the organisation’s goal and objectives. The brand strategy thus personifies or embodies what the business intends to achieve, bringing these aspects to life from a visual and communicative expression standpoint. In addition, an enabling brand strategy also defines its target audience to fully understand their needs and wants, and also how best to interact with them from a brand perspective.

By defining the aforementioned, an employee’s role to deliver on the company’s mandate is also established, including key personality traits for individuals to excel within the organisation (based on business objectives) and the culture required for them to thrive and continue to enjoy themselves through their employ. Brand is, thus, leveraged to determine an employee’s role both at an individual and organisational level.

Recruiting Right

To enjoy your long journey, make sure you’re in the right company. After leaning on your brand strategy to outline the values, behaviours and traits you’d be looking for from your employees, it is important for your recruitment policies to also ensure that you’re hiring the right type of individuals. It is pointless to spend a significant amount of resources on knowing what your brand should stand for and then hire the wrong people to deliver on this mandate. Your organisation’s recruiters should not only hire based on experience and expertise but also recruit based on whether that individual would be a perfect fit for your company from a brand ambassadorship and organisational culture viewpoint.

Hiring the right people makes it easy for the company’s managers to sell an idea and get them to buy into a given strategic or tactical initiative. Also, if you hire the right people and there is greater organisational buy-in, the right habits are perpetuated within the company. This results in the organisation’s leadership being burdened with the right instead of the wrong things. For example, instead of clock watching and making sure people put in nine hours per day; hiring the right people and fostering the right culture results in the leader pushing people out the door because they’re enjoying the work so much they don’t want to clock out. So onboarding the right people is critical to establishing a winning organisational culture.

Use Values To Engage And Motivate Staff

Once you’ve gotten the right people on the bus, do all you can to keep them on for as long as you can. Get them to live the business. Leverage this through brand. Use brand to induct them, appreciate your purpose, believe in the differences you intend to make as an organisation. Highlight the impact you intend to make on them as individuals through their employment. Also, keep it real.

As an example, I worked for a professional services company a few years ago who invested a lot in their induction programmes. The prevailing narrative during the entire induction programme was that the organisation had a teaming culture. I was super impressed by the programme coordinator who orated with so much passion. I was sold. Fast forward to a few weeks later, I walked into an elevator with the same person, and she didn’t greet anybody and spoke to no one during the entire ascent. So much for teaming! They also didn’t tell me that for them, teaming was hierarchical, and even though they said everyone’s opinion mattered, it was always our leaders’ ideas that took center stage.

In light of this, building a winning culture is centred around being truthful to your brand’s values, personality and essence. In addition, your ambassadors should live out these values to the fullest both from an expression and behavioural standpoint. Their example sets a tone for how everyone else should behave within the organisation. Also it shouldn’t be pushed but just exhibited to allow each of your staff members to find their own way to live out what the organisation should stand for.

Collective Development And Ownership Of Culture

A winning culture leverages brand as the thread that binds the organisation together. Branding responsibility should thus not only reside with the marketing department but be owned across the entire organisation. All staff members should be given an opportunity to define what the organisation’s brand should stand for and expressed both internally and externally. The developed values and personality traits should be operationalized and lived on a day-to-day basis with rewards being given to those who exhibit them the most.

Frameworks that explain the brand’s values and behavior should not be too rigid but open enough to enable a broad spectrum to live out the brand. By allowing people to contribute to define their own culture across all departments guided by brand, you’re destined to have more buy-in and, in addition, more accountability and responsibility when it comes to living out what is defined by the brand. Collective ownership of the development of a winning culture also rids you of the brainwashing risk which results in your staff only doing what is required of them and not because they want to do it.

Breaking Down The Silos

As mentioned earlier brand is the thread that the binds the organisation together. It is also the hammer that tears down silo walls. Sadly due to specialization, responsibility and accountability for most organisation’s employees is established at a functional level. For most of the organisations’ that I’ve worked for we grouped together according to either a unit, function or organisational discipline. This resulted in us only interacting with other members of the company on a when-needed basis. Due to this approach, micro-cultures exist within the organisation that take away from a unified culture that places the organisation before a unit, function or discipline.

Brand can thus be leveraged to tear these barriers down through the development of a brand ambassador team that pushes to bring together the merits of each function’s micro-cultures to develop a unifying macro-culture that the entire organisation buys into. The brand ambassadors also facilitate greater interaction across the entire organisation to enable staff members to be part of more than just a function but an entire company. A winning culture thus breaks down silos and pushes for more internal interaction that culminates in staff identifying with a greater organisational purpose.

Keeping It Fresh

Sadly, culture dies. What is hip and happening today could be the thing that is frowned upon tomorrow. A winning culture evolves. The evolution is centred around embracing all things that push it forward including diversity, market dynamics, organisational dynamics and technology. A winning organisational culture is open to change, asking ‘what if?’ questions always, and thinks mostly about tomorrow, not today. There are several organisations which have withstood the test of time through asking questions about the future and not about today.

Where companies such as Hoover and Kodak have folded, organisations such as IBM have and continue to reinvent themselves to remain relevant in an ever-changing world that asks for new things and ways of doing things at an increasing pace. Because of this, your organisational culture, though rooted, must be flexible enough to adapt to change, be driven by an inquisition that has it thinking about tomorrow and a courage that has it taking action without hesitation when the need arises.