With so much emphasis on workplace culture, it’s no surprise that everyone associated with the business has a part to play. From the staff and managers in the office or on the shop floor to the CEO and Board of Directors, what people bring to the business shapes the corporate culture.
The attitudes, beliefs and values that are demonstrated daily have a definite impact. We’ve all heard about how managers and directors must set the tone for employees. Certainly, employees need to understand the company’s values and principles and the associated expectations for their behavior. They also need to see those individuals they report to act in a moral fashion.
However, building a positive corporate culture really does start at the top. We’re talking about the Board of Directors, a body that hasn’t always taken a very active position in monitoring and nurturing an organization’s culture. Let’s examine how Boards can have some real influence on the working culture at a company.
1. Understand Culture’s Importance
It’s critical that the Board of Directors has an appreciation for how a firm’s success depends on a strong corporate culture. This begins with the relationship between the fundamental purpose of the company and the stated values that drive the firm’s operations. In developing the strategic business model, the Board should consider the expected ethical behavior that will support the company’s goals.
The values outlined must be reasonable, logically connected to the purpose of the business, and easily understood by everyone working at the enterprise. Exploring how the most profitable companies in the industry have implemented a strong value system can assist.
2. Take It Seriously
Since they’re not charged with managing the day-to-day operations, Boards have the advantage of being able to take a long-term view of the business. Managers must focus, out of necessity, on the immediate processes and operations. While they’re responsible for nurturing a good working culture as well, managers’ daily responsibilities leave them considerably less time for this.
The Board of Directors has the opportunity and, indeed, the authority to help define and shape the company’s culture. This means taking seriously any breaches of the values that the enterprise stands by and taking action when required. There’s nothing worse than turning away from shady business practices or allegations of wrongdoing. The corporate culture should be a standing agenda item at Board meetings.
3. Start with Self-Awareness
To be effective in influencing corporate culture, each Board member must be able to ensure that their own behavior is acceptable. Not only should the Board of Directors do the right thing, but they should be seen to be doing the right thing. Members need to be above reproach if they hope others will listen to them.
It’s important for individuals on the Board of Directors to recognize the incredible power they can have and the duty to use it wisely. The ability to sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that they’ve done their best to personally uphold the firm’s values and led the way for others to do the same cannot be underestimated.
4. Assess the Environment
Next, the Board of Directors should assess the current culture of the corporation. This involves comparing what exists to what is desired. Consider how the company’s operations match with its purpose, mission, and the aligned values.
Some of this information can be gathered informally by observing interactions between staff, managers, and directors. There may be chances at events, Board presentations, or when visiting the business to see how individuals communicate with one another..
Having said that, most of the data will need to be gathered via direct conversations with the CEO and other senior leaders. Surveying all employees provides invaluable information as well.
5. Monitor Continuously
The working culture of an enterprise is subject to change, so it must be monitored. This is also the way to determine whether work done to improve the culture is having the intended effect. Ongoing monitoring gives the Board of Directors the evidence it needs to keep promoting the kind of culture that will support business success.
Setting up a small committee to more closely track cultural changes and report back to the full Board membership on a regular basis is a good move. The results of cultural oversight should be communicated to all individuals working with the firm.
Creating a cultural dashboard is an idea that can help illustrate changes and motivate people. Company morale will grow when staff learns how culture is improving.
A Last Word
A Board of Directors should remember to reward progress when it occurs. This includes making suare the performance review process rewards the desired leadership behaviors. Beyond that, publicly celebrating the strongest cultural attributes will build further strength.