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What makes a company thrive, not just survive? It’s culture.

Culture, which is unique to an organization, can enable it to retain talent, build loyalty, goodwill and inspire teams to perform better, thus helping an organization not just survive, but also thrive. But culture is by design and deliberate practice, not by chance.

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Culture is anchored in actions, practices, behaviors, and mindsets. It is the sum total of all interactions among colleagues – every conversation, PowerPoint, e-mail, Zoom meeting – at every level of the organization. It lays out expectations, draws boundaries, and guides interactions between colleagues, customers and the community. Over time, culture can lend an organization its identity. For instance, over the years, the Tata Group has become renowned for integrity while Amazon is known for its customer-centricity.

Culture, which is unique to an organization, can enable it to retain talent, build loyalty, goodwill and inspire teams to perform better, thus helping an organization not just survive, but also thrive. But culture is by design and deliberate practice, not by chance. And, culture is not the job of the HR function or one team. It is owned and practiced by everyone in the organization. That is why, it is essential to persistently nurture good work culture. 

Sustain and maintain good work culture

Culture requires careful and purposeful nurturing to develop into an ecosystem. Here’s how companies can sustain and maintain good work culture:

• Lead by example

Leaders are at the core of organizational culture. They can inspire the workforce by demonstrating the company’s values and beliefs. Culture and leadership are thus intricately linked. Leaders need to walk the talk and own the culture. And that means modelling their behavior and actions to exhibit the values of the company. Everything from the way you communicate, make decisions, celebrate wins, respond to crisis and setbacks reflects, affects and shapes the company culture. To a large extent, this in-turn travels top-down, and is emulated by employees and teams.

• Build cultural ambassadors

Employees who act as ambassadors can personify the company’s values and demonstrate cultural characteristics in their interactions with colleagues as well as customers. These ambassadors help in permeating culture across all levels of the organization both through structured (workshops, team meetings) and unstructured sessions.

• Link to rewards & recognition

Reward those who uphold cultural traits and values, and demonstrate it in their work and interactions. This can be done through formal rewards and recognition programs, at an individual, team and company level.

• Link to performance assessments

Performance assessments are linked to culture as decisions on appraisals and promotions are not just about organizational needs or salary hikes. Evaluate what is good for the individual and factor in attributes such as their actions, and attitude towards work and colleagues.

• Constant communication

Communication is a useful tool to help sustain and maintain culture. In addition to traditional forms of communication, it is essential to have transparent channels to keep employees up-to-speed, whether the information is positive, negative or neutral. Creating a forum like a regular leadership townhall can enable two-way communication which not only helps build trust and commitment, but also motivate employees to perform better and care more for the company. There should also be appropriate communication on what constitutes acceptable behavior, what befits the company culture and, more importantly, what does not. This can be communicated and nudged through inductions, workshops and feedback.

• Look for cultural traits in potential hires

While its crucial to nurture culture among existing employees, it’s equally important to make sure that new joiners hold similar values. Evaluate candidates not just for technical skills but also for personality and behavioral traits to determine whether they fit-in culturally. More importantly, create radar detectors for early warning signs to identify cultural misfits. To a large extent, this will ensure that your company culture is maintained and remains unhampered by conflict.

Maintaining culture is more important now, in the new normal 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been, undoubtedly, the most disruptive event in recent times. In an unprecedented situation like this, rife with uncertainty, the only thing that binds us all is culture.

Like many organizations, Ugam is also navigating the global pandemic. And as we do so, we are reimagining employee engagement in a virtual world, staying close to our employees and customers to truly understand their needs, identifying new and relevant business propositions, and constantly evaluating and managing risk. And as we have done for 20 years, we continue to be driven by our culture which is characterized by a passion to succeed, going the extra mile, freedom and openness based on trust, flexibility with responsibility, and fun at work.  

'Culture is the glue that binds everyone together. Companies in which culture is meticulously crafted and woven into the fabric of the organization, can thrive in and beyond the pandemic.'

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Sunil Mirani

The author is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ugam, a Merkle Company

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