Beyond a Buzzword
Though “culture” has received renewed, the emphasis on culture has been a core component of Vault’s strategic and operational focus since the firm’s inception. Organizations that make this investment in culture—in their people, processes, and core values—during ordinary times are more prepared to be resilient through challenges and uncertainty. Perhaps most importantly, a strong culture contributes to an environment where employees feel supported and motivated at work, which impacts client satisfaction, too.
Culture & Core Values Go Hand-in-Hand
For organizations that are starting to approach their cultures with more intention, Vault’s Outsourced HR team cautions against looking to other companies for inspiration instead of looking inward first. Clarifying your goals, identity, and values is paramount to establishing a relevant culture. Observing how firms define their culture can be useful—such as their customer service values, service delivery, or management styles. However, “creating a culture” is not as simple as a task to be checked off a to-do list or borrowed from someone else.
“I believe in an authentic culture, but it’s important to know it can’t just be copied from someone else because you have to live it,” says HR Director, Kendra Janevski, SPHR, SHRM-SCP.
Vault relied not only on its leaders but its entire team to define the core values and culture that each person upholds. These core values include accountability, flexibility, collaboration, appreciation, and a drive for excellence. Every Vaulter brings an appetite for learning and growing—and is willing to be accountable and collaborative to accomplish that. With those shared values and attitudes, a sense of collective ownership of the team culture became a central part of the Vault working environment.
“A lot of companies discuss who owns culture.” Janeviski reminds us, “Whose responsibility is it? Everyone’s.”
Even when a firm’s culture is aligned with its core values and represents the big picture of where the team wants to go, being accountable to that culture often brings challenging moments. A strong organizational culture can help support many strategic goals at once, but it does not solve every problem. Promoting a supportive and collaborative culture where learning and hard work are rewarded accordingly is attractive to newly hired employees—but will they still feel aligned with the company’s goals and culture if the economic outlook changes?
It is also important to realize the limits that fun office perks and financial benefits can have in creating a strong culture. They may even distract from more significant conversations and decisions around culture. While offering fun experiences and incentives that keep employees excited to do their best work is important, thinking about culture in terms of tangible rewards is only one aspect of it.
A Living, Breathing Project
Because a firm’s culture must be broader than a particular moment in its life cycle, continuously evaluating and measuring culture is critical to its long-term success. With a people-first culture, the strategic goals a firm pursues become more realistic because motivated, supported, and prepared teams are collaborating to accomplish them.
Engagement surveys can help with understanding the alignment (or lack thereof) between employee engagement and happiness. Methodically-crafted questions and statements can help firms understand how employees feel and how best to use that data to make the appropriate changes. To that end, engagement surveys need to assess how closely the organization’s core values align with the culture.
Making this surveying a regular and transparent practice demonstrates that commitment to culture is a priority. In addition, finding opportunities to connect with employees about their working environment and whether it is a good fit for them can be a useful way of gathering additional data, even if the questions asked are not explicitly about culture.
Culture matters in both ordinary times and extraordinary ones. Organizations that see culture’s importance and align their culture to their core values, listen for feedback, and adjust accordingly will be better prepared to weather the inevitable storms.