Workplace Culture is the key …

As managers, how to improve employee performance is often right under our nose, yet rarely spoken of or addressed.

Most people understand that workplace culture is important, but they don’t understand it in simple terms … in that sometimes it’s about the little things ignored; the stuff left unsaid, the unrecognised under-currents … which can make a huge difference.

Steve Simpson, author of ‘Cracking the Corporate Culture Code – Unwritten Ground Rules’, describes the unwritten ground rules (UGRs) as people’s perceptions of “the way we do things around here” – and is potentially the biggest driver of workplace behaviour.

Examples of common UGRs that can undermine workplace culture include:TEAM - CULTURE. istock-illustration-15731000-green-team

  • “At our meetings it isn’t worth complaining – nothing ever gets done”;
  • “The organisation talks about the importance of service, but we know they don’t really care as long as we do the numbers, so we don’t have to worry about that”;
  • “Around here, production is more important than safety”;
  • “Around here, being open and honest can put you on the ‘black list’ for life”;
  • “Best keep quiet and keep your head down, or you’ll get given extra jobs to do” …

Nothing is more powerful in a team or company than those under-currents, the UGRs. Positive or negative … it is powerful either way. If you’re in a team that has a positive dynamic and is productive, by definition that team is characterised by their positive UGRs. If it’s negative, driven by internal politics and inconsistent management, it will be predominately characterised by the negative UGRs.

It is vital that employers don’t leave their UGRs to chance … it is crucial to firstly find out the profile of your organisations current UGRs, effectively deal with them, and establish positive ground rules that foster a desirable and productive culture.

Five steps to overhaul your UGRs

1. The first is to envision desirable values, by posing the question: What are the key cultural attributes we need in place, to ensure our future success?

2. The second step is to assess the current situation, by asking: What is our culture like with regard to those aspects most critical to our success?

3. The third step is to teach people about UGRs, because workers at every level can benefit from being consciously aware of their existence, identifying and changing the negative ones.

4. The fourth step is to involve people in creating and developing positive UGRs.

5. Finally, the fifth phase involves putting in place strategies to embed the positive UGRs.

There are numerous ways to embed positive UGRs … the most important thing is to get everyone involved. This is by far, much more effective than simply putting values statements up on a wall … it creates joint ownership of this thing called workplace culture.

Workforce Vitality can help your organisation to build a positive workplace culture … one where people are singing the same song and enjoy working together to reach organisational goals. We will help you assess the UGRs in your workplace, discover and delete the ones that don’t serve you well, and facilitate the development of new ones.


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