Deed dive of stage 3 of the Maturity model: An implemented culture
Culture at the Heart of Your Employee Journey
Capturing your winning culture in well-formulated Cultural Values is a good start. But merely defining your culture is not enough. To bridge the gap between definition and daily practice, your cultural values must be implemented into the core of your organization. How are your cultural values embedded in your company structure, in your growth paths, and in your job profiles? Only then can your culture be consistently applied. In short, how do you implement your cultural values into your Employee Journey, so that you not only understand your company's DNA but also how it is replicated within your team?
This post is the second part of our three-part series in which we describe the route to Cultural Maturity: from defining your winning culture, implementing your cultural values in your employee journey to the collective application of your cultural values in the daily employee experience.
The foundation: culture as a core competence for every role
We all know: a star team doesn't always perform better than an individually less talented but strongly collaborating team. It's a phenomenon we can regularly observe in sports teams. And it applies just as much to teams in the business world.
Study after study shows: it's not the sum of individual skills that has the greatest influence on the chance of success. It's the extent to which team members feel connected, know what is expected of them and of each other, and can rely on a set of shared principles on how the team collaborates.
Just as musicians in a band need to master their instruments AND have a certain magical dynamic with their bandmates, every team consists of a combination of skills AND cultural collaboration competencies:
- Skills: something you can do (in the case of a band: mastering your instrument).
- Cultural competencies: how you work (in the case of a band: how you are to be in a band)
Given the significant impact of a strong culture on the chance of success, it is essential to genuinely steer your team development towards forming a strong team culture. And to truly prioritize those competencies in significant, team-forming choices, such as:
- Who do we hire and who do we not?
- Who do we promote and who do we not?
- Who do we find suitable for that leadership role and who do we not?
Cultural fit is not something you simply check at the door. Cultural values are collaboration competencies: you continuously develop your team and team members. Therefore, these cultural competencies must be included in the job descriptions of all roles within your team.
Skills depend on the intended expertise of a particular role or team within the company. They are often role-specific and can vary greatly per role. Cultural competencies are the exact opposite -> they are what connects the company and the different teams/expertise within and enables their collaboration.
Values are equal, behavior depends on your role
The primary purpose of your cultural values is to connect everyone within the team/company and enable effective collaboration. And that can only happen if they apply to everyone, regardless of your expertise/department and regardless of your level of experience or whether you are new or have been in management for years. In short: the values are the same for everyone. But how the application of those values looks at the behavioral level does differ based on the role a specific function plays within the team as a whole.
For example: one of the cultural values within your organization is curiosity and being engaged in acquiring new skills and knowledge. Then it's logical to expect this value from everyone, whether you are a beginner or an experienced manager. But at the behavioral level, you expect a beginner to be particularly curious, actively seeking opportunities to learn new things and daring to try new things. And from an experienced manager, you not only expect them to set a good example themselves but also to give others the space and trust to try new things.
Culture in your growth model
To be able to clearly and consistently translate the behavioral examples into the different levels within your growth model, you must first determine the growth model itself.
A growth model consists of a number of defined levels that clearly describe what skills and contributions are expected per level. And vice versa: it gives team members a clear view of the growth perspective within the organization and how to get there. Which growth model is suitable depends on what type of company you are. Whatever the right growth model is: every company that works with levels benefits from:
- A clear, concise, and generic (independent of a specific expertise) definition of each level
- For each level, a description of the expected (role-specific) skills and the expected cultural competencies.
Strong cross-functional companies where significantly different expertise collaborates often benefit most from growth paths that differ widely in skills. Yet, everyone still has a common understanding of what to expect from a particular level. Other types of companies are closer in terms of skill types and can therefore work with a general growth path. But they may, for example, need clarity about specialization and/or participation (such as the perspective on partnership).
Once the levels within your growth model are determined, you can easily use these definitions as a guide to translate your cultural values into relevant behavioral examples suitable for a particular role. This ensures that your cultural values do not feel too generic and makes your cultural values even more practically applicable in daily collaboration.
Towards application in daily collaboration
Your cultural values can only have an impact if they are applied by everyone in your team. Now that your cultural values have been defined and implemented in your growth model and in all roles within your teams, they are ready to be consistently applied. By having clear definitions and expectations available, everyone in your team has the context and clarity to consistently apply the cultural values throughout the employee experience: in hiring decisions, during onboarding new colleagues, in mutual feedback, and in performance and growth conversations.
To make this happen in daily practice, it is crucial to maximally support your team members in their employee experience and invite them actively to apply your cultural values. And thereby contribute to ongoing culture formation. In the next deep dive, we'll discuss how you can consistently apply your values throughout the entire employee experience.