How to Foster and Manage a Powerful, Positive Company Culture

In my last post, I mentioned some wisdom from Roy Vallee, CEO of Avnet, on motivating, and creating a motivating environment for, employees. Today, I’d like to emphasize equally powerful advice from the same source on creating a strong, good company culture:
“One thing we've done is we developed a set of core values for the company, and actually the initiative to do that was employee-led. … Then building off of those core values, we have actually embellished on Avnet's overall culture, which we have labeled a performance- and values-based culture of excellence. We talk about that a lot, and what we passionately believe is that good people want to work for good companies; and good companies have good cultures. Good people do not want to work in a corrupt environment.”

Avnet took the critical step of not only defining its company values, but also directly involving its employees in that process. A Globoforce customer, Avnet also follows our best practice of using their company values as reasons for recognition in their strategic employee recognition program. This positively reinforces for employees how they can demonstrate those values in their everyday tasks.

But it’s the second part of Roy’s message – “a performance and values-based culture” – that is so important for long-term success. By involving employees in defining the values, Avnet also involved the employees in creating their company culture, which helps ensure that positive culture is real and influential across the company. Roy continues later in the interview:
“Any time you want a group of people -- whether it's all employees, a specific segment, a management team -- to buy into a new concept or an action item, if you give them the opportunity to participate in development of the item itself, or what action is going to be taken, then you have a lot of buy-in going forward. Any time the ideas are cultivated in a dark room, especially in the corporate office so to speak, and then you try to sell, it's going to take longer to get implementation.”

Why is this so important? Keith Allen explained it well in a post on the Engagement Factor Blog, discussing why he left his company (twice), and not his manager – because the culture was so poor.
“Every company has politics, cliques, bad executives and its share of troubles – and folks work in them for years and are ‘relatively’ happy. These are fine companies, no better or worse than many others, but they are a good example of the effect that culture and senior leadership, over and above the effect of one’s immediate supervisor, can have on an employee. Their cultures were not the main reasons I left, but there was not enough pull from the culture of these companies to keep me from moving to other situations.”

What are you doing to build the culture you need in your organization and then manage it appropriately for ultimate success?

4 comment(s):

At January 15, 2010 7:53 AM, working girl said...

Not enough pull. I like that.

At January 15, 2010 8:53 AM, Derek Irvine said...

Indeed, Working Girl. Actively MANAGING culture is far more than creating a culture you think is positive, helpful, etc. It's also all about directly involving employees in culture management through strategic recognition such that they are continuously "pulled" back into the organization, their work, and the ultimate success of your strategic objectives.

At January 15, 2010 10:19 AM, Brad said...

Thank you for the quote from our blog. Culture is so important. It is one of the key factors I discuss in my book Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance, and Increasing Loyalty.

Culture needs to be a set of shared norms that each individual attempts to live up to each and everyday. One of the challenges we work on with our clients is baking in the culture into everyday business activities. Otherwise culture typically becomes hollow words posted on a wall.

Brad Federman

At January 15, 2010 10:28 AM, Derek Irvine said...

Brad, couldn't agree more. We believe the most effective (and positive) way to proliferate those shared norms (and thereby manage your company culture) is through strategic recognition that very specifically references the company values or objectives (the norms that are the foundation of culture) demonstrated by the employee in their work that is deserving of recognition. You may be interested in this post on how to make recognition specific, authentic and, critically, actionable.