Culture is a buzzword we hear a lot about. How people define culture varies greatly. Culture isn’t about offering kombucha on tap and foosball tables in the break room. Culture is a set of behavioral norms and shared beliefs. Culture is about how employees interact with each other, with customers, how they meet (or miss) deadlines. It’s how they collaborate on projects, and how they show up every day. Here are some key ways to help start building a values-based culture.

Identify Key Behaviors

For an organization to truly live its values, it must have measurable, observable behaviors that support each value. For example, you could have a value of “Integrity”. But integrity could be modeled in many ways, such as:

  • Follow through: Doing what you say you’re going to do.
  • Punctuality: Showing up on time for meetings.
  • Timeliness: Consistently meeting deadlines on projects. 
  • Pride: Delivering quality work.

These are actionable behaviors that can be observed. 

Conduct an Organizational Values Assessment 

Part of building a values-based culture is to assess where you are, and compare that to where you want to be, so you know where to focus your improvement efforts . Ask the following questions to perform an organizational “values assessment” for your company: 

  1. Can our employees recite our values?
  2. Do we incorporate our values when we make the decision to hire (or fire)?
  3. What are the actions/behaviors that support our values?
  4. How do we recognize employees for supporting our values?
  5. How do we incorporate our values into our performance review process?

The bottom line is that culture is shaped by behaviors, which means that it exists whether you build it or not. Choosing to identify and reward the behaviors that support company values will influence how employees show up each day. An organization’s strategy may be well defined, but its culture will determine how successfully it gets executed.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker