I can still remember the lesson from the Three Little Pigs—without a solid base, a strong wind can be a real adversary. Such is the importance of corporate culture. It needs to be the house that can stand regardless of changes in external conditions.
At the Omaha Community Foundation, we cover the distinct difference between organizational climate and organizational culture as part of the onboarding process. We echo the ideas of Culture Champion Jennifer Cross, who explains that organizational culture has depth and is foundationally ingrained over time, while the organizational climate is lighter—more the mood or temperature of an organization.
Organizational climate can change faster than a costume at a Cher concert. Stock numbers will drop, employees will retire, office locations will change. Regardless of these variables, long term goals like low churn and stupendous loyalty require an intentional focus. To attract and retain top talent in today’s market, employees must feel valued for exactly who they are. In fact, in a recent survey asking employees what would make them feel like they belong at their place of employment, 50% of respondents said, “feeling comfortable with being myself.”
That’s why I report with pride that I work with some really interesting people. One woman used to work as a storyteller at Renaissance Festivals. Another fellow used to park cars for a living. And just down the hall, we have a fashion model. That’s just the tip of the ‘berg when it comes to this group. Every person who works here has a story to tell (or ten!) and they aren’t afraid to let their flags fly. We celebrate these quirks and aspirations because we believe our organization is stronger when we invite the whole employee to show up each and every day.
Simon Sinek, a professor at Columbia University, speaks plainly about building a strong corporate culture. He says that an environment of workers who feel like brothers and sisters, an enterprise that people LOVE to work for, not just like, is built on the commitment of daily practices by leadership. It is the consistent grind of numerous acts of service. But most importantly, it’s making sure you save the iced maple glazed donut for Pam in Donor Services, even if it is the last one in the box.
Our culture manifests in unique ways.
Ask anyone about Sara’s gong. Listen for the sound of the gift card wheel. Snoop in just about anyone’s office to read a note of gratitude. If you have some extra time, sit in on one of our staff meetings that are 75% personal connection, and 25% business. The list goes on and on. Making time for vulnerability and individual sharing deepens the personal practice with good old-fashioned heart. Our people can invest in the mission because we invest in them and each other.
Gone are the days of only seeing an employee for what they produce, but rather seeing the producer in the process. By noting the values, drivers and daily realities of your employees, a culture of integrity and empathy will naturally emerge, no matter the amount of huffing and puffing.