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How to Ensure That Your Employees Live and Breathe Your Company Culture

Many companies are built on a great idea, passion and energy of several people. Soon, they grow and consist of teams where enthusiasm alone is not enough to maintain love for their employer.

A healthy company culture, which stems from and builds on the original values, may be essential to the success of their entire company, maximum productivity, outstanding employee loyalty and satisfaction. Why was the topic of company culture on the back burner in the Czech Republic until recently and how to start building an excellent company culture?

We will discuss this with Sandra Fridrichova, a mediator, coach and mentor, who specializes in creating a motivating company environment and often helps put broken and dysfunctional teams back on their feet.

Sandra, did the coronavirus crisis have a major impact on company cultures? What did it show to companies?

It did actually have a major impact and I believe that it showed everyone many good and bad things.

First of all, I see that many people perform exceptionally well for companies in times of crisis. Disputes subsided and people stuck together. I think that this is an amazing phenomenon. Unfortunately, people sometimes keep pushing to stick together until they burn out.

It is alarming to see how many of us get overworked during working hours. We are simply more efficient at home, we do not waste time commuting. What it might look like then is that we work from early in the morning until late at night, during weekends, and we do not know how to slow down or how to set up the ideal schedule to establish balance between work duties and time for ourselves, our family and friends.

People, who are considered the company’s best talents, are most at risk.

Company talents face the most challenging tasks and projects without anyone paying much attention to the fact that they are no superheroes. And they will prove themselves because they will not allow themselves to fail - regardless of their time and energy. Companies still tend to be rather selfish - while they do want to take care of their talent, it is almost always for their own benefit.

More nuisances have surfaced: micromanagement, which is rooted deeply within us, lack of employee trust in company management and the fact that it is difficult to open heavy topics because no one has really taught us how. We do not have the necessary tools and we do not know how to do it.

I am pleasantly surprised, however, by the number of companies that decided to design their company culture during the pandemic. They understand its importance and the need for “harmony” and it is amazing to see.

And do companies know how to do this? Are they able to set their values correctly and actually live and operate in sync with them?

There are numerous ways to get to company values. And every company needs to find its own functional model for setting and “embedding” them inside the company. However, do not trust anyone who tells you there is a universal method with success guaranteed.

I may be a bit too harsh, but you can simply tell if company teams have correctly set values or not. If they do, they live them. They follow written or unwritten, very clear and comprehensible rules guiding how they operate.

In connection with values, I often hear words such as OPENNESS, FREEDOM, FAIRNESS... and that is usually the stumbling block.

What exactly do they mean to you? And what about a colleague on your team? Or someone in another department?

If the values are correctly defined, they are clear to everyone or there is space for a discussion about whether a certain behavior supports or contradicts the values.

What should we know in relation to company values?

  • What to do
  • What not to do
  • What to say
  • What not to say
  • How

I would compare functional values in a company to soccer rules. The rules clearly define what is allowed, what is against the rules and what is completely unacceptable. For example, everyone knows that you do not touch the ball by hand and there is no point arguing about it. Nevertheless, teams have different energies, rituals and moods.

It seems that the trend of freedom at work has been very prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic. How can you balance freedom and responsibility in a company?

The truth is, mainly for the younger generation (generations Y and Z), that freedom at work is a matter of course. And the question whether freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility depends, in my opinion, mainly on management’s seniority. I usually see two extremes in companies. Either, they are dominated by micromanagement, which often hides behind the “freedom”, which however does not actually exist in the company, or by freedom to such an extent that teams miss deadlines and punk is still very much alive.

How to recognize a free and responsible team:

  • The teams and people on the teams talk to each other a lot.
  • They talk not only about success but also about things that did not quite work out.
  • They understand the overall context for the individual activities.
  • They are in tune and listen to each other.
  • They know how to open very complicated topics.
  • They are not afraid of making mistakes.

I also see more cooperative creating than competing in such teams. In free and responsible teams, there is always a great degree of trust among the team members as well as towards the manager. 

Could you point out one or two specific things that will make people like to work for a company?

This would be a major generalization and I am not sure there is a universal answer or an instant formula for “satisfied employees”.

In terms of the older and traditional approach where work is just work, having the security of a stable financial income and employee benefits is the most important one. Employees do not live at work. They perform their duties for which they receive remuneration.

Modern approaches focus on fulfilment and purpose. On harmony with values and the vision. Or on freedom.

Mainly tech companies enforce the trend of “purpose” and understanding that what I do matters to someone. Feeling aligned with the company’s philosophy, having the ability to discuss and contribute to decision-making, achieve career and personal growth, face new challenges, as well as the method of communication in the company and its integrity are of major importance.

What makes people no longer willing to breathe for the company? 

I have an answer to this question, actually just one word: RELATIONSHIPS. Most often relationships with the manager, boss, management.

The State of the American Manager Research Report by Gallup states that superiors have up to a 70% impact on motivation and engagement. A bad boss is often the reason why people stop (as they say) breathing for the company.

Even more interesting is a view under the lid of the individual reasons for employee dissatisfaction and departures:

  • Lack of recognition (such as “I see what you do for the company/team”)
  • Lack of autonomy and space for self-fulfillment
  • Excessive micromanagement
  • They do not see purpose of what they do
  • The activity, which they want to focus on, is too innovative for the company

The working environment and relationships in the working environment play a major role. The reason is often the worst tolerated and acceptable behavior permitted by the company management which affects the employees or people close to them.

Millennials go a bit farther and as soon as they do not understand where the company is headed in the future, it is more attractive for them to switch to wherever they will have space and purpose, even at the cost of a lower salary.

What can fix distrust of management? A change in communication?

You know, management often believe that openness and trust are built at pompous presentations. But they are absolutely wrong. Management is constantly under the microscope and everyone keeps an eye on how they behave. What and when managers say or do not say. Whether they keep their word.

Trust is built and lost in micro-moments.

It may be an absolute banality. Try to imagine that a company builds a cafeteria and tries to convince its employees to go eat there while the entire management regularly eat lunch in a 4-star restaurant. It is one of the silliest micro-moments when management undermine the trust of their people.

Also, let’s not forget transparency. But I do not mean transparency declared on a piece of paper. Make sure you can keep your promises and stop being vague. If you just cannot disclose something or do not know what the decision will be, just the fact that you say it out loud is part of transparent communication and will improve your credibility.

Sandra Fridrichová

Sandra worked in the financial field for many years. From project management, to education, sales promotion and business development, she made it all the way to strategic marketing and customer experience. She quickly realized that the success of every company stands and falls mainly on people and their open cooperation. Sandra uses her philosophy and extensive experience to encourage companies to make effective changes that connect the corporate vision, culture and the actual company environment. Her mission is to revive, inspire and stabilize broken and dysfunctional teams.

Author: Janina Dvořáková
Photos: Unsplash.com and Sandra Fridrichová’s archive

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