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Creating and Sustaining Company Culture By Intent

Is culture a real thing? Can it be measured? Changed? Is a company’s culture simply a manifestation of the leader’s personality? Ask 10 different people on the street to define what culture means and you’ll likely get 10 different answers.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with several growing companies in a variety of industries with anywhere from 10 to 1000 employees. Culture is, invariably, at the top of the wish list of improvements that CEOs want to make as they work to align their people strategy with the success of the business. Some leaders are better than others at articulating the current culture of their business, how it came to be, and where they want to take it.

In today’s competitive business environment, cultivating a “Culture by Intent” is critical for organizations aiming to ensure their workplace culture aligns with strategic goals. Unlike an organic culture that evolves naturally, Culture by Intent is a deliberate approach to creating an environment that supports the company’s mission and objectives.

What Is Culture by Intent?

Culture by Intent involves intentionally shaping the workplace’s cultural aspects—values, behaviors, and practices—to support and enhance organizational objectives. It’s about creating a framework that guides how employees interact, make decisions, and align with the company’s broader goals.

Culture Can Be Measured & Moved

To effectively implement and sustain a Culture by Intent, organizations need to measure its impact and progress. This can be achieved through:

  • Employee Surveys: Gathering insights into employee satisfaction and engagement.
  • HR Metrics: Monitoring key indicators such as turnover and new hire retention as a signal of cultural health or issues.
  • Performance Metrics: Evaluating the impact of cultural initiatives on overall
    business performance.

Five Pragmatic Strategies to Develop a Culture by Intent

  1. Define Specific Behavioral Expectations: Clearly articulate the specific behaviors and practices that embody the company’s values. For example, if collaboration is a core value, specify what effective collaboration looks like in daily operations. This clarity helps employees understand and meet expected standards.
  2. Integrate Culture into Recruitment and Onboarding: Ensure that the recruitment process screens for cultural fit. Additionally, design onboarding programs that immerse new hires in the company culture from day one, emphasizing the importance of cultural elements in daily activities and decision-making.
  3. Leverage Leaders as Culture Champions: Leaders at all levels should exemplify the company’s cultural ideals. Train and empower leaders to act as culture champions who promote and reinforce the desired culture through their actions and communication. Their behavior sets a template for others to follow.
  4. Reward and Recognize Cultural Alignment: Develop a reward system that acknowledges individuals and teams who exemplify the desired culture. Recognition could be in the form of awards, promotions, or public acknowledgment in company meetings, fostering a culture of appreciation and alignment with organizational values.
  5. Regularly Assess and Adjust Cultural Practices: Culture is dynamic, so it’s important to regularly assess its alignment with business goals. Conduct periodic reviews of cultural health through surveys, focus groups, and other feedback tools. Use this data to make informed adjustments to cultural initiatives, ensuring the culture remains relevant and supportive of strategic objectives.

Implementing a Culture by Intent is not a one-time project but an ongoing strategic endeavor. It requires commitment, consistency, and adaptability to changes in the business environment. By taking a structured and practical approach, organizations can cultivate a culture that not only supports their strategic goals but also enhances employee engagement and organizational performance.

Additional Recommended Reading

MIT Sloan Culture Index
Gallup Culture Toolkit
Great Place To Work – 8 Elements Of Great Culture