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Saturday, May 15, 2021

C-Suite Lifestyle

How a Good Company Culture Can Get You Through Chaos

Navigating difficult times requires a strong company culture, and developing that culture requires constant nurturing. The user experience firm Blink devised a framework for defining and strengthening its company culture. Here are the six pillars of company culture it settled on.

A strong company culture will make all the difference when your business goes through periods of chaos. In difficult times, you lean on people who feel valued and really invested in the company — which is a direct result of a strong, vibrant culture. The key to developing a strong culture that you can rely on comes from constant nurturing, care, and attention.

At my company, Blink, our culture — just like the physical aspects and elements of our brand identity — has been carefully and constantly nurtured. If a company wants its culture to achieve maximum effectiveness and help the business ebb and flow during chaotic swings in the market, its development must always be a top priority at the highest levels in the company.

We have seen this in action since the day shutdowns happened. Everybody has naturally banded together to do whatever it takes to keep business running and stay together to support each other in our work community. If we didn’t have a strong company culture already in place, that would not have happened so effortlessly. It’s the years of hard work we have already put in that give us our thriving culture. As a result, people are willing and eager to do more without even being asked.

How to Create a Positive Company Culture

In order to grow, nurture, and preserve our great culture at Blink, I realized early on that we needed to first be able to describe it. We needed a language to understand what was working well and contributing to our vibrant environment. Through a lot of careful thought and help from psychology experts, we came up with a framework that is built to last.

We established six pillars to help us define, understand, strengthen, and maintain our culture. Rooted in cognitive psychology and research, the pillars act as the underpinnings of our positive company culture and ensure that it survives in any condition, including physical location and geography. The result of the framework in action is a work environment where people feel valued, productive, and therefore happy.

We put in a lot of work defining the six pillars, and there are many more one could use. I believe the ones we chose to emphasize could also be a great place for any organization to use as a starting point as you build (or rethink) your own values and culture. The pillars we use are:

  1. Feedback: Everyone gives and gets constructive and positive feedback daily. We have found that a 5-to-1 ratio is optimal for a positive culture built on mutual trust and respect.
  2. Clarity: Transparent, open communication is the expectation. Everyone knows the vision and how their work contributes to it. Policies and procedures are clearly understood and applied across the company.
  3. Standards: Challenging but attainable goals and high standards are set throughout the organization. Team members are encouraged to improve performance, and everyone is held to the same high standards of excellence.
  4. Rewards: Team members are recognized and rewarded for good performance. Recognition and praise outweigh criticism, and there is no favoritism or bias shown in hiring, wages, or development opportunities.
  5. Responsibility: All employees are given authority to accomplish tasks without having to constantly check for approval. This trust goes a long way. Everyone feels encouraged and supported in taking calculated risks.
  6. Team commitment: People are proud to belong to the organization, they like and trust their colleagues, and they give extra effort to help and support each other. They know clearly why they are there, what they are supposed to do, and what is expected of them.

The Importance of Measuring Company Culture

To make sure our framework is always working and the company is thriving at all levels, we needed to be able to measure. We started scoring ourselves in each of the pillars to see where we needed improvement and then made adjustments. The pillars can be measured through quantitative and qualitative surveys that allow us to measure and monitor; then we can adjust training, communication, and management tools as needed.

In the end, chaotic times shouldn’t weaken company culture — or the ability to measure it. If your company is struggling with what defines you and the experience your employees have, it’s wise to spend some time considering the pillars that are important to the foundation of your culture and working on a plan to make them systemic. There’s no better time to take an in-depth look at your values and make sure you have a plan so that everyone knows how to march toward them.

Karen Clark Cole
Karen Clark Cole is the CEO and co-founder of Blink UX, which is the leading user experience firm for the world’s leading companies. Blink uses evidence-driven design to create products that people use, love, and remember. Karen Clark Cole is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.