"Style is saying who you are without having to speak." - Rachel Zoe
Visit the About Us section of most organizational websites, and you'll find statements that are designed to communicate "who" the organization is and what it's like to work there. Yet, it's the unstated attributes that give the full picture. I define these unstated attributes as "culture style." An organization's words may say one thing, but its culture style is the message that speaks loudest to employees and the stakeholders they serve.
In all, there are four distinct culture styles. Each culture style has its own unique strengths and weaknesses—additionally, each culture style has specific antidotes to improve or maintain its positioning. The culture styles reflect how various organizations, regardless of industry or size, pursue their goals. They also highlight what's emphasized, rewarded, and prioritized.
Identifying culture styles consists of answering two questions. By answering the two questions and plotting your results, you can quickly identify any organization's culture style. The first question is, "does this organization consistently score high or low regarding productivity?" The second question is, "does this organization score high or low regarding employee engagement?"
In the absence of data and benchmark availability, a quick way to assess productivity as a score is to select traits that best describe your organization.
Place an X next to each trait that most closely matches your organization. Choose the best option, not the perfect option. Next, tally the results for each column. The column with the highest number of tallies indicates whether your organization is high or low.
Next, follow the same approach to assess employee engagement as a score.
Place an X next to each trait that most closely matches your organization. Choose the best option, not the perfect option. Next, tally the results for each column. The column with the highest number indicates whether your organization is high or low.
Which culture style is your organization? Feel free to read each culture style or skip ahead to your organization's culture style to learn more about its strengths, weaknesses, and antidotes.
The Country Club
If you've ever spent time at a country club, you know why the affluent pay large sums of money to be members. On-site babysitters, tennis and golf instructors, personal lockers, pristine grounds and landscaping, gourmet meals, workout facilities, big screen tv's that play all the important games, and staff who know you on a first-name basis. Plus, there are the intangible benefits, the notoriety that comes with being apart of a club, and the respect others give you. When you're there, you never want to leave.
Workplaces with the Country Club culture style place emphasis on and heavily poor out benefits to their employees. Their holiday party's spare no expense, pool, and foosball tables are present in their workspaces, on-site workout facilities, and child care services are a stone throw away from their offices, unlimited vacation days, professional development stipends, generous new parent leave, to name a few. And then there's the notoriety that comes with being employed at these destination organizations. When you mention you work at a workplace with a country club culture style, a sense of status is immediately inferred upon those familiar with the organization.
One of the greatest strengths of Country Club culture style companies is the ease with which they can recruit and retain talent. The benefits and notoriety associated with these companies make the decision process for potential employees a no-brainer. Plus, once they join the team, rarely, if ever, do people leave for other opportunities. In turn, the Country Club culture style organizations have best in class reputations that helps them maintain a lead in the marketplace.
At first glance, it would appear that the Country Club culture style companies are the perfect places to work. However, when you dig deeper, you find a glaring opportunity. Their early success has lulled their team's ambition quelling the hunger they once had. The lack of hunger leads to an effort that amounts to 'doing just enough to get by' but never actualizing their full potential. The lack of hunger doesn't stop there. It also leads to a lack of innovation and the long-term threat of irrelevance lurking beyond the bend.
If, by chance, you're reading this and you are leading a Country Club culture style, there's hope to increase productivity. Renew your emphasis on the mission of the organization. Begin hiring people who are inspired by the impact and meaning associated with the work you're doing. Increase accountability through setting challenging and inspiring goals and rigorously measure your progress.
7 Core Factors of Culture™ areas to focus on: Congruence, Meaning and Leadership
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
If everyone loves the Country Club, the opposite is true for the DMV. No one, I mean no one, likes going to the DMV. Long lines, confusing processes & paperwork, and uninspired workers await you there. Speaking of waiting, Mars Inc. probably had the DMV in mind when they made their slogan, "not going anywhere for a while? Grab a Snickers".
Organizations with the DMV culture style are just "making the donuts." There is no inspiration, no vision, no creativity, no urgency, and, most of all, no fun. Employees and managers can feel like prisoners who are just "doing their time." Emphasis and priority are placed on following guidelines, scripts, and procedures. The only reward employees are ever given is the opportunity to come back to work the next day and do the monotonous all over again. In DMV cultut
With such dreary and uninspiring conditions, you may wonder if there are any strengths in a DMV culture style organization. However, one benefit stands out the most and is the primary reason people work there; stability. A secondary benefit is higher than average wages. To compensate for the suboptimal conditions, these organizations have to pay more to get people on board and keep folks around.
The weaknesses associated with DMV culture style organizations are plentiful. Due to managers' and employees' lack of inspiration about their work environments, low morale tends to be the norm. The low morale starts a domino effect where employees are "processing people through" without an emphasis on creating great experiences for their customers*. These conditions make recruiting difficult and retention even harder.
*Exercise: Google DMV offices in the cities nearby you, and you'll be hard-pressed to find an aggregate review rating of 4 stars or higher.
Of all the culture styles, the DMV is the hardest and most time consuming to fix. An all hands on deck approach is needed to increase low engagement and low performance. Initial steps to begin moving in the right direction include creating a compelling vision and mission, which will help re-focus everyone's efforts. Also, adding rewards based on performance, coupled with clearly defined goals, will assist in the change efforts.
7 Core Factors of Culture™ areas to focus on: Resources, Stress, Leadership, Trust, Meaning, Connection, Congruence
There's a reason people pay a premium for apartments that have laundry machines in their units. Why? They want to avoid the laundromat at all costs. Cleanliness, bad smells, and lack of availability to use the machine 'you want when you want' are some of the reasons. Not to mention the added challenge of transporting your clothes there and back.
Organizations with the Laundromat culture style are the most common among all the culture styles. These workplaces emphasize productivity, but inspiration among their employees is lacking. Very few people enjoy being there. The environments are set up with the sole focus of ensuring results are obtained. Whether it be prioritizing tight controls or rewarding dominant task-oriented managers, the organization's with the Laundromat culture style get things done but at a cost.
Laundromat culture styles are known for their ability to accomplish tasks and meet their goals. Their emphasis on productivity affords them the ability to compensate their teams well. They also have a steady stream of talent, which enables them to fill open seats rather quickly. Typically, Laundromat culture styles are well resourced, which aids them in helping employees do their jobs effectively.
For many a leader, the Laundromat culture style is the ideal approach. These leaders hold inherent beliefs like "we go to work to work" and "we do the job; we get paid, we go home." Their focus and style make them highly productive, but their perceived wins mask an underlying issue, turnover. Laundromat culture style workplaces have two types of turnover, people who quit and leave and those who quit and stay. Either way, the costs associated with hiring new employees and the lost revenue due to actively disengaged employees hurt their bottom line (which happens to be the measurement that matters the most to these leaders).
One of the reasons turnover is an issue, coincidently, is the same reason so many workplaces struggle to manage Millennials; the Laundromat culture style suffers from 'meaning deficit.' Feelings of emptiness persist in workplaces with the Laundromat culture style. The best remedy to improve the low engagement levels associated with this culture style is to obtain feedback regarding the employee's collective and individual experiences. Then, take action on the ideas and suggestions that were posited.
7 Core Factors of Culture™ areas to focus on: Resources, Stress, Leadership, Trust, Meaning, Connection, Congruence
The Coffee Shop
Without question, when people need to have a productive meeting, study for an exam, or get work done, one of the most popular places to go to is the Coffee Shop. Interestingly, while productivity is high in coffee shops, so are engagement levels. As a result of being at the Coffee Shop, many people reach a flow state (the sense that time has slowed down) and become completely immersed in their work. Additionally, people enjoy the experience of being there, complemented by the sweet treats or comfy chairs that some Coffee Shops offer.
Workplaces with the Coffee Shop culture style have reached the holy grail of conducive environments for people to bring their best selves to their work. They perfectly balance activity that's highly productive and engaging. People have the tools, support, and resources to accomplish their goals. Genuine connection, trust, and alignment are hallmarks of the Coffee Shop culture style. And leadership consistently communicates compelling and meaningful targets and the steps to get there, which assuages stress.
The Coffee Shop culture style is known for its ability to produce great results. However, an outsider viewing their approach toward goal attainment may conclude that their process is disjointed and, at times, chaotic. Yet insiders know the Coffee Shop culture's diversity of experience and perspective, coupled with its singular and collective focus, helps it achieve its mission. The Coffee Shop emphasizes and prioritizes empowerment and rewards the best effort.
The Coffee Shop culture style's reputation makes it a compelling place for high performers to come work, and being on a winning team helps it keep people engaged and motivated. Unlike their Country Club counterparts, they don't rely on superfluous bells and whistles to satisfy their workers. Coffee Shop cultures give out rewards for high-performance, but it's the work itself and the supportive environment that compels people to invest themselves long term.
Coffee Shop culture's need to guard against complacency and hubris. When you're winning, things are going well, and everyone is fulfilled; it's easy to let the disciplines slip that helped you reach the level of success you've obtained. Additionally, Coffee Shop cultures tend to maintain an unsustainable pace. It's important to rest as a reward after large lifts.
To maintain your high productive and highly engaged culture, it's important to maintain the disciplines that allowed you to gain momentum in the first place. Consistently remind your team what it took to reach the level of harmony you're experiencing. Protect your Coffee Shop culture by hiring for congruence. Bring in people that are a fit for the job, team, manager, and values.
7 Core Factors of Culture™ areas to focus on: Stress, Meaning, Congruence
Now that you know organization culture styles, the next step is to apply what you've learned. At your next interview, if you're a job-seeker, ask questions about what's emphasized, prioritized, and rewarded. The answers will help you better determine if there's alignment. If you're someone embarking on a culture change initiative, begin developing your strategic plan by identifying what steps are necessary to move from one quadrant to the next. In doing so, you will have activated the first step to achieving customer/stakeholder loyalty, employee inspiration, and untapped growth.