How do experiences transform a company culture?
A recent post in Forbes caught my eye. It’s titled 4 Types Of Experiences That Define Your Company Culture, And How To Improve Them.
The author talks about ‘experiences that occur within on organization support certain beliefs. Those believes lead to specific actions which in turn drive results. For better or for worse.’
This is based on a book called “The Results Pyramid” that explains that the four components of the pyramid are experiences, beliefs, actions and results.
All companies want to improve performance. But in order to do this a company first needs to define what results they want, then work backwards.
“Defining the results then positions you to understand what actions need to occur to get those results. Then you can determine what cultural beliefs need to be held to make those actions organic events. Then you can craft experiences that support those beliefs.”
The author of the Forbes post focuses on experiences of which there are four categories. Once an organization understands where its experiences fall within these categories, there’s a better understanding of where improvements need to be made.
This sounds pretty fair.
If a company is looking at future results, and we hope they are aiming to get those results in an ethical manner, how the tone from the top is disseminated is key. How employees are experiencing their journey to these results is important.
Experience Type 1: Meaningful Event
Ideally this is where a company wants to be. Improving a company culture is dependent on the experiences of employees, which of course can be interpreted in different ways. Ideally, companies want all employees to have that same ‘ta da’ moment that leads to immediate insight and needs no further interpretation by management. Easier said than done. This is where tone from the top is so important. This is where a company has already established successful communication plans that resonate with employees. This is where regular reviews of policies and procedures are second nature and employees know exactly what is expected of them and how to get their work done ethically.
The ultimate goal is a Type 1 experience. Employees will have similar beliefs about the company and will be fueled to take the appropriate action to get to the common goal in the end.
However, most organizational experiences fall in the next category:
Experience Type 2: Needs Interpretation
This is where the constant review of the company vision, mission, policies, procedures are needed in order to ensure that all employees come to the same interpretation so that they can start to adopt the company’s beliefs. Using special events like lunch and learns, role playing, surveys, open door communication policies, etc. consistently to help launch new initiatives will bring a more positive impact on employees. It will guide them quicker to the goal of a Type 1 experience.
Also, every employee, from the top down, understands their role in how the company is to achieve its results in an ethical manner. As such, Type 1 experiences become longer term.
If belief bias exists within the team due to inconsistencies in upper management’s previous decisions and actions, that poses a significant obstacle. That is why thoughtful communication and execution is so important.
Experience Type 3: Perceived As Insignificant
This is a tough one to get through if employees are consistently perceiving the actions of upper management as inconsistent.
Or rather, as ‘Meh’…
We often supply our clients with posters and wallet cards containing information on how employees can file anonymous whistleblower reports. However, many companies leave it at just that. It’s just another poster on the wall that everyone walks by without noticing.
To make the message significant, and move to Type 2, management also has to play a regular, clear and concise role in ensuring the message is clear. We’ve got some ideas here to ensure a company can move up to Type 2.
Type 3 experiences do not ‘alter existing beliefs nor nurture new belief systems because they are perceived as insignificant and within the normal pattern of things.’ Getting away from the normal pattern of things is key to moving in the right direction towards that common result.
If employees at all levels are perceiving their experiences as insignificant, damage can be done to the company. We see this everyday with companies operating in unethical manners, where employees are committing fraud because nobody is paying attention… or nobody is paying attention to the employee who wants to speak up about it.
Experience Type 4: Will Always Be Misinterpreted
Misinterpretation is what companies want to avoid. No point in repeating the same words if nobody understands them, or cares. Experiences at this level will never be interpreted in the desired manner and should be avoided at all costs. Or better yet, work on transforming them to a higher land of experience. The goal is Type 1 after all.
The problem with these experiences is that they can actually damage the culture and instill beliefs that have a negative impact. This is where the “this is how we do things here” mantra comes into play. If unethical activity is brushed to the side, or ignored, this completely damages a company.
How does this all play into a company’s ethics program? If a company fails to communicate the ‘why’ of the program, its purpose will be completely misunderstood and most likely result in negative or at the very least confused beliefs.
A change of culture has to start at the top. Otherwise, nobody will truly believe in the mission. The ultimate goal for any company is ensure that all employees are living the company’s beliefs in the Type 1 category.
This includes the belief that an ethics program benefits everyone positively.
[source]4 Types Of Experiences That Define Your Company Culture, And How To Improve Them[/source]