We’ve all heard horror stories of companies with unhealthy cultures. Many of us have experienced them first-hand. But did you know that even healthy company cultures can become toxic when put under pressure?
Just like we’re supposed to get regular check-ups from physicians, business leaders should regularly assess the health of their company culture.
Every business operates like an organism of its own. So its health – and specifically, the health of its culture – is always subject to change.
This can be a good and a bad thing. It’s good in the sense that the culture’s health can always be improved with some TLC. But when leaders fail to promote elements of a positive culture, the entire organization can veer off course.
In particular, facing a crisis can turn a healthy business into a pressure cooker where toxic culture flourishes. It might be a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, a local crisis like a natural disaster, or even an internal crisis like a corporate acquisition.
Whatever it may be, any situation that puts your organization under excessive strain can turn your business and its culture on its head.
While this is a scary thought, business leaders have the power to prevent their company culture from spiraling out of control, even in exceptional circumstances.
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about company culture and confronting a crisis:
- How times of crisis can foster toxic workplace culture
- How you can “take the temperature” of your company culture
- 3 ways healthy company culture helps your business thrive in times of crisis
HOW TIMES OF CRISIS CAN FOSTER TOXIC COMPANY CULTURE
During moments of crisis, a company’s culture can become especially vulnerable, making it a breeding ground for chaos and unethical behavior.
A recent example of this is the Tyson Foods Iowa plant scandal. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 1,000 employees at a Tyson pork plant in Waterloo have contracted the illness. An investigation into the plant found a number of leadership failures.
Employees were packed shoulder-to-shoulder at the plant. Nobody was wearing face coverings. Before their own plant faced an outbreak, workers were transferred back and forth between a different Tyson plant that was experiencing an outbreak.
Worst of all, several top-level managers started a cash buy-in betting pool to guess how many employees would test positive for COVID-19. As a result of an investigation conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, seven managers were fired in relation to the scandal.
There are several elements of unhealthy company culture in this example, but lack of regard for employees’ health and wellbeing is the most prominent.
Given the extreme nature of this workplace behavior, it’s likely that this plant had a weak or poor company culture prior to the pandemic. What this case highlights, though, is how a time of crisis can let company culture spiral out of control and have devastating impacts on a business and its people.
This is why it’s so important for leaders to constantly assess the health of their company culture at all levels and branches of the business–especially during rocky times.
HOW DO YOU “TAKE THE TEMPERATURE” OF YOUR COMPANY CULTURE?
It’s important to have frequent check-ups to maintain the health of your company culture. But how can you tell when it’s become unhealthy? How can you catch a problem with the culture before it gets out of hand? How do you take its temperature?
There are many things leadership should look out for to make sure company culture is on the right track. Here are some questions you can ask to gauge the health of your company culture:
Does HR receive frequent complaints from women, minorities, or people from under-represented groups in the business? This might indicate lack of inclusivity in the culture.
Do all employees–from the groundskeeping team to interns to supervisors–feel they are treated with respect? A healthy company culture permeates all levels of employment.
Do employees frequently work late without getting paid overtime? Employees’ time and work should be respected by their supervisors.
Do you have a high turnover rate? High turnover, even in one type of role or one department, is one of the most common symptoms of unhealthy culture.
Are employees aware of the company values and mission? Do they talk about them? Do they exhibit them in their behavior? Company values and mission are the core foundations of your culture.
Are business processes documented, standardized, and efficient? Poor processes and process compliance are often a reflection of a culture issue.
Do employees frequently get promoted or rise to leadership positions? In a healthy company culture, workers can – and do – grow.
Are changes typically well-received? A company with a strong culture is able to effectively navigate changes.
Do staff at all levels have access to regular, high-quality training? Learning & development is crucial for your company’s health, and it helps you retain top talent.
These are just some of the many questions you can ask to gauge the health of your culture, and there are several ways you can go about finding answers to these questions.
You can send out surveys directly to staff. You can look over internal documents to find statistics about turnover rates, compensation, etc. You can assess internal communications. The most important part is to just do it!
3 WAYS HEALTHY COMPANY CULTURE HELPS YOUR BUSINESS THRIVE IN TIMES OF CRISIS
So, we’ve gone over the perils of unhealthy culture. And we’ve covered how you can assess your culture’s health. But what are some concrete ways that healthy culture will help your company during times of crisis?
1. Improves morale despite job insecurity
Times of crisis – a pandemic, natural disaster, big mergers, etc. – can fuel widespread job insecurity. If employees are afraid of losing their job at any moment, this will have direct impacts on their ability to perform at work.
Among other things, fear of losing their jobs can cause employees to:
- Scour Indeed on the job
- Spread rumors
- Be unfocused and unengaged
- Overwork themselves
Healthy company culture can quell fears about job loss – or, at the very least, mitigate some of the negative workplace effects of job insecurity. This is because, in a healthy culture, leadership is transparent, communication is proactive, and employees know that they are valued.
So if you’ve put in effort to maintain company culture through adversity, employees will feel assured that any risk of losing their jobs will be communicated to them. Employees should also feel confident that their supervisors will provide them with references for future job opportunities.
And finally, employees will be more likely to remain engaged at work because they feel their contributions are valued.
Keeping employees engaged through a crisis can be difficult. But don’t worry–at RTG Solutions Group, we’ve got you covered. Check out our article on 6 Ways to Engage Employees During the COVID Crisis for actionable tips on engagement!
2. Helps employees adapt to changes
Chances are, if your company is facing some sort of crisis, some changes will have to be made. Maybe you will have to transition to remote work, as many organizations did due to COVID-19. Or maybe you will have to implement new health and safety regulations.
Whatever the changes may be – large or small – if the culture is weak, change might spell serious trouble for your business.
In businesses with poor culture, even if a beneficial change is implemented, employees might be skeptical or slow to accept it. Leadership might lack implementation or change management abilities. Communication might be so ineffective that changes just create widespread confusion. Processes might be so poorly understood that changing them just makes things worse.
However, healthy culture makes your organization – and its people – more agile and receptive to change. This is because processes are well-understood and well-documented. Leadership is equipped with tools to execute changes effectively. And communication keeps everyone on the same page.
3. Fosters teamwork and problem-solving
During times of crisis, employees and leadership will have their problem-solving skills put to the test. This is because a crisis might cause your business to adopt new technology, implement new regulations, change working conditions, etc. All of these changes will cause novel problems to spring up in the workplace.
Developing a healthy workplace culture makes team members receptive to change, promotes strong working relationships between employees, and makes your business proactive rather than reactive. All of these factors will give your business a leg up when it comes to solving new and complex problems.
One of the best ways to improve your employees’ problem-solving and teamwork skills is to build a culture of continuous learning in your organization.
The main feature of a continuous learning culture is a constant availability of high-quality learning opportunities for employees at all levels. Learning & development is a top company priority, and employees are incentivized to constantly improve their performance.
When a business effectively promotes continuous learning, one of the key benefits is enhanced problem-solving. This leads to more efficient processes and better bottom-line performance.
At RTG Solutions Group, we believe in the power of a continuous learning culture. Learn more about the benefits of continuous improvement with these articles:
The health of your company culture is constantly in flux. Through concerted effort, company culture can improve. But when leadership stops checking up on the culture, things can go south.
Times of crisis can make your business especially vulnerable to an outbreak of toxic behavior. This means that, during chaotic times, it’s more important than ever to check in with your culture and work to keep it healthy.
A healthy company culture helps your business thrive in times of uncertainty because it improves employee morale, makes your teams more receptive to change, and fosters teamwork & problem-solving skills.
Do you need to improve your company’s culture but don’t know where to start? Contact RTG Solutions Group today!