You should know about the company culture

Think your employees get your company’s culture? They might not see it the same way you do: New research has revealed disconnects between managers and their employees regarding their companies’ values and culture.

According to the study, which was conducted by corporate training company VitalSmarts, workers’ values vary by seniority. VitalSmarts found that leaders want innovation, initiative, candor and teamwork. In contrast, nonmanaging employees think their managers really want obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers.

These miscommunications negatively affect workers’ performance, as well as decrease their motivation, commitment and confidence in their company, the researchers said. In fact, of the people surveyed, only 9 percent of nonmanaging employees and 15 percent of managers and executives have positive views of their corporate culture.

To bridge these gaps in perception, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, the lead researchers on the study and co-founders of VitalSmarts, recommended the following leadership strategies:

Understand why you want to change your culture. If you feel like a cultural change will help bring employees and bosses together, consider the specific business motivations for changing it. Launching solutions as a “feel-good hobby” without concrete, measurable reasons can damage your culture in the long run.

Focus on vital behaviors. If you decide your culture does need a face-lift, you will need to make some behavioral changes to go along with it. It isn’t realistic to tackle numerous behaviors at once, though, so focus on the core two or three that will make the most difference in performance.

Listen deeply. Employees should have the chance to speak, and as an employer, you should listen and be open-minded. Directly engaging with employees and answering their questions are critical steps in understanding where you stand as a manager and what you can change to improve your company.

“Leaders tend to think employees won’t open up — but we’ve seen the opposite,” Grenny said in a statement. “When an executive sits down and truly listens, employees will be surprisingly honest.”

Take action. Don’t just say something — actually do it. After listening to your employees’ concerns, be sure to make the appropriate changes to benefit you and your company as a whole, building their trust in you as their leader.

In addition to employing these strategies, leaders should “participate in interpersonal skills training” in order to create a healthy culture, Maxfield said.

“Leaders can … better manage their teams [through training], but they are also in a position to cascade these skills to their employees — ultimately creating a new, healthy cultural norm,” Maxfield said.