Corporate culture is a critical element in building a powerful organization that can withstand change and disruption. Whether a company is undergoing organizational restructuring, a strategic transformation, a merger or acquisition, or a new technology implementation, culture is at the core of its ability to successfully navigate challenges and emerge stronger. By giving your people a unified purpose, you arm them with a strategically designed cultural foundation to help them weather turbulence and uncertainty during times of change.

The cost of not creating a unified purpose for your people is escalating – and quickly. Diminished motivation, disengagement and the resulting loss of talent are inevitable when employees grow unsure of a company’s trajectory or feel threatened by inevitable change. According to Gallup polling, disengagement costs U.S. businesses a staggering $450 to $550 billion per year. Additionally, a Center for American Progress study reports that the costs associated with replacing employees is substantial: from 20 percent of a mid-range employee’s annual salary to 213 percent of a highly educated and experienced employee’s salary.

The Building Blocks of a Successful Workplace Culture

Many executives, not just HR professionals, acknowledge that workplace culture is important, they but tend to assume it can develop organically from the collective traits of the individuals who manage and lead the organization. However, this assumption oversimplifies the intricacies of culture creation and evolution. Culture isn’t something that can be dictated or manufactured; it needs to be skillfully designed, carefully implemented and regularly communicated to thrive.

Solidifying a successful corporate culture before a disruption – whether planned or unplanned – is critical to an organization’s ability to remain resilient in the face of change. When culture is designed to engage, motivate and align employees to work with a shared purpose, identity and intent, people can withstand almost any turmoil or change.

There are five essential steps to creating a thriving organizational culture:

  1. Understand your people and their motivation – both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
  2. Establish a culture story that creates authentically personal and emotional connections.
  3. Keep an ongoing flow of clear, consistent and effective communications.
  4. Focus on whole-employee well-being with proactive and real-time feedback.
  5. Continually expand employee programs that motivate and engage.

Communication at the Core of Organizational Culture

Marketers strategize and build successful brands that appeal to target audiences, creating messages designed to resonate. Think like a marketer when it comes to your organization’s story to ensure remarkable, measureable results from culture-building initiatives.

As an initial step, give your culture a unique, appealing voice using a central theme. This theme is best achieved by starting with a distinct internal brand and unifying every communication to align with the brand message so employees can rally behind it.

With today’s varied workforce, a mixed print and digital approach to communication is essential to ensuring the message resonates with all styles of learners. Visually engaging print communications featuring smart messaging have lasting impact, while corresponding digital messages stimulate ongoing engagement.

Specifically at the onset of a culture initiative, bold messaging and inspired design are essential to creating a buzz. ITA Group, for example, developed a multi-faceted strategy to strengthen its corporate culture. Over the course of a week, team members received daily announcements of new benefits and organizational changes introduced in creative formats, including:

  • A tri-fold style announcement enclosed by a pair of multi-colored eyeglass frames to unveil a smart casual dress code
  • Brightly messaged beach towels communicating the rollout of summer flex hours
  • Selfie sticks hyping new travel and entertainment-focused anniversary gifts

The rollout created an immediate sense of excitement and energy that was felt throughout the organization, while ongoing communications kept the momentum strong. The results of the culture initiative were notable:

  • 94 percent employee retention
  • Over 95 percent customer retention
  • 93 percent of team members reporting being enthusiastic and inspired by the company’s future
  • Multiple top workplace awards

Furthermore, personification of the program continues on an ongoing basis through designated culture ambassadors (individuals outside the C-suite, including individual contributors as well as middle managers) who exemplify cultural standards daily.

Culture is the foundation for creating an engaged workforce that can thrive during times of change, but the importance of strategy, continuous re-evaluation and ongoing communication cannot be understated. Proactively developing – and, if necessary, transforming – organizational culture will give your employees the grounding they need to stay engaged and resilient despite any business issue that may transpire.