Creating an organizational culture might begin with verbalizing and writing down a mission, vision and values statement but that’s definitely not where it ends. A healthy culture is rooted in equality, opportunity, camaraderie and fighting biases where every individual is valued, understood and appreciated for who they are rather than what they are. But how do you build such a work culture? Moreover, how do you create a culture of equality that can be translated to every employee in a way that they can make sense of and act in accordance with every day? After all, your culture is not what you think you should believe in or what you feel you have to follow, but rather what you do every day.
Biases are a natural cognitive process. It’s born out of our ability and tendency to generalize to make faster decisions and judgments. While that in itself is not harmful (in fact, it is quite beneficial at times), it’s when they lead us into making judgments against individuals that they cause disruptive issues at work.
Being beings of habit, we cannot simply snap out of making quick biased judgments but it is essential that we take the first step towards overcoming these. That’s where understanding the power of differences come into play. It’s not enough to proclaim to the world that you, an organization believe in diversity and have a diverse team. It’s about being able to understand diverse cultures, genders, generations, religions at one level while appreciating diversity in terms of working styles, personalities, work expectations, talents, fighting biases and skill-sets at the individual level.
Unlocking the potential of diversity
Once you understand the differences at work, the power of the individual becomes that much more apparent. For an organization to be able to unlock the individual potential of each employee, they need to be provided with a level playing field of equal opportunity, value, trust and security.
A truly merit-based organization where individuals are only judged (with constructive criticism and not negative feedback though!) on the basis of their performance and contribution to the success of the organization might sound like nothing more than an idealistic, theoretical possibility, it is not too difficult to become such an organization. At the heart of it, all that’s really needed is a mind-frame that celebrates individual differences.
Communicating the culture
Whether it’s between people of different genders, religions, socio-cultural backgrounds or between the different strata of the organization distinguished as the blue-collars and the white-collars, the culture at any organization has to be one that can be disseminated to and internalized by every employee no matter their role in the organization or how different they are from one another.
The values of an organization are usually what defines it and once employees identify with them, it takes them that much closer to live by them every day. In order for them to understand that theirs truly is a culture of equality, fighting biases and restrictions, they need to see the organization percolating these values down right from the senior management and also stick to them across departments and processes. It is crucial that the senior management be part of the dissemination process. Thus, a culture of equality cannot simply be created but rather has to be lived every day. Such a culture improves engagement levels, motivation and happiness at work while also creating a culture of healthy competition where every employee is aware and proud of the role they play, take ownership for it and collaborate effectively.