I hear it all the time, “our office in Iowa has an awesome culture, but we can’t figure out how to replicate it here in Maryland,” or “we have the exact same on-boarding process at each of our locations, but there’s no consistency in how people behave,” or even “if corporate is doing culture right, why can’t our franchisees follow suit?”
You’re not alone if you’ve ever experienced the challenges of how to proactively foster a cohesive team across multiple locations. That’s because there can be one aspirational culture for the whole team, with subcultures being crafted intentionally and unintentionally all around it.
Consider how the tech department can have a different vibe than the HR or sales teams within one company – now expand those nuances across multiple locations. It’s quite vast!
Teams may share similar beliefs, but they are expressed differently in your personalities, preferences, and tendencies. That expression is directly connected to the missing ingredient to creating a consistent culture: core values. Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.
A vision is your company’s why. Mission is your company’s what. And values are your company’s how. In other words, your values are intended to serve as a compass and guardrails for how you get your work accomplished each day. While personalities differ, a cohesive team consists of people who share your company’s core values so that they are intrinsically motivated.
The formula for cohesive culture
So where to begin? Consider this formula: Values x behavior, equals culture. Using this framework, you can start to understand where your culture may be in or out of alignment through behaviors that amplify or violate your values. Let’s take the value of excellence as an example.
Excellence x transparent communications and engaged team members, equals highly motivated and trusting culture.
On the flip side, excellence x poor communications and disengaged team members, equals demotivated and untrusting culture.
“A vision is your company’s why. Mission is your company’s what. And values are your company’s how”
It’s far from an exact formula but a great place to start to understand where your team has created proven practices and where there are opportunities to get back in alignment.
Three ways to boost morale
Here are three ways that you can start to harness this key ingredient to foster a cohesive culture across multiple locations:
1) Know your values.
A core value is typically a word or term that could be found in the dictionary, such as gratitude or sense of belonging. They are typically nouns and connote a feeling or emotion. With that in mind, what words best represent what you stand for? And how can you engage your team at large to determine that?
2) Own your values.
At this stage, you have a clear list of the words that represent what matters most to your company. I recommend no more than six so that your team has the capacity to truly embrace them instead of fumbling through memorizing a laundry list of words. When you get to the place of owning your values, it’s time to have them clearly defined for your company. Not what the latest google search results show but rather what these words uniquely mean to your company. Consider these tips for when creating your definition:
- Narrow the values definitions down to one to two succinct sentences. This is a best practice so that your people can easily recall what the value stands for and how it applies to them as individuals and as a unit
- Make sure that your definition is specifically for your organization, not a generalized concept for all
- Ensure that it applies to your internal culture and in the way you present yourself out in the world, in your community, with your customers and clients
- Don’t use the value word itself within the definition
- Be mindful that the definitions are distinct to each value instead of overlapping content or concepts throughout
- Begin with a verb to show the action that you’re taking as it relates to that value
3) Live your values.
Now that you know and own your values it’s time to live them. Here are a few surefire ways to create a consistent thriving culture across your franchisees:
• Hire team members based on values fit. Since values are intrinsic motivators, it’s key that you hire people who are actually motivated by them! Weave them into your job description and interview questions
- Ensure each location shares the same set of core values. My rule of thumb is to keep them consistent across the board. As soon as they start to change, so does your culture
- On-board and train. Showing a list of values once will never integrate them into the norms. You must start with an intentional on-boarding process that includes the values and then regularly train and support your people in the work to embody them.
- Develop a code of conduct. Instead of pie in the sky ideas, a code of conduct based on your values is key to setting clear expectations. I call these ‘value promises’. So what promises can you keep in living out each of your core values? Be sure to have at least one expectation for each corresponding value.
- Hold people accountable. Your culture is only as strong as the worst behavior that is allowed, ignored, or gossiped about. If you want to truly live your values, you must be willing to provide feedback, coach or even terminate someone over behaviors that are out of alignment with your company’s core values.
Whether your company is well-seasoned in developing a consistent culture through your values or this is a completely new idea, meet yourself when you are. You have the power to choose to invest in the heart of your company by knowing, owning and living your values.
That investment in your people will give them the guidance and support to show up for and with one another to achieve your mission with pride each day.
MaryBeth Hyland is founder and chief visionary of SparkVision, and is an author, speaker, and award-winning company culture expert