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In Practice Sidebar: How to bring purpose & culture to life at work

· Purpose,Culture,Diversity,Inclusion,Communication

How can legal departments promote their organizations’ purpose and culture in the workplace to better engage employees?

Purpose and culture are nouns used to describe the why and the how of an organization. As nouns, they serve, at best, to explain their reason for being; at worst, they are platitudes that decorate walls, posters, and annual reports. To transform purpose and culture from nouns and platitudes to verbs and palpable experiences requires that organizations be intentional and rigorous in establishing initiatives, practices, and rituals that position purpose and culture as part of the day-to-day routine of their workforce. Central to the success of these efforts is communication.

Why is communication so central to establishing, enhancing, and cultivating a vibrant purpose and culture? Because communication is a significant way that an organization signals why it exists and what it values. Indeed, the pandemic placed a spotlight on the critical role communication plays in keeping purpose and culture alive.

The who  Communicating purpose and culture starts at the top but should not stop with the CEO, the C-suite, or other traditional leadership roles. Organizations should also enlist their HR, communications, and design teams to collaborate to fashion engaging ways of bringing organizational purpose and culture to life.

Similarly, these teams should roll out programs to train front-line managers, team leaders, and other group leaders to be purpose and cultural champions and ambassadors.

The how — There is a myriad of ways to bring an organization’s purpose and culture to life. Of course, how an organization produces the goods and services it offers tell volumes about a company’s purpose and culture; as does an organization’s policies, benefits, and programs. But to keep the heartbeat of purpose and culture vibrant requires more, including:

  • Townhalls, forums & roundtables  These gatherings (in-person or virtual) can be large or small, and can be led by a range of leaders from the CEO to other members of the C-suite (such as the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer), unit heads (for example, the head of Product Development), and the leads of special projects (such as the head of Community Outreach).
  • Celebrations — These gatherings (again, in-person or virtual) bring together the whole organization or groups within the organization to celebrate milestones, anniversaries, and other achievements. They celebrate outcomes that support purpose and culture in tangible ways.
  • Retreats — Holding retreats or similar gatherings provides a space for employee groups to strengthen personal bonds, engage in creative and playful activities, and discuss crucial work challenges and opportunities in a relaxed and energizing environment.
  • Coffee meet-ups, Happy Hours, book clubs, meditation & gratitude sessions — These informal gatherings help enhance the workforce experience in ways that energize organizational culture through a sense of community and connectedness.
  • Blogs, podcasts & videos — These communication channels, in addition to sharing company news, offer an opportunity to spotlight the contributions and success stories of teams and individuals creatively and poignantly.
  • Feedback loops — Employee surveys, polls, and other feedback tools give employees a direct way to share how they experience their organization’s purpose and culture.
  • Employee confidential hotline — An organization’s purpose and culture are protected by providing employees a safe way to call out behaviors that are inconsistent with what the organization values. A confidential hotline or similar reporting vehicle sends a strong signal that everyone in the organization is a guardian of those values.

Communication is oxygen for organizations — and organizations that utilize communication as a key enabler of purpose and culture will reap the benefits of an engaged workforce, one that demonstrates the purpose and culture of the organization through everyday actions and interactions.

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