In business, it is often the little things that make a huge difference. This is why culture hacking has proven itself to be so effective. It is all about small things that can be done every single day to create iterative and positive change.
At first glance, many dismiss culture hacking because it seems like an ineffective quick fix. This is only the case when it is incorrectly applied. Culture hacks are not done for HR benefits. They are done for business benefits. They drive innovation, collaboration, and ultimately, business growth.
What Is Culture Hacking?
There is no generally accepted definition for it but at its roots, culture hacking basically means taking some intentional actions with the purpose of positively improving the culture of an organization.
At its core, the practice needs to be adopted early and constantly improved. It is just not something you can do once per year and expect results.
Take a look at the top entrepreneurs of the twentieth century. Or even a service-based business like a personal injury lawyer Washington St, Boston, MA. You will quickly notice that the huge empires they built were designed on the premise of an exact company culture that made the entire business strong. Talk to people working for giants like Microsoft and Amazon and you will notice that most do not want to change jobs. This is not solely because of monetary reasons. It is because they get something else, like appreciation, bonuses, or just something else that makes them stay.
Culture hacking works best if the organization focuses on the co-creation of culture. This means it is not the CEO or the board of directors who dictates company culture. It is co-created every single day with the input of everyone. The organization basically creates an active environment in which everyone works together. And there is a constant feedback loop that enables active ongoing culture and change building.
3 Culture Hacking Examples
One of the best ways to truly understand a process is to look at some examples.
1 – Recognition Awards – Google
Some departments in Google offer the “Courageous Penguin” award. The company chose the penguin because of the courage they show when they jump to swim after sanding on the iceberg’s edge. One penguin jumps first, without knowing what it will hit, ice or water.
Google offers the award to recognize courageous employees. This amplifies company culture and encourages people to take a chance and take action without being sure of the outcome, positive or negative.
2 – Constantly Changing Working Environments – Grundfos
Grundfos is Denmark’s largest pump manufacturer. As it grew, it started to develop IoT solutions. To create a positive company culture, a different digital factory building was created close to the main headquarters. But, the design was different. Then, the company changes the office interior design from time to time. This lets employees experience continuous change.
The reason why this works is that, when done right, change can generate enthusiasm. By simply changing the design from time to time, excitement and curiosity are stirred up. Innovation is encouraged and actually kickstarted.
3 – Justify The “No” – Amazon
Everyone knows Amazon but few people know the company created an “institutional yes”. Basically, the boss cannot reject project ideas from employees without highlighting the argument as to why “no” was the answer. The argument needs to be written and presented in 2 pages.
The strategy works because we are naturally resistant to change. We automatically want to say no to most ideas that come our way. Through this “institutional yes”, the boss is forced to give the idea more thought. Amazon’s huge innovation power comes from practices like this one.
Tips To Help You Implement Culture Hacking Strategies
Culture hacking does not happen or just works overnight. You need to carefully analyze what you do and take active steps towards changing company culture with these little beneficial hacks. Here are some tips to help you achieve just that.
Create A Team To Manage Company Culture
The culture team would have a precise task. It would need to understand the organization’s core. Then, it would need to observe it.
You cannot expect to identify great culture hacks by simply doing it yourself. Having a team whose sole task is that is highly effective.
Based on observation, the culture team can take actions to shape values that perfectly align with employees, business structure, and overall business strategy.
Encourage Your Employees To Share
Changing company culture is impossible if your employees resist it. You thus need to make sure they are on board. They can only be on board when you choose to implement culture hacks that are accepted by the employees.
A great way to get input is to hold meetings where employees are fully encouraged to share their ideas. They should also be encouraged to discuss anything that they have on their mind in relation to the business. You thus improve transparency and trust. At the same time, employees get to contribute to the organization’s active innovation.
Take Advantage Of Gamification
Gamification works because it appeals to people’s natural competitive nature. When you can do that, you can expect your employees to do more. But you have to make sure the competition you create is a safe one and that it is actually beneficial for company culture.
For instance, T-Mobile created T-Community. The goal was to make the customer care team collaborate better. Badges and points were awarded for some activities carried out on the social business platform. Then, a leaderboard appeared. This leaderboard lets every member compare their performance with the performance of others.
After T-Community was implemented, customer satisfaction scores went up and there was a platform engagement increase of 1000%.
If you see that employees are reluctant to change or communication, a points system might be a way to encourage activity. And you can take it one step further by offering rewards for top performers. Remember that even small incentives can make people want to do something new.
Ditch PowerPoint And Create Visualizations
Most businesses still communicate strategies through presentations in PowerPoint and emails. In modern times, this is not a great approach since such ways to present information are so easy to ignore. What you should do as an alternative is to look for new ways to present the transformation you try to highlight.
There are countless possible visualizations you can set up. Some companies even created customer cardboard cutouts to make it easier for employees to understand who they were serving. Obviously, you can always go for the classic big screens that show live progress towards company objectives.
The goal is to create visualizations that can provoke emotional responses. To do that, you might have to think out-of-the-box.
Get A Fresh Perspective
Some of the best insight you will ever receive will come from an unexpected source. As you look for new ideas, you want to welcome outsiders. We often get stuck in a bubble because we are close to what we work on. Having fresh perspectives gives us a fresh outlook on everything.
What you can do is organize a session in which you welcome people from unrelated business parts or from outside the business. The goal is to ask them to suggest changes they would like to see. This is actually common practice for businesses that rely on direct interaction with customers, like Lowe or Warner.
Arrange Meetings Between Staff Members Who Wouldn’t Normally Meet
The last thing you should seriously consider doing is making people in your organizations who wouldn’t normally meet have a work day together or simply chat about what they think in relation to the business processes you think about changing. This offers that fresh perspective we highlighted before.
This strategy works great when the organization is larger. You have access to a wider talent pool that you can clump together. For instance, you can take a person from the sales department and discuss growth strategies with the marketing department.
If your organization is not large enough, you can always use reverse mentorship. This is a pretty common strategy in which the person higher up the corporate ladder shadows someone underneath. For instance, the project lead designer can work a day as an intern for one of the lower designers. This offers insight into how the company operates and can highlight some potential culture hacks that could be implemented in the future.
Culture Hacking Is For The Business, Not For HR
The last really important thing we should assess is the relationship between culture hacking and the business. The common misconception is that creating an effective company culture is all about HR. This is not true. At its core, creating a positive culture is all about the business. Every single important person in the organization needs to be involved and help.
Company culture is basically the attitude and mindset of the employees in regard to what they do. These things automatically manifest themselves in the way in which things are done. Simply put behaviors do manifest themselves in all interactions. This includes interactions with customers, the company, other employees, and other associates.
We often discuss culture in an HR setting. We talk about employee retention and engagement. For the business though, it is more important to understand the link between customer retention, engagement, and company culture.
The problem is that it is hard to show that culture hacking has a positive impact on the business. It is hard to prove this with the use of regular indicators, like ROI. Those wanting to improve the culture of an organization and look for the culture hacking strategies that would achieve that have to convince several decision-makers that this is the way to go, which is not at all easy to do.
We need to understand that the employees’ behaviors, words, and attitudes always define the way in which the business is perceived by the customer. This also defines business reputation. Customer experience shows many things that happen within an organization, which all sum up to company culture.
Simply put, culture hacking allows you to treat your employees better and give them what they want. In return, the staff will treat customers better. This increases brand reputation, which is vital for business growth.
Getting Started With Culture Hacking
The great thing about culture hacks is that they do not completely overhaul company culture. You do not have to work a lot to completely change the culture of the organization. You just need to look for those actions that could drive positive results, based on what you try to achieve, of course.
Culture hacks tend to be simple, not complicated. They might mean serious financial investments, but they are still simple. For instance, one of the simplest cultural hacks you could make would be to implement some sort of weekly tradition. This could be a team lunch held every single Friday. It could also be a Zoom meeting you do every first Monday of the month, or maybe bringing doughnuts to everyone once per month. Even something as simple as changing office lighting can drive positive change.
Look for what you can change in your organization to drive positive culture changes. Ask for feedback and look at the bigger companies to see examples of what they did. Focus on something simple but make sure your changes will make employees happy and engaged.
We do not often see businessmen and marketers talk about culture hacking. But you can be sure that the top ones are doing it. Sometimes, they do not even know that they are doing it. They ask for feedback, analyze forms, and then make changes to simply end up with happier employees. This is because they know happy employees work harder and better.
There are always culture hacks your organization can make, regardless of company size. Look for what you can do and do not be afraid to ask for feedback after a change was implemented. You might have to get back on some of the decisions you made if they do not work since they are not accepted by the employees. But, eventually, you will find what works and what you can do.