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The Role of Organizational Resources in Creating Strong Company Cultures

Posted by Triple Gap Team on December 8, 2021
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For brands interested in taking a holistic approach to sustainability, it would be a mistake to forget about corporate culture in the process. The cultures brands build – whether deliberately or by happenstance – will inevitably affect their productivity, employee wellbeing, and long-term success. Cultures that foster trust, a sense of integrity, and shared values can also enhance their brand loyalty and reputation. 

When brands prioritize strong culture it’s a sign that they take social responsibility seriously and are willing to balance the priorities of external and internal stakeholders. We began to address the interplay of culture, values, and business success in a previous blog about operations and sustainability. Now, we get to take a closer look at how the resources and systems a business creates can reinforce cultures aligned with brand values. Foundational to this work are organizational documents that can relay and cultivate core values, because values are essential to create strong company cultures

We had the opportunity to interview Jim Miller, Co-Founder of Respect Outside, to learn more about the role that organizational documents play in building and maintaining inclusive cultures. Respect Outside is one of Triple Gap's service partners and a management firm that helps outdoor industry brands cultivate workplaces based on respect and equity. Leveraging combined expertise in law, research, and practice, their team supports outdoor industry brands through company misconduct training, executive coaching, and tailored HR solutions. 

Let’s dive into the conversation...

Triple Gap: What does Respect Outside mean? What made you decide to create the business? 

Jim Miller: We started Respect Outside after a conversation at Outdoor Retailer. We saw that sustainability issues – like the greening of supply chains – were at the front and center of brands’ marketing efforts. This led Gina to ask about “the people component of sustainability” and how the industry was addressing that aspect. Many sustainability issues did not address how folks were being treated at work. Then, Gina McClard– my partner and Co-Founder of Respect Outside – encouraged me to have meaningful conversations with women and other marginalized folks in the outdoor industry. What I learned was something Gina already knew. That even though it looks like we have reached gender parity, the way women (and other folks) experience work and the outdoors is far from how white, able-bodied, cis gendered men experience it. The gap was undeniable. We decided to do something to help the industry that had given me so much. 

Respect Outside team - Gina McClard and Jim Miller

TG: What does organizational or team culture mean to you and Respect Outside? 

JM: We think about “culture” as what defines the day to day experience of employees who work in any organization. While culture is dictated by leadership, everyone in the organization can make an impact.

TG: What makes a company culture qualify as “good”? And, what are the benefits of good company cultures? 

JM: “Good” culture would be defined by an openness in communication style and an acceptance of people's differences. It’s seeing the value that diverse perspectives bring to the team or organization. This includes the ability to elevate ideas, even those that are not fully formed, without fear of being marginalized.  

TG: How can a company go about creating this kind of culture? 

JM: To create the culture you want, it takes top down leadership, policies, and procedures that act as a skeleton for the behaviors you want (and don’t want). It also takes ongoing and repeated staff training. And then, it’s about bringing these elements to life through all touch points in the organization's communications and actions. 

TG: What role do documents play in manifesting a culture that embodies a company’s values and vision? 

JM: Code of conduct, employee handbooks, and policies and procedures cannot live in a desk drawer. These documents create the scaffolding to build the culture of the organization and they must be brought to life through reinforcing the positive behaviors. This includes KPIs around revenue, timeliness, and interpersonal skills, but it must also create accountability for folks or teams that fall short in these areas. Do you have a clear EIP (employee improvement plan)? What happens if I report unwelcome behavior that may not rise to the level of discriminatory harassment?. Transparency in your policies and procedures goes a long way to creating psychologically safe workspaces, where people know what to expect. 

TG: Are there important documents that have particular importance in influencing and reflecting a culture? 

JM: It’s the company policies and the resulting procedures and code of conduct that are the backbone to creating a positive work culture. These are actualized through each communication touch point in an organization. Ask yourself if you exhibit equity in job postings, interview questions, and onboarding. Are your employees encouraged to elevate ideas freely? 

Transparency is key for any document. For example, does your organization publish aggregated findings of harassment complaints? Do they amplify positive examples of inclusive practices? Does leadership credit work groups upstream of the final product or service, or do they bask in the glory alone?

TG: How should a company go about sharing these documents with their team? 

The conversation around code of conduct and policies and procedures should be brought up during the interview process as you outline the work environment and expectations beyond the work product. When the organization really uses policies and procedures as a template for expected behaviors, they will make them easily available to all members of the organization and train on the expectations that they contain. They should be the standard for everyone, and practices can make them known, used, and referenced.  

TG: What can a company do to enhance the interplay between these documents and its culture? 

JM: We often see a disconnect between development/HR and senior leadership in other parts of an organization, especially the CFO. Inclusive workplace efforts must be championed at every level and in every department of the organization. These initiatives must also be funded, not simply something talked about as an afterthought. DEI efforts that are underinvested are bound to fail.

TG: In your experience, have you noticed any resources companies tend to produce that lack effectiveness at supporting a positive culture? 

JM: We see a huge push for DEI efforts. Where organizations are missing the mark is hiring for diversity without having done the equity work to create inclusive practices. Diverse folks show up to work, but find that they are not supported, are often alone in their identity, and don’t see the path forward for them. Ultimately, they leave to find more psychologically safe spaces. We need to reorder DEI (diversity/equity/inclusion) to EID (equity/inclusion and then diversity).

TG: When employees have these documents, what are some best practices for putting them to use, having them guide business behavior, and ensuring they are updated appropriately? 

JM: It turns out that if you change your policies and procedures, you have a legal obligation to train your staff on the areas of change. This is foundational, and yet key to putting documents to practice. Inclusive policies and procedures will codify interpersonal (soft) skills and make them an area to discuss during evaluations and performance reviews.

TG: Anything else that you would like to share? 

JM: We believe the work of activating your mission and core values can be done by building inclusive language and practices into your policies and procedures and bringing them to life. This requires top down leadership, clear communication, and regular and repeated training on how to treat others the way they want to be treated at work – respected, heard, and valued.

So there you have it. The respect organizations display internally is crucial and will inevitably lead to actions that reflect outward. For company resources like policies and procedures to truly matter, they need to be made real through daily actions and communications. They also need to be made transparent to everyone at the organization from the start. 

At Triple Gap, we believe that strong cultures can enhance brands’ abilities to build and execute sustainability strategies more broadly as well. Ingredients such as openness, empowerment, equity, transparency, and inclusiveness are part of integrated efforts to address both environmental and social responsibility inside and out.

Topics: Communications, Culture, Teamwork and leadership, Business Operations, Policies and procedures

Triple Gap Team

Written by Triple Gap Team

Our core team members are sustainability evangelists. Generally speaking. ;) Don't get us started on why businesses have a responsibility to do better. Oh, wait. Yes, get us started.