By Heather Lovell A healthy company culture is instrumental in retaining great talent, and a toxic culture is a leading culprit when great people leave a company. How do you create action items to improve your culture when ‘company culture’ is such an abstract concept? One helpful trick that we have found is to think of culture through the lens of ‘artifacts.’
Think of it like this—an artifact is a memorable object, event, or even procedure created by someone in the company, and they are instrumental in helping shape a culture. In our company we define culture, as “the ongoing expression of a company’s values through its artifacts.” Using this framework makes it easier to influence culture because artifacts that reflect the company values can be easily conceptualized, created, and infused in a company making the culture a more authentic depiction of the values that guide it.
We view each day as a translation effort—translating our values every day into artifacts. I am charged with intentionally building some of these artifacts. What a fun and powerful task! For example, one of our company values is Love so I get to find ways for us to show love to our team, our talent, and our clients. My brainstorming list included a board with pictures of candidates we’ve found jobs for, flying out to a client in Florida to celebrate our anniversary of working together, bringing an employee’s spouse to a celebration of his work, and the list went on.
When you start with values and envision ways you can exhibit those values daily, you can start infusing artifacts into the culture, making it stronger. Some artifacts are physical like a bulletin board reminding us about the candidates we love, and some are more procedural like taking time and money to celebrate milestones with clients. Being deliberate about translating your company values into concrete actions helps to bring those values to life, rather than simply being a list in the handbook or a poster on the wall.
Unfortunately, not all artifacts are created equal. While every employee in a company can create artifacts, some weigh more than others. Artifacts created by the CEO are longer-lasting and more public than those created by the new employee, but all employees leave a fingerprint on the culture of a company. As a leader, whether you manage an entire company or a smaller team, you have the influence to create artifacts that can quickly affect major change.
If you want to create, defend, or scale your culture, try thinking about it through the lens of creating artifacts. Start by identifying your company values and then ask yourself, “what artifacts would I need to start creating today that express these values?” You have the power to intentionally change the culture of your company or team, one artifact at a time.
Heather is the Client Success Manager at Agile Partnering where she specializes in matching fantastic candidates with the company where they are meant to work. A native of Colorado, but world traveler, she lives near Boulder with her husband, two boys, and two crazy black labs.