Culture Comes First

How do you get your institution to consistently deliver on that which is most important to you? To answer that question, let's consider the following scenario. Right now, Hollywood is going through the biggest shakeups of its history as related to the harassment of men and women who work, or who aspire to work, in the movie industry. Dozens of celebrities are joining voices in saying, “We all know the most powerful people in this town use their position to take advantage of those who need to impress them in order to land a role.” 

Imagine if you walked into Hollywood today and opened a production company called Safe Harbor Pictures. Its mission and tagline might be "Great movies, made by brilliant people, who respect each other’s need for a safe workplace. By safe, we mean inclusive, harassment and discrimination free, and vigilant. It is our collective responsibility to make sure what we believe is delivered every day, in every detail of what we do." 

What would be your expectation if you came in contact with Safe Harbor Pictures?

Every institution starts its journey to greatness by creating some ground rules of engagement such as the ones listed for Safe Harbor Pictures. These promises are embedded into the forefront of any business, and they become a basic expectation of everyone who works in or with that business. The mission institutionalizes behaviors that would otherwise be hard to achieve. An employee at Paramount may think, “Who am I to raise a flag of concern about my colleague being harassed?” and may be fearful of losing his or her job by disrupting the culture. That same employee at Safe Harbor Pictures would instantly know that raising a flag is expected and that the culture requires them to expose this situation. 

Culture comes first. Employee behavior follows culture, and business outcomes follows employee behavior.

Is your institution seeking better retention? Make it a cultural expectation in your institution. Does your institution want to attract the best faculty, or furnish great facilities, or the compete to be the best sports team in the division? Start by making those goals a cultural expectation. That culture will become a staple of the brand that is promoted, and it will end up being repeated over and over again in your materials, headers, and everything else your institution does and those whose lives it ultimately enriches.