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How to Activate Your Company’s Culture Fingerprint

May 11, 2023

Head to the “about” page of any company website and you’re bound to find some information about their values and culture. However, there’s often some disconnect between what was once written by a group of executives or founders and what’s really happening on the ground. 

To get everyone on the same page, you need to establish a genuine culture fingerprint and activate it — here’s how. 

What a culture fingerprint looks like
First, let’s establish exactly what we mean by a culture fingerprint. The easiest way to describe one may be something that describes an organization’s culture in detail — including how to facilitate specific outcomes, usual patterns and behaviors, and points of pride and strength.  

This might sound elusive or subjective, which can turn off more right-brained individuals, but technology is making culture fingerprints more solid and tangible than ever. Katzenbach Center’s Culture Thumbprint Diagnostic uses AI to identify an organization’s strengths and weaknesses by collecting employee data. 

Why you need a culture fingerprint
The short answer to why you need a culture fingerprint is quick and simple: You need to articulate your culture. Otherwise, how will your team know how to conduct themselves, and how will customers know what to expect from you? 

A fingerprint helps with: 

  • Branding 
  • Aiding new recruits or applicants in fitting in to an organization 
  • Giving your team a wider purpose 
  • Reducing confusion in the workplace 
  • Understanding how everyday processes affect business outcomes
  • Facilitating remote or hybrid working
  • Letting employees know what to prioritize or focus on 

Yet this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Describing something as complex as “American culture” in a few words is a tough task, and different people would likely have different answers to describe it. This may be partly why people tend to turn to symbols or imagery to express these ideas instead of words. 

However, a culture fingerprint can take this role. 

Activating your culture fingerprint
Once you’ve established a culture fingerprint, it’s time to activate it and get results. Here are some of the best ways to do that. 

Assess where you are today and make changes
Before you start working on your fingerprint to represent where you’d ideally like to get with your organization, you need to assess where you are today.

Why not send surveys to your team or host discussion forums? This could involve asking your employees what they feel they prioritize with current processes (e.g., customers), your strengths, and how often you make changes or adapt. 

As well as the overriding company culture, you may also consider microcultures within different departments. 

Once you figure out where you are today, you can start working out where you want to be tomorrow. That means making a change. 

Managers (and possibly informal leaders too) play an essential part in this as they are responsible for understanding the emotional energy of a company and improving the employee experience to get the most out of them. They should also act as role models for new strategies and processes to ensure that your measures really get implemented. 

This process may involve introducing incentives, technology, tools, or procedures that encourage certain behaviors. For instance, you could introduce a new step in your customer onboarding process that involves checking in with customers.

Improve customer experience
Most companies are well aware that their customers are the key to their success and try to improve their experience, meaning it will figure in many culture fingerprints.

However, there’s often a disconnect. You can’t just say you’re customer-focused — your processes need to reflect this. And rather than just implementing separate one-off projects that have customers satisfaction as a focus, it could be something integrated into all other  

Managers play a key role in this since they impact employee behavior and satisfaction (which both affect how much care they put into keeping customers happy). However, you also need to notice authentic informal leaders: Those who aren’t necessarily the top performers or managers but have a tendency to catch onto new ideas or take pride in their work, and can have a strong influence over others. 

Consider your environment
Even with the right leaders and processes in place, you need to ensure you have the right environment to facilitate success. This is important if you’ve listed prioritizing employee satisfaction as Subtle changes can make all the difference in encouraging productivity and fostering greater employee satisfaction. Is your furniture comfortable? Is there ready access to food? 

For instance, men typically favor lower temperatures than women. Some companies are acting on this by giving employees Google smart thermostats, which automatically adjust to the preferred temperatures of different individuals around their desk. 

Set your culture up for success
Culture isn’t always tangible, so it can be a tricky beast to understand. Yet once you get it right and activate it, it can make all the difference for your organization. 

We believe a culture fingerprint is an essential step in change management. If you’d like to find out more, contact us to schedule a consultation.