Derek Bishop


Culture is for life, not just for Christmas

Date added: 09th Dec 2016
Category: Organisational Culture Change

Culture isn’t just for the odd gesture at Christmas. Culture is for the life and lifeblood of your organisation

It was way back in 1978 that the National Canine Defence League created their famous slogan that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas.  The message was designed to discourage people from buying children a cute dog for Christmas that was then abandoned when the appeal wore off in the new year.  It was an emotive and visceral appeal to look to the long-term rather than the short-term.

When I look at how organisations behave at Christmas I can see some parallels.  You have the frantic scramble to get things done before the end of the year, whether it’s taking stock of your year or trying to get last-minute sales in.  Even if you’re not the kind of retail environment whereby Christmas is a focus for your year, it can still seem an incredibly manic time of year.

You also tend to get a groundswell of goodwill at Christmas, whether it’s through the ubiquitous Christmas party, or your boss becoming slightly less Scrooge like.  I’ve seen leaders grant employees time off for present shopping, or to take in their child’s nativity play.  Even the stoniest of workplaces can take on a festive hue.

Culture is for life

I don’t want to come over all Scrooge like myself, and  indeed these gestures are certainly more welcome than the alternative of doing nothing would be.  I do argue however that if it’s worth doing these kind of things at Christmas, it’s worth doing them all of the year round.

So, how about you try some things this Christmas that you can carry on throughout the year?  Here are a few ideas that I’ve found particularly effective in the organisations I’ve worked with.

  • Celebrate – It’s undoubtedly a time for celebration, but often the parties at Christmas overlook the achievements your team have had during the year. This is then a habit you can carry on throughout the year.
  • Think holistically – Christmas is also a time for family, and it’s easy to forget at times that employees have rich and varied lives outside the workplace. Get to know your team on a deep level whenever you can.  So, at Christmas, this might involve inviting spouses to your Christmas events.
  • Give thanks – Christmas is also about giving thanks for the good things that have happened this year. Countless studies have shown the value of thanking someone and providing recognition for a job well done.  People work hard all year, so make sure they feel appreciated.
  • Give hope – Christmas is also a time for looking ahead at the new year and what is to come. It’s an ideal time to remind people of the vision for the company, and the way you plan on helping them to grow in the new year.  This is also something that should take place throughout the year however, and certainly not be confined to set-piece events such as the performance review or corporate events.
  • Be socially responsible – Charity is also something that is prominent at Christmas, and efforts to help those less fortunate are undoubtedly worthwhile. Research shows however that providing employees with volunteering opportunities throughout the year is a great way for them to both grow individually but also gain stronger ties to the organisation.

When your employees understand that you genuinely care about them and want to share the strategy and values of the organisation with them then all of a sudden great things start to happen. And when the culture which underpins that strategy and values is one of innovation allied to delivering great customer service and employee engagement then not only do your employees engage with the company, your customers and your investors are also drawn into the mix.

Okay, maybe refreshing your organisation’s culture may take conscious effort and hard work and maybe it is easier just to make the odd gesture or send a few people on a course and move on. But unless you make the effort you won’t reap the rewards, unless you work on culture change then your only reward will be disengaged employees, low productivity, a failing reputation and the melting away of customers and investors.

Culture isn’t just for the odd gesture at Christmas. Culture is for the life and lifeblood of your organisation. So perhaps it’s time you gave your business a Christmas present and put culture change high on the New Year priority list.


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