Culture shock

Is your company in a state of culture shock? How leaders can practice what they preach.

With many workers fleeing their current jobs, burnout and a lack of growth opportunities are cited as two of the main reasons.

These changing work dynamics and employee perspectives, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, underscore the importance of having a strong and enduring work culture, says David Friedman (, author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment.

But unfortunately, Friedman says, while business leaders often talk about culture, many don’t have a systematic process in place to build and sustain that culture the way they do other important aspects of their business.

“Leaders need to be as process-focused about their culture as they are about their sales, finance, and operations.” says Friedman, Founder/CEO of CultureWise®.

“Leaders have a responsibility to be intentional and systematic in designing the culture they want, rather than settling for the culture created by chance.”

Friedman offers these suggestions for designing and animating corporate culture:

-Define employee behaviors that drive business success. Driving culture is primarily a teaching function, says Friedman. This requires building a curriculum around the specific, or core, behaviors that the leadership team wants to teach daily, such as flawless problem solving, meeting commitments, and being a fanatic about response times. “Behaviours, because they are action-oriented, are clearer than values, which tend to be abstract,” he says.

– Ritualize the practice of your fundamentals. “How many new initiatives have we started at work and in our personal lives, only to have them fall by the wayside while we’ve been busy?” Friedman said. These job failures fuel employee cynicism, he notes. “But by creating a structured, systematic way to repeatedly teach winning behaviors, they become ingrained in your people,” he says. “Without repetition, nothing lasts.”

-Select people who match your culture. A new employee’s value system is unlikely to change, Friedman says, so having the right values ​​is key to adopting the behaviors that leadership wants to drive the company.

-Integrate new recruits into your culture. A person’s first week of work is hugely important in the context of culture, Friedman says. “It’s their first impression, and it tends to be long-lasting and hard to change,” he says. “It’s remarkable how few companies dedicate the time and resources to orchestrating every aspect of a new hire’s first experience.”

– Communicate your culture across the organization. Too often, Friedman says, corporate management posts inspirational messages and posters on office walls that don’t align with how people behave in the work culture. “We talk about teamwork, but then people work and think in silos,” he says. “Or we talk about quality, but our people are forced to produce at lightning speed and without the right tools. If our culture is authentic, the more images and reminders of it we see around us, the better.

-Coach to strengthen your culture. “Coaching sessions by managers and supervisors are critical opportunities to teach and reinforce your culture,” says Friedman. “Using culture-specific language during the coaching session shows staff that the words on the wall are meaningful.”

“Most leaders think culture is something that happens on its own,” Friedman says. “It never occurred to them that they can be as intentional and systematic about culture as they are about the rest of their business. And in these changing and challenging times, more and more people are starting to see how important that is.


David Friedman ( is the author of Culture by Design: How to Create a Culture That Performs Even in the New Remote Work Environment. He is also Founder/CEO of CultureWise®, a turnkey operating system for small and medium-sized businesses to create and maintain a high-performing culture. He is the former president of RSI, an award-winning benefits brokerage and consulting firm that has been named one of the best places to work in the Philadelphia area seven times. Friedman has taught work culture to more than 6,000 CEOs and conducted more than 500 workshops on the subject. Along with Sean Sweeney, Friedman formed High Performing Culture, LLC, based on the culture methodology Friedman created at RSI.