Workplace Culture Agreements: 4 Quick Q&As

Your organization likely has a mission statement, vision statement and core values. And as a leader (or aspiring leader), you may have been involved in their creation, revision and/or implementation. But what about a workplace culture agreement? The Association’s Katherine Shenar recently contributed to an article on the topic in the Summer 2020 issue of Animal Sheltering magazine. Today she shares a few of the highlights on workplace culture she discussed in the interview—and invites you to pop over to read the entire article here.

Q: What exactly is a workplace culture agreement?

Katherine Shenar: It’s an agreement between an employee, their peers and colleagues, and the organization, to adhere to a code of ethics and behavioral norms. It’s a way to bolster the culture of the organization.

Q: How can organizations ensure the workplace culture agreement is effective and meaningful?

KMS: You can start using it even before someone joins your team. When you look at hiring people, you need to look for individuals who demonstrate some of your core values. Hiring managers should make it clear to potential employees that their success will hinge on their adherence to the agreement.

Q. What’s a good way for managers to use this tool with their teams?

KMS: Great leaders coach people relative to the agreement—it’s at least as much about praising them as correcting them. It’s important to be caring—and specific. When a staff member does something that doesn’t align with the agreement, you can sit down and say, “I really care about you. I’m so glad you came to work here. Your success is really important to me and the organization. I need to give you some feedback because you may not realize that something you’ve done or an action you’ve taken is threatening that.” And effective praise includes details, such as “You did a great job today when you did X, and it was really clear that Y. Keep up the great work—I’d love to see more of that in the future.”

Q: What’s your advice for organizations who don’t yet have an agreement but want to get started?

KMS: Efforts should start with the leadership team outlining practices that are in line with and demonstrate the organization’s core values.  And at the end of the day, the leadership team sets the tone and accountability and leads by example.

Want to learn more?

You can find the complete article at Animal Sheltering online, along with sample workplace culture agreements.

Illustration by A-Digit/ and Rachel Stern/The HSUS

Katherine M. Shenar brings 26 years of experience to her role as executive vice president for The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. She has served as CEO for two animal welfare organizations and held leadership roles with four others. She frequently speaks on topics including leadership development, organization culture, coalition building, marketing communications, fundraising, and emerging trends in animal welfare. She is the author of the book Coalition Building for Animal Care Organizations, a how-to guide for animal advocates to work collaboratively in communities.

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