What is Culture and Why is it Important?

Culture is a word that is thrown around a lot in today’s world and can mean very different things to different people. For the purpose of this article, we will define company culture as it relates to a cannabis organization’s safety and quality system.

So, what is culture? Culture can be defined as a pattern of thought and behavior that characterizes your organization, which can be learned through socialization processes and persist throughout time. For the purposes of cannabis safety and quality culture, we describe company culture by how employees in an organization think about cannabis safety and quality. It is the thoughts and behaviors that employees routinely practice and demonstrate. Therefore, if your organization has great cannabis safety and quality culture then new employees will learn these thoughts and behaviors by simply joining your organization and these thoughts and behaviors will be sustained over time.

Why is company culture important and why should it be centered around a quality and safety plan? Think about recent recalls within the cannabis industry. Do you recall what the root cause of the recall was? It was likely reported as being due to improper training, faulty equipment, or an operator error. All of which are common root causes we see in the industry. However, if you look closer, we tend to see foundational issues that go deeper than the immediate cause. This is why culture is so important. 

Developing a Cannabis Safety & Quality Culture Plan

The first step to developing a cannabis safety and quality culture plan is to assess and define company culture as it relates to your organization’s current practices. This can be done internally or by an external third-party company. Below are some examples of questions an organization should be asking themselves about their current culture to determine where there are gaps.

How to Improve Company Culture

Now that you have assessed your organization’s current culture, it is time to start developing a plan to improve your organization’s culture. There are five key steps when developing and implementing your organization’s culture plan.

  1. Get Management Commitment
  2. Create a Solid Foundation
  3. Set Goals
  4. Implement
  5. Monitor and Improve

Get Management Commitment

Before you can improve your organization’s culture you need to have a complete commitment to developing a cannabis safety and quality culture from the top down. This starts with senior management and key decision-makers. These are the personnel that will likely need to approve any budget needs or resources needed to implement an effective culture plan. Without a commitment from them, there is no point in developing a plan.

Create a Solid Foundation

Now that your organization has a commitment from senior management, you need to create a cannabis safety and quality system that gives employees the tools they need to succeed. This includes up-to-date policies and procedures, including your organization’s defined company culture plan, which should outline the measures your organization is taking to continuously improve safety and quality. 

Set Goals

Once you have developed your organization’s culture plan and all of the policies and procedures needed to support your organization’s culture plan, you need to determine what your goals are and how employees, including management, will be held accountable. When creating your goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you need to ensure expectations are clear and not too vague. 

Implement

Now that we have the foundation of our plan including culture and our goals set, we need to implement any new policies and procedures and train all employees. When training employees you need to be sure to explain the “why” behind the new policies and procedures. Your organization’s “why” will be unique to your organization but should include some basic principles such as ensuring consumers’ safety and meeting regulatory requirements. Employees who understand why they are doing something tend to complete tasks more effectively than those that don’t. For example, if you tell an employee to conduct swabbing after cleaning and sanitation practices, that employee is less likely to forget to do it, if they understand the bigger picture – i.e., verification that the equipment does not have bacteria, which can contaminate the product and potentially get consumers very sick or even worse, which can lead to a recall and the possibility of the organization being fined, losing its license, or worse.

Monitor and Improve

Once you have defined the company culture and implemented your plan, you’re not finished yet. In fact, a strong culture plan is continuously improved over time. You should be monitoring your organization’s KPIs to ensure goals are being met and adjust accordingly.

Need more help getting your organization’s cannabis safety and quality culture in shape for success? Consider working towards CSQ certification.

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