What 23 years at the same company taught this CEO

Photograph by Bud Glick

The Fortune 500 Insider Network is our newest online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Alan Colberg, president and CEO of Assurant, has answered the question: How do you build a company’s culture?

Tear down those silos.

Whether it’s an executive team disconnected from company employees or business teams worried about their autonomy, siloed organizations often find themselves falling behind.

A strong, effective company culture can help take down existing walls and prevent new silos from going up.

While working at Bain and Company for 23 years, I had the opportunity to see hundreds of companies in action firsthand. The best companies know how vital a strong culture is to their success. That difference propels them to the top, spurring innovation, strengthening employee engagement, attracting new talent and leading to better client results. It was Assurant’s strong company culture that drew me to the company four years ago.

Coming into the role of CEO this year, I am proud to be a steward of Assurant’s company culture. Assurant (AIZ) has a strong tradition of collaboration and a can-do spirit that puts our values — common decency, common sense, uncommon thinking and uncommon results — into practice every day.

Communicating your values on an ongoing basis is important, and even more so in times of change. They help employees understand the company’s philosophy and approach to business. At Assurant, our values have served as a bedrock, bringing us together across product lines and geographies at a time when the company is realigning its strategic focus. I have made it a priority to reinforce our values as I meet with employees throughout the company and recognize those who put our values into action.

See also: What a tornado taught this team about workplace culture

While teams must hold steadfast onto their values, they should also recognize that corporate culture needs to evolve in order to be more nimble and grow the business. It’s important to encourage employees to adopt new behaviors and provide them with the tools and training needed to succeed in fast-changing environments.

One of the keys is to create an atmosphere that facilitates greater collaboration across business units. Create cross-functional teams to avoid redundancies within business units, for example, and take advantage of the talent across the entire organization. This silo-busting idea isn’t new, but making these teams work is often difficult. Establishing accountability and clear expectations is crucial, as is ensuring that the team includes those with different perspectives.

Many organizations drive out employees who don’t fit the typical profile or style of the company. However, companies must reflect the diversity of the world we operate in and the consumers we serve. Employees must reflect that diversity and be empowered to be curious, persistent and share their points of view. As long as everyone still lives by and supports the company’s core values, it’s healthy to have individuals who don’t fit the typical corporate mold.

At Assurant, we have begun to use online social networking tools to increase the conversation and share ideas across the organization. I’ve also asked employees to reach out to me directly with their thoughts via email. I respond to every email, answering questions and providing feedback on ideas or suggestions. This approach takes time and isn’t for everyone, but I’ve found it helpful in building relationships with employees throughout the company.

Read all answers to the Fortune 500 Insider question: How do you build a company’s culture?

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