Google the words “company culture” and you’ll find nearly 3.5 billion results. Yet ask a business leader to define their company’s culture or to discuss ways their culture was created or has changed, and their responses are vague. Company culture it seems, is a bit of an enigma.
In recent years, culture has become defined by company behemoths like Facebook and Google, as a by-product of perks or structural changes. Attempting to compete with the perks, businesses began to focus on everything from creating open office spaces to allowing remote work, providing snacks, catered lunches and smoothie bars. The list goes on and on.
Companies looking to capture new and young talent began touting these perks. They seem to assume it would identify their outstanding culture. But true culture involves far more than a social welfare component. True culture is deeper, and it captures the heart and builds the commitment of an employee.
Some companies look to define their culture based on the company’s published mission, values, and beliefs. While these are great founding principles of organizational culture, they are not what ultimately defines it.
On the surface, culture can be defined as a product of a company’s values, beliefs, and behaviors. But what matters, is how those stated values, beliefs, and behaviors are enacted through daily business activities. If the company purports trust as a value but doesn’t share information about up-coming changes; Or if the company speaks to its respectful work environment yet has a leader who is known to use defamatory language, the employees most certainly know it.
Culture is not determined by something one can write down. It is determined by the way people treat one another and by the efforts made to keep those interactions healthy. It occurs through daily interactions and decisions, through policies and practices. Here are five prime areas to consider as you determine where your culture is and where it needs adjusting:
1. Rewards. Who and what is promoted? Is it the hardest working, most dedicated and competent workers who are rewarded? Do employee attitude or workplace relations factor into opportunities and pay raises? Is sales performance rewarded regardless of employee attitude or treatment of others? Other areas to watch the reward structure include areas where there may be nepotism and loyalty (regardless of competency). Examining how each of these is rewarded tells a story about what the company truly values. This in turn has a direct impact on your company culture.
2. Punishment. Who is terminated and why? Do poor behavior, insubordination, dishonesty, or other problem behaviors get addressed – and punished – in a swift and decisive manner? Are problem people allowed to remain on the staff or move about seemingly untouched? How many opportunities is staff given to change or demonstrate improvement before consequences set in?
3. Communication. How open are channels of communication? Do staff have a voice in discussing things that may impact them – like changing technology, management, or expectations of workload? Or are they blind-sided and surprised by things that occur or changes that are implemented? Can staff adequately rely on the chain of command for getting information to or from where it needs to be? Is communication one-way (ie: top-down) or reciprocal?
4. Teamwork. How do people work together? Are teams thoughtfully created with competent leaders put in charge? How often is their blame or finger-pointing? Are accountability and personal responsibility being reinforced? Are collaboration and operational reciprocity the reality of how people work and team, or are people and divisions siloed and disconnected?
5. Conflict Management. How are tensions or conflicts being managed? Are people encouraged to seek help or left to fend for themselves? Are people in leadership roles trained in basic conflict management? When help is offered, is it legitimate and multi-tiered or superficial and temporary? Do managers and leaders receive training in employee relations or conflict management?
Employees are tuned into each of these areas on a visceral level. They experience the sensation of culture on a moment to moment basis. Exit interviews, engagement surveys, and focus groups are a few ways to begin identifying the true culture of your organization. But, recognize these will only tell part of the story. Understanding and changing the culture requires a deep dive and a thoughtful process, not a cursory exam or hasty change.
If your organization is ready to begin this process and reap the competitive advantage of a healthy organizational culture, our Dynamic Team is ready and able to partner with you in achieving that goal.