“In the end, an organisation is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” - Louis Gerstner
Company culture has fast become a business buzzword in recent years. Particularly with this millennial generation, employees are increasingly concerned with what a company is like to work for, and what environment they will spend the best part of their days in. link??
But why is company culture so important?
Culture builds your identity. Every company has a culture, whether that is one you have worked hard to cultivate, or one that has just always been, whether it is positive or negative, whether it is old school or modern… it exists whether you are aware of it or not, and it is busy building your employment brand.
Often, in the case of new or start up companies, a lot of planning and discussion will go into defining the culture. Having this make up of values, styles and expectations is a great recruitment tool, as not only will it help you ahead of time to decide who you’re looking to hire, it will encourage the right people to apply for your open positions. If your culture is very ingrained, and you are all an active part of it, you’ll get a good feel for people as soon as you meet them; do they fit here, will they bring value to the team, do they get who you are? It can act as a great benchmark in those initial stages of hiring.
Culture impacts current staff, in that it influences their behaviours. Having a recognisable and relatable culture drives productivity - happy staff who feel valued, respected and heard want to do more for the company they work for. It also promotes accountability. Culture is spread from the top down - leaders of the business need to live up to the expectations that have been set, in order for their teams to follow. If they, or their staff, are not doing so, there is an easy set of guidelines to follow to help people recognise where to improve. If you know what is expected of you and you are not meeting those expectations, regardless of what position you are in, you can be held accountable for that.
This, in turn, promotes open and constructive communication. Your culture should be something people are proud of, and proud to uphold. It can be discussed, but it is mostly unspoken, respected and adhered to, hopefully in a very natural way.
To some extent, the desired behaviours can be learned, and as mentioned, often comes from the top down. This gives your team the perfect chance to practice their own leadership skills and step up to set good examples within their business units.
Culture creates consistency. Many big corporations pride themselves on their consistency regardless of where their customers are in the world. Starbucks and McDonald's are great examples of this, their stores look the same, their staff act the same, everything is recognisable and familiar, no matter which branch you walk into. They have used their culture to breed reliability. They’ve bought into it and it has become a huge part of their brand and identity.
Culture adds substance. As company culture is talked about more and more, it can be easy to give in to gimmicks. If you want to have a pool table in your office, and it fits in with your message, that’s fine, but if you find yourself talking about all the ‘fun’ things you have in your workplace all the time, then it could be perceived that you care more about the gimmicks than the actual office culture. Culture needs substance behind it - if you’re going to reward your staff with tools for enjoyment, that is great, but it shouldn’t be a bargaining tool, or something to brag about, it should be part of the essence of who you are as a company. Everything needs to make sense, and the cultural decisions you make need to be cohesive, so remember to ask yourself those questions before you make big purchases. It is all good and well having a ball pit, or a pool table or a jukebox in your office, but if your staff are not communicating with one another, or have negative relationships, or don’t enjoy their work, a fun lunch hour won’t bolster the mood enough for your culture to become a success. Remember, it matters less what you fill your office with, and more who you fill your office with.
If you wish to better understand company culture, or perhaps to identify your own, there is an easy question to ask yourself as a starting point. What happens in your business when no one is looking? Try to learn how your staff act when they aren’t under observation. Be honest with yourself about how you act. The answer to this question will give you a good indication of where you’re at culturally.