Culture is not a set of values on your website. Culture is what you do.
"Values guide decision-making and a sense of what’s important and what’s right. Culture is the collection of business practices, processes, and interactions that make up the work environment" - Matt Blumberg
What it Means
Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, norms, and symbolic representations that shape the way employees and management interact with one another and conduct business activities. This pervasive force informs everything from communication and decision-making styles to how success is defined and recognized within the organization. It's often described as "the way things are done around here."
Values and Beliefs: What does the company stand for? What are its guiding principles?
Norms and Behaviors: These are the unspoken rules - how do people behave, interact, and approach their work?
Symbols and Rituals: Celebrations, company retreats, awards, and even office layouts can provide insights into an organization's culture.
Stories and Legends: Every organization has stories that capture its essence, be it about the founder, past struggles, or notable successes.
While culture is frequently influenced by a company's leadership, it's not something that can be imposed from the top down. Instead, it evolves organically over time as employees internalize and reinforce accepted practices and behaviors. This shared understanding creates a collective identity that distinguishes the organization from others and can have a significant impact on a company's success.
Why it Matters
Employee Engagement and Retention: A positive, empowering culture plays a pivotal role in keeping employees engaged and committed. When people believe in the values and mission of the company, they feel a deeper sense of purpose in their roles. This isn't merely about satisfaction; it's about genuine alignment with the organization's goals. An engaged employee isn't just 'working'; they're contributing to a cause they believe in. This intrinsic motivation can drastically reduce turnover, as employees find a sense of belonging and purpose within the organizational structure.
Performance and Productivity: An organization's culture significantly influences the manner and efficiency with which tasks are executed. A collaborative culture fosters teamwork and collective problem-solving, while an innovative culture drives employees to think outside the box and constantly improve. When there's a resonance between personal values and company culture, individuals often go the extra mile, not due to external pressures, but because they feel personally invested in the company's success.
Guided Decision-making: In the face of complex challenges and decisions, a strong organizational culture serves as a compass. Instead of only relying on data or market trends, companies can lean into their core values and beliefs to navigate uncertain terrains. This ensures that decisions, even when difficult, remain true to the organization's essence and long-term vision.
Reputation and Brand Identity: In an era where information is readily available, a company's culture becomes a part of its public image. Stakeholders, including customers, partners, and potential hires, are keen to associate with companies that stand for admirable values. A positive culture can thus become a unique differentiator, attracting customers and talent alike. Moreover, it provides consistency, ensuring that external communications and actions reflect a unified brand identity.
Change Management and Adaptability: Organizational shifts, be it mergers, acquisitions, or even market-driven pivots, can be tumultuous. A robust and clear culture acts as an anchor during these times. Employees, even amidst uncertainties, have a set of core values to cling to, ensuring that despite external changes, the internal essence remains intact. This cultural grounding can ease transitions and foster adaptability, as everyone from leadership to new hires understands the 'why' behind the change.
Imagine "EcoTech," a technology firm with a deep-rooted culture of sustainability and environmental consciousness. The open office space is adorned with plants, natural light flows freely, and there's a conspicuous absence of single-use plastics. Monthly town-halls celebrate 'green initiatives' and employees share tales of their eco-friendly practices.
Now, consider two scenarios at EcoTech:
Product Development: A team is building a new app. Instead of opting for quicker, cheaper solutions, they explore eco-friendly server solutions that consume less energy. They spend time educating clients on the eco-credentials of their product, turning a potential cost into a unique selling point. The company's culture of sustainability isn't just an HR tagline; it dictates product development strategies and customer interactions.
Hiring and Onboarding: During recruitment, EcoTech prioritizes individuals who resonate with its eco-conscious values. New hires undergo a unique onboarding process: a day spent in nature, understanding the importance of sustainability. Instead of just explaining company policies, they make new employees feel the essence of the organization's culture, ensuring a deeper, emotional connection.
Such ingrained cultural elements don't just foster a feel-good factor; they drive tangible business outcomes. Customers align with EcoTech not just for their product, but for what they stand for. Employees aren't just working for a paycheck, but for a cause they deeply resonate with.
Stack it - Resources & Tools
Books: "Culture Code" by Daniel Coyle offers insights into building a culture of creativity and collaboration.
Surveys & Feedback Tools: Platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can help gauge the health of an organization's culture.
Thought Leadership: Platforms like Great Place to Work provide regular insights and trends on organizational culture.