What is this mystery called organizational culture?
For me, culture is that combination of the tangibles and intangibles that make our company unique in how we do things. It’s the sum of the physical attributes (environment, work space, tools) and the abstracts (management style, war stories, humour, social interaction, collaboration).
Culture exists outside of a product or value proposition, and many believe it supersedes strategy in contributing to achieving business goals.
What makes a great company culture?
Think about organizational culture as a personality. If someone were to describe your company personality – what words would you like them to use? Would it be words like: cut-throat or sales-driven; or would their description be more along the lines of honest, responsive, collaborative? Choose your words carefully, and then embed them as values and integrate them into your company rhetoric.
While there are many factors that contribute to a company’s culture, here are four that I believe are a good place to start – whether you’re doing a cultural ‘health check’ or incubating culture in a start-up:
4 Factors that contribute to company culture
- Defining and aligning company values: Let’s face it, humans are pack animals. We like to belong to a group, club or clan and we enjoy having a basic set of rules. It’s the same in a business: defining the company’s values will inform ‘how things get done’. Teaching each employee the rules makes for a solid foundation.
- Work ethic: Don’t assume everyone has an appropriate work ethic. Be specific about how your employees are expected to behave. Compile a Code of Conduct and teach each new person the fundamentals.
- Growth: Good employees want to improve themselves. Understand what constitutes ‘growth’ for each person and give them space to grow both personally and professionally. Encourage and assist staff to study further, attend training and engage with mentors.
- Make work fun: Sounds simple, but having fun at work is good for productivity, motivation and loyalty. People should enjoy being at work. Does your organisation have a sense of humor?
What’s the ultimate measure of a successful company culture?
Once you have defined and embedded your company culture, don’t just leave it there. Understand how you plan to measure success.
Here are some measures that we use:
- Results: Ultimately an organisation is in business to achieve results. If your company culture is aligned to your goals and you’re successful; it will be in part due to culture. Culture is what binds everything together.
- Laughter: I like hearing people laugh at work and I see humor as an important part of our culture. In the offices, at client meetings, on the phone – laughter is refreshing, bonding and energizing.
- Churn: Aside from those that are unavoidable (emigration, sickness, career change) – how many employees resign that should have stayed longer? This is a fundamental testament to your hiring accuracy and cultural alignment.
- Boomerangs: My personal favorite. Boomerangs are employees who have left us to gain experience out there and returned because this is such a great place to work.
Both your customers and employees experience your company culture on a daily basis. Can you afford not to define, improve and protect your culture?
Alison Treadaway is a director of global paperless communication specialist Striata and managing director of the African region. She doesn’t profess to be an expert in organizational culture theories. She writes from experience as one of the custodians of the Striata culture and having conducted hundreds of interviews over more than a decade, with a view to protecting and promoting Striata’s unique organizational culture.
She enjoys being at work, interacting with Striata’s fabulous people and having a good laugh.
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