Got culture?

office life

Employees stroll in to work around 9:30 and after a series of conversations on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, they begin their work day.

At another company across town, workers are at their desks by 7:45 am, coffee in hand, jacket on and ready for the first of seven meetings on a Monday.

Can you tell what each company’s culture is?  Maybe.  But not quite as much as you may think.

What is culture, exactly?  It’s not a dress code.  It’s not catered lunches on Fridays.  It’s not company picnics in the summer and gift-exchanges during the holidays.  It’s much deeper than that.  It is a shared set of beliefs and values of a group as demonstrated by common actions and behaviors.  Every gathering, every group, every company has a culture – whether you like it or not. And if that is the case, shouldn’t yours be intentional instead of accidental?

An organization’s culture communicates many messages to both employees and customers.  Culture is the true reflection of your company’s values in its daily rituals and policies of management as well as front-line workers.  These day-to-day operations clearly identify where the organization’s resources are focused and directly result in its developed culture.  Therefore to truly understand your company’s culture your must first ask, “What are your true values?”

Value innovation? What happened the last time someone suggested a new way to do things? How long ago was that? Do you offer continuing education opportunities to your employees? Do you hire from within or seek talent even outside your own industry?

Value unique problem solving?  How does change occur in your organization?  Is it a management level mandate?  Or do you have one or two strong personalities whose mantra is, “yeah, that won’t work” stifling the newer employees? Is there recognition to an employee if a challenge is identified and met with a creatively implemented solution?

Value responsive customer service?  What are your hours of operation?  When was the last time management met with a customer? Do you routinely ask for customer feedback?  Do your employees know what the customer retention rate is?

Value communication? How do your employees exchange ideas?  Do they email or text behind closed doors? Hold small group meetings where big decisions are made and everyone else is expected to adapt? Do you have an employee suggestion process?  When was the last time your CEO walked into the customer service department or grabbed a cup of coffee with an engineer?

If your company policies and culture don’t align with your desired values, that’s where you may be fooling yourself.  Words are nothing until followed by actions.

Whatever your values, culture is affected by many factors and is most certainly dynamic.  Whether your company is a startup or an established corporation, whether it is effected by environmental factors such as industry regulations or market changes, your culture is your stronghold.  It is who you are to your employees and your customers.  Culture is the action behind your words and therefore, shouldn’t it be intentional?

When your organization’s culture is truly aligned with your clearly identified mission and values what’s the result?  An organization filled with engaged employees fully vested in its growth. That’s a culture to shout about.


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