Defining and shaping a strong company culture is considered a hugely important factor to the success of your business. Examples of corporate culture permeate all areas of the business from staff uniforms, to the office colour scheme and from the mission statement to how you incentivise and reward staff.
So, what exactly does a good company culture look like
Company culture is your business’ personality. It defines the environment in which employees work and combines several elements, namely the company mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goals, all of which are established by the corporate leadership team.
Companies with the best culture communicate and reinforce these elements throughout all aspects of the business to shape employee perceptions, behaviours and understanding. Shaping a culture which essentially becomes your business’ unique identifier, arguably more so than its products, strategies, marketing or innovations could ever be.
It may be that you develop a team-based culture that encourages employee participation on all levels or that you adopt a more casual workplace setting with relaxed rules and regulations. However you define it, the impact of a positive company culture should not be underestimated - it will give you a stronghold that differentiates your business from that of your competitors.
Want to learn how you can build a great culture? Hear from John Patterson (VP of Customer Experience, Sage) in our on-demand webinar exploring the link between your culture, your people and your customers' satisfaction!
Don’t have much time now?
No worries, how about a copy for you to read whenever suits? Just let us know where to send it:
The Importance of Company Culture and why it’s needed more than ever
The working environment has never been so important, not just for engaging your current employees but also for attracting new talent. When you consider Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report found that 51% of employees didn’t feel engaged at work and 17% actively stated they were disengaged, it’s a clear indicator that changes need to happen.
There are very clear benefits to having a strong and unified corporate culture underlying your business’ operations. Staff who feel valued will be happier, more productive and most likely to want to work for your company long term. So here begins a positive cycle where your business becomes incredibly attractive to new talent who want to be part of this successful and innovative company culture you’ve shaped.
Never has the importance of culture on employee recruitment and retention been more relevant. Millennials now comprise 35% of the UK workforce and are set to represent an astounding 50% of the global workforce by 2020 according to KPMG.
This generation come with corporate priorities that differ greatly from that of its predecessors. As far as millennials are concerned, culture rather than job security is key and if you fail to attract millennial workers, you could eventually be hit with a talent shortage and worse still, declining business growth.
Ultimately, the effects of happy, motivated and hardworking staff will inevitably be reflected in your brand identity, helping you to attract and retain customers and employees alike and delivering great results to your bottom line. In fact, you’ll likely outperform the competition by 20 percent.
What does a Successful and Innovative Company Culture look like?
Authentic cultures are unique and at the heart of them are your people. There are plenty of examples of toxic corporate cultures and quite often the root of the problem is a failure to lead and value their employees. Amazon’s company culture was described by the New York Times as “bruising” while Uber’s culture was referred to as aggressive and unrestrained. So how can you create the perfect surroundings in which your employees can learn and thrive?
Companies with the best culture use creative ways to provide employees with what they truly need to succeed. These are the places we should look to for inspiration.
Google is a very famous example of a desirable and innovative company culture. Its ‘fun’ offices increase employee engagement and breed creativity. According to its website, the company still feels like a small business with an informal atmosphere, even though it has grown tremendously.
Netflix fosters a very unique culture based on trust and is now cited as one of the best places to work. It sets clear expectations for its employees and trusts them to deliver…on their terms. It is at the individual's discretion what hours they work, how much holiday they take and there is no such thing as an annual review. All that matters to the company is the abilities and accomplishments of the people they have hired to do the job.
Is It Time to Reinvent your Company Culture
So, you have your strategic framework in place – your ‘Vision’, your ‘Mission’ your ‘Goals’ and you understand that company culture plays an important part in delivering this framework efficiently, effectively and cohesively. But how do you set about reinventing yourselves in what seems like such a fundamental way?
Get the Leadership Team Together
Your company culture must be defined and led by your senior figures. The first step is to recognise behaviours that support your goals - where are you seeing them and where are you not? This point was inspired by an HBR article which discusses 'Cultural Change That Sticks'.
It states that "when choosing priorities, it often helps to conduct a series of 'safe space' discussions with thoughtful people at different levels throughout your company to learn what behaviours are most affected by the current culture - both positively and negatively." We recommend to businesses that they should build an employee engagement program around exactly this, surface what your employees make of your culture and utilise their feedback to prioritise the areas you focus on.
This feedback will help you shape values and behaviours that you perceive to be integral to the way your company conducts its business. As the leadership team, you must lead by example, demonstrating to your employees how to live and breathe the right culture every day. Coca Cola's values are: Leadership, Collaboration, Integrity, Accountability, Passion, Diversity and Quality.
These values guide Coca Cola both externally and internally. Therefore, it would be important within Coca Cola that each member of their leadership team engender each of these values and display these in their everyday interactions.
It is also vital to recognise that changes to a company culture will take time and require ongoing communication, reinforcement and adaptability, if it is to take root and thrive.
Select People that Epitomise your Culture
Successful business cultures exist in many forms, and what works for one, may not work for another. Employees who fit the company culture mould tend to have a sense of belonging which in itself is a motivating factor that makes for happier and more productive individuals. It is important that your recruitment process effectively supports your company culture policies and hires talent that not only has the right skill set for any given role, but that demonstrates a compatibility with your culture as well. This means, you can be sure you won’t run into problems further down the road.
Organisational Clarity is Key
Altering our own behaviour is hard enough, but attempting to do this across a business is an uphill struggle.
Getting your company culture to filter through the entire organisation, so that every single person understands and enacts your values to support your strategy is hard. In fact, organisational clarity is the holy grail of 21st Century business. Even if your workers understand your culture, you may find that they are not enforcing it consistently.
The most common mistake with regards to company culture is defining it and then expecting it to all simply fall into place. If culture is going to be part of your company’s success story, it must be addressed frequently and individual employees, teams or departments that effectively demonstrate the cultural values you are striving for, should be publicly recognised and commended.
Adopt an Organisational Structure that Supports the Company Culture
The relationship between company culture and organisational structure is close and a mismatch between the two can pose significant difficulties. Together, they directly contribute to the overall performance of the business and we are now seeing modern companies making the decision to elevate different functions of the business to help drive their company culture in a way that aligns with the goals of the brand.
For instance, technology companies require agility to react quickly to the constantly evolving marketplace. This means that communication flow within the organisation must be simple, rendering team-based or flat structures most compelling. A banking institution on the other hand, needs formal procedures and checks in place to remain compliant with the law and so requires a more hierarchical structure in place.
Design your Office Environment with the Company Culture in Mind
Only a decade ago the typical working office looked very different. More often than not, it would be four off-white coloured walls and a bunch of desks. But with the rise of tech giants such as Google and Twitter and a shift in culture, we're seeing a change in the workplace and with it, a rise in 'fun' offices to increase employee engagement.
Having a variety of different spaces throughout the office such as lounge and seating areas, themed meeting rooms and even sports and gaming rooms, can be key to keeping your brain stimulated throughout the day.
The colours and textures you use in your office can be driven by the sort of company you are. Bright colours such as yellows and oranges emit feelings of energy, optimism and vibrance these are perfect if you want your employees to be stimulated, whilst blue tones provide a more tranquil environment conducive to more relaxed workers.
Providing a work environment that supports both the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees can be extremely effective at boosting engagement levels and supporting a positive company culture. Simple changes such as standing desks and places to walk when you’re on the phone can address the need for physical activity whilst multi-sensorial experiences such as plenty of natural light and pot plants, have been proven to be profoundly important to our health.
Don’t Stop Listening and Learning
As information and data are now in real-time, you need to be continuously collecting and reacting to employee and customer feedback and making real-time tweaks in response. Every company in the whole world is trying to do the same thing:
- We’re all trying to get bigger - more customers and more revenue
- We’re all trying to get better - better customer satisfaction and engagement
- We’re all trying to get faster – increasing productivity
- We’re trying to do things cheaper – saving costs to increase profitability
The way you achieve these things (bigger, better, faster, cheaper) is by getting, keeping and growing relationships with customers and employees. All brands and businesses have the opportunity to create a tangible competitive difference and your culture is key in making this happen.
Company culture is the personality of your business - It dictates how you interact with and are perceived by your employees, your customers and your stakeholders.
The top executives must lead the way - They must embody the values and behaviours that they perceive to be integral to the way you do business and show others how to live, breathe and be the corporate culture everyday.
Companies with the best culture get the talent - 80 percent of Millennials examine culture fit with potential employers before applying to and accepting jobs and, with Millenials representing 75% of the workforce by 2025 according to Forrester Research, the growth of your business depends on this generation.
Choose the right talent - If your employees do not fit in with the company culture you will run into problems. Culture fit is as critical as skillset and this applies across the board, from the leadership team down.
Changes to your company culture will not be an overnight success - It takes time for a new culture to filter through to the whole organisation and even then, without constant communication, reinforcement and adaptability, the culture will not take root and thrive.
Celebrate successes - Individuals, teams or departments that effectively demonstrate the cultural values you are striving for should be publicly recognised and commended.
Make sure your organisational structure supports the culture - If you are in a quickly evolving market a bureaucratic organisational structure with lots management levels and red tape would not support the culture you need to be.
Your office environment can support your culture - Choosing colours and textures to set the mood, creating a variety of different work spaces and bringing nature into the office all help shape the environment in which your strong, happy culture can reside.