The importance of defining and maintaining a solid company culture

Fists in a united circle

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Back in the day when I was a recruiter, the notion of company culture was something many of my clients would want me to promote to potential candidates. Perhaps more importantly though, was their expectation that I would carefully explore and assess the candidates’ suitability (and therefore potential fit) for their specific culture. 

Having said that, I also had clients who never even mentioned the idea of culture when briefing me on a role within their business. Of course, this would make me somewhat curious (or dubious) so I would ask why. 

“We’re a startup. We don’t need to worry about company culture yet.” 

“My team is just a tiny cog in a much bigger wheel. They haven’t told us what our own culture should be.” 

“This business unit was created following a few acquisitions. I have no idea whose culture we should be adopting.” 

Have you ever said or had thoughts like this before?  

Have you even stopped to think about the importance of your company culture? 

As a leader, the culture you create will have a major impact on the type of people you hire (and hopefully hang on to!). After all, people are attracted to, repelled, or uplifted by the culture they are immersed in. 

Company culture can be loosely defined as the beliefs, values and attitudes of an organisation. 

Studies have repeatedly shown that a good company culture has a significant influence on how an organisation performs. Some of the many areas it impacts on are: 

  • Productivity – it leads to a continuous improvement in performance levels
     
  • Morale – a good culture engenders pride, trust and loyalty in employees 
  • Attendance – committed employees take less time off and voluntarily work longer hours 
  • Retention – in a good culture, employees feel valued and are more likely to stay with the company 
  • Customer service – improved morale creates a better attitude amongst staff, which translates into better customer service 
  • Workplace relations – a good culture increases cooperation between staff and management  

Given that there are numerous benefits to having a strong company culture, the question is, how do you create one?  

The first thing is to identify what kind of culture you currently have in your organisation or in your team and the best way to do this is to have a good look around you. 

Note how employees interact with one another, with management and with customers and suppliers. What is the prevailing vibe or mood of your workplace? Is it quiet and solemn? Bright and cheery? Do people chat or is it all business? Are they constantly watching the clock? 

Another indicator of company culture is the way people talk about your organisation on the outside.  

If you are not satisfied with your existing culture, or if you haven’t yet created a culture that you can call your own, you should develop a blueprint of the kind of culture you would like to have.

One way to do this is to look at some of the common characteristics identified in organisations with strong company cultures which could include: 

  • Employees who are empowered to contribute to the growth of the company 
  • Leaders who are trusted and respected 
  • A strong customer focus 
  • High standards of integrity and accountability 
  • A flexible attitude to work/life balance 

Many people assume that culture is something that is nurtured from the shadows and allowed to spring up at will.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Whether you like it or not, your company has a culture. Culture takes place wherever more than one person is present in a business.

As your business grows, the culture is set by the way the entire group does things rather than the way an individual does things. 

Establishing the company culture that you want is vital to the continued growth of your business. While it is never too late to attempt to change a company culture, bringing cultural change to a large organisation takes an incredible amount of time. 

Consider the difference in time and effort between turning a tiny boat around and swinging a huge cruise ship around. One takes a simple movement of a hand while the other takes a coordinated effort of multiple machines and people to accomplish. 

Setting your company culture early is easier than waiting and needing to change it later when your group is larger. 

Remember, though, if you don’t define your company culture, it will define you. 

As a leader it is vital that you take proactive measures to define your culture as soon as possible in order to cement the way you want things done within your team or business.  

If you asked your employees to define ‘the way we do things around here’ what would they say? 

Give it a try. Ask them what makes working in your business different to working in another organisation? What stuff do they feel you do well as a team? What stuff do they feel you need to improve on as a team? 

Their answers to these questions will highlight some of the defining characteristics of the culture of your business. 

Consider setting up a shared document entitled ‘The Way We Do Things Around Here’. The document is designed to be living, that is, constantly edited by multiple people. It could include sub-headings such as, ‘how we interact with customers’, ‘meeting etiquette’, ‘if I don’t like something’, ‘work-life balance’, etc. 

These sub-headings will prompt thinking in the right direction for your employees and will encourage the entire team to contribute. That way, team members can articulate how they might prefer to do things individually, but then the team must agree on how it will get done. 

However, it’s important to remember that a company culture, however good, will change over time.

People leave and others take their place; employees’ needs change gradually over time; the company itself changes as it grows, requiring its employees to adapt to new circumstances. 

This means that once you have achieved the kind of company culture you want, you will need to constantly monitor its temperature to ensure it doesn’t deteriorate without you knowing.  

Maintaining a good company culture is an ongoing project, but hopefully one you will realise is well worth the effort once the positive results start rolling in. 

Remember hellomonday provides coaching and support to leaders at all levels; prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained learning and change; and reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching. 

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