What do you think of when you hear “company culture”? Do you think of Google, who is touted as having created an amazing company culture where people have nap pods, creativity is encouraged through very unusual methods, all paired with a college campus-like environment?
That is, of course, one example of a company’s culture. Google certainly gets written up in articles and has received awards for the work that they do within their company with their employees. It’s touted as one of the best places to work year after year, because they have intentionally decided what they want their company culture to be.
(As a matter of fact, culture is one of the criteria surveys and reports use, along with career opportunities, compensation and benefits, values, senior management, work-life balance, likelihood of recommending the organization to a friend, and six month business outlook.)
To that end, every company, every organization has a culture. The kicker is that it may not be the culture that the owners, the leaders, or the board intended.
Actually, they may not have even thought about company culture. They may have just started the organization, or the business, and they were going to do whatever they do, to provide whatever service or product they provide, and didn’t really think about the culture they were establishing.
Think about the organization or company you’re involved with.
- What would you say the culture is?
- How do people feel in general about working there and about working with each other?
- Is it a fun place? Is it fraught with conflict?
- Is it open, where ideas are encouraged, or is it closed off and everyone is afraid to actually broach some new idea?
- Is it a collaborative atmosphere and culture where people truly work together, or are there individual silos where people just do their job, and there’s really no connection between these individual people?
Once you’ve thought about that, now think if it’s more likely that it is the culture the owners, the board members, the directors, the CEOs intended. Of course, you may not know the answer to that, but, for example, if the culture is one of closed mindedness and mistrust and dysfunction, that’s probably not the culture they intended.
The trick is to be conscious of the culture you want. Then the next trick is to figure out how do you get that culture? How do you create it?
The first step is identifying and being very clear about what company culture you want to create. This is where adjectives come in handy. Words like open, honest, trustworthy, collaborative, creative, friendly, family-like, service-oriented, customer-centric.
The company culture is really about the internal: how the employees work together, what the communication is all the way through the hierarchy, vertically as well as horizontally. Culture comes from within the company. It doesn’t really have to do with the external service and product that it provides. So first step is being very clear about “here is the culture we want to create.”
The second step is figuring out what you need to do in order to create that culture. And this is where an analysis of what exists currently is important. Say for example, the culture you want to create is one of openness, honesty, collaboration, creativity, then look at all of those qualities and see where you are at this moment in time.
- How open are we now?
- How honest are we now?
- How collaborative are we now?
- How creative are we now?
You may find that your rating or scaling of those areas is high. Or you may find that there’s a discrepancy between what there is currently and the desired culture.
For example, if the desired culture is one of collaboration, but what currently exists is all these individual people working solitary or in solitary confinement almost. And there’s really no connection in that. It’s a place to start.
So that analysis piece is important. Even if your rating is great, you want to go deeper. “We’re doing a great job; we’re creative; we’re open; we’re honest… but why? What do we do that creates that environment of openness, honesty, and creativity? Is it the way we communicate? Is it the social environment within the physical environment? Is it the fact that we take the employees out, and we have team bonding and team building exercises?”
Now let’s analyze the other scenario where the collaboration isn’t ideal: Why aren’t people working together as a team? Look at all the factors from communication, official as well as non-official, to the organizational structure within, to how people report to one another or what kind of teamwork and if there is a mentoring program within the company. What kinds of activities take place? How’s the environment? Is it one you tell your employees they can’t have any personal effects in their cubicle? That doesn’t quite create that friendly, open atmosphere, does it?
Look at what is causing either the positive company culture and what you specifically intend as your company culture and what is happening… what you are doing that is not facilitating that positive company culture and is actually creating the opposite.
Once you identify what’s happening and the results of that, then you can tweak, adjust, fix.
This may be something you and the executive team in the company can do, or it may be a place where you bring in an objective third party consultant like The Shuler Group.
That’s one of the reasons why we love our Company Climate Inventory. It’s our proprietary system where everybody in the organization anonymously takes the survey. It’s 70+ questions, takes about 10 to 15 minutes for each person to complete. We analyze the results and we are able to determine the existing company culture within your organization.
It’s always interesting to provide those results to our clients and see their reactions. Sometimes it’s a “We didn’t even know that this was going on,” and sometimes it’s a “Fabulous! This is exactly what we were hoping to create!” Or “We now see some areas where we can improve and grow and make it an even stronger company culture.”
Whether you work with us or a company like us, or you do this on your own, it’s really important to remember the steps: identify the company culture you want, then identify the company culture you have, and then figure out what it is that you’re doing that is creating the current company culture, whether that’s one you want or one that you don’t want.
When you create intentionally, consciously, and deliberately the company culture you want and you take actions toward that goal, communicate effectively, hold events…. always looking at that end goal of here’s the culture you want to create.