What type of culture do you want to build for your business?
If you haven’t considered this, you absolutely should. Why?
Because company culture contributes a great deal to the productivity and profitability of a business. Indeed, corporate culture impacts internally and externally; affecting not just your employees, but your client base too. 78% of CEOs and CFOs cite culture as one of the top five things adding value to their company, including productivity, creativity, firm value and growth rates.
And brands who can boast an engaged company culture have 30% greater customer satisfaction levels.
But — despite culture being a significant business tool — only 12% of executives say their organization’s culture is where it needs to be. So what exactly is a company culture? How is one built? And how long does this take?
What does it mean for a culture to not be where it should be? How do you shape a culture, for the good of the business? And what happens if organizational culture goes wrong? Is it possible to fix, once broken?
Communication is at the very heart of every corporate culture, and the answer to all of these questions.
As a leader, you need to communicate your culture vision, and know how to interact with your team, to ensure this message sweeps through everyone associated with the business.
But first, let’s explain exactly what we mean when we speak of company culture.
Defining company culture
Your company’s culture is a living entity; it will grow, adapt and evolve over time, as your business increases in size and prosperity.
But if we were searching for a definition of company culture, there’s no shortage of them across articles, thought leadership pieces and management training guides on the Internet. This one, from Investopedia, is particularly interesting, and remarkable for a certain reason: Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact.
This definition appreciates something many others don’t: that culture requires interaction.
It’s good — but not enough — for management to simply say, “This is how we do things here”.
For a culture to take hold, employees must truly understand that vision; how to operate as such, how to conduct themselves within the company beliefs and personality, and what their own, individual role is within the organization’s culture. That’s why the dialogue between management and employees is crucial to building culture.
But what culture are you looking to build?
The eight types of company culture
Harvard Business Review exhaustively analyzed a breadth of literature surrounding company culture, to result in eight distinct culture styles.
Before we explain each in turn, pause for a moment to consider: which of these best describes your company culture today?
Do you foster an environment of collaboration and co-creation? How flexible is your structure? And to what extent is this aligned with your vision? Are you one of the 88% of leaders who would say their culture needs work?
Looking at each of those culture types, in more detail, will help you understand where your organizational culture is today:
Here the emphasis is on mutual trust in working relationships. Collaboration is championed: bolstered by warm, welcoming work environments. Teams are bonded by a sense of loyalty; leaders promote sincerity and positive relationships.
This culture personifies idealism and altruism. The workplace is tolerant and compassionate; team members strive for a better long term future, commitment to sustainability and supporting global communities. Leaders make it their mission to mirror this; sharing the team goals and ideals, also contributing to a greater cause.
Top of the agenda: exploration, expansiveness, and creativity. The sky’s the limit, with work environments encouraging inventive and open-minded ways of thinking; new ideas spark, curiosity is celebrated, every pathway is considered. Leaders in this culture embody the adventure of innovation and the search for knowledge.
This workplace has high energy. Employees do what makes them happy; the culture is expressed through fun and excitement. Teams are playful; leaders are spontaneous and interact with a lively sense of humor, across the company.
Here, success is all about achievement and winning. Outcome-orientated workplaces, built on merit-based motivation, drive the business forward. Teams aspire to achieve top performance; not necessarily for the individual, but for the business too. Leadership styles echo this; emphasizing goal accomplishment.
Strength, decisiveness, boldness; this culture thrives on competition, both on an individual and company level. Strong, dominant control leads the workplace.
In this culture, predictability and preparation allows for growth. Teams are risk-conscious, and both leaders and employees act only one an agreed plan is in place. Being able to anticipate change, and the impact it will have, is a priority.
More than any other culture type, this one has a set of rules, which all employees want to follow. Shared norms, and joint respect for agreed ways of working, establish mass cooperation. Possibly, the same strategic approach is in place as has been for many years. Leaders follow time-honored customs; a sense of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
A company culture may start at the top, but it requires all employees to take ownership
Whilst defining the company culture may be the role of the leadership team and higher management, the responsibility for establishing the right culture falls on every employee within the business.
And it won’t suffice to hold an annual company conference, to share a vision and hand over responsibility to your team to carry it forward. Only through repeated interactions will the right company culture start to take hold.
In every interaction, both internally and externally — each meeting, output of work, marketing message, recruitment campaigns, and so on — there’s an opportunity to communicate company culture. So building a culture of engaged employees may take years; it’s certainly no overnight roll-out, as you may see with a rebranded design approach or updated website.
It requires consistent effort, from each employee.
For leaders, using the 10 Cs of Culture as a daily checklist can provide a set of questions, to assess progress:
Core values: where and how frequently are they communicated?
Camaraderie: how well do employees know each other as people? What out-of-work dialogue is taking place?
Celebrations: do employees feel recognized and respected? How, and when, do they receive positive feedback on their work?
Community: connecting and communication both internally and externally, increases employee satisfaction
Communication: how do you get conversations started? How open is dialogue between, and across, seniority levels and separate teams? A culture of open conversation means any issues are dealt with efficiently and appropriately.
Caring: show your employees you genuinely care about their wellbeing; talk to them human-to-human, rather than boss-to-worker.
Commitment to learning: demonstrate your interest in your team’s individual and professional growth
Consistency: one-off efforts to build a culture will appear inauthentic. Instead, commit to a series of culture-shaping events or initiatives.
Connect: leaders should not be isolated at the top.
Chronicles: does each and every employee know how — and why — the company started? And, furthermore, what their individual role is in the contained and sustainable success of the business moving forward?
Yes, it takes years and a collaborative effort to establish the right organizational culture. But the erosion of culture can happen startlingly fast. Inappropriate behavior from one person — or a whole team, through institutionalized negativity — can bring even the most successful of businesses to a catastrophic halt.
The risks of negative company culture
Just as positive culture increases productivity and profitability, negative culture can be a significant drain on a business’ resources and damages the market at large. Within the business, negative culture puts employees at risk of ill mental health (costing employers close to £35 billion in 2018).
Negative workplace experiences have a knock-on effect beyond the office. Businesses have the opportunity to contribute to positive social change; poor organizational culture puts a stop to that. It trains individuals to behave selfishly and without consideration for others.
So how does this happen?
Where a negative culture develops, lack of communication is often a major factor. Present also within the mix: low trust in the team, lack of empathy from leaders, overemphasis on profit over people management. Each of these factors can be controlled through effective dialogue and conversation.
Set the right tone — build the right platform for continuous communication — and the right company culture will follow.
The right conversations build the right organizational culture
Leaders may create company culture, but only by embodying this culture within wider teams, will all employees begin to live and breathe the organization’s values. Shaping culture isn’t a one-off activity, nor something to be doing annually. It builds, slowly and steadily, every single day.
Duuoo’s digital platform encourages continuous, collaborative conversation — providing smart topics on everything from individual development, right through to sustainable strategy planning. Each member of the team has access to shared goals and objectives, and is encouraged to take responsibility for their own development through the company.
Our platform helps you have more meaningful conversations. If you think that’s what your company culture needs more of, get in touch today.