UPDATE 11/2016: This article on company culture has been updated to reflect newer statistics affecting the importance of a strategic culture. For additional articles on company culture, please read:
- 5 Ways to Cultivate Your Work Culture & Engage Your Employees
- How to Balance Cultural Fit with Diversity
- 7 HR Best Practices | Key Takeaways
Could you describe your company culture right now? Let me rephrase that: Could you accurately describe your company culture right now?
If you asked several other employees, you might get wildly different answers. It might be because your organizational culture is all over the map or vague, but it could be that you have a great one and just don't know how to identify and articulate the culture. No worries we're here to help! Culture is important and defining it can be a huge boon to helping you (yes you!) optimize and manage it going into the future.
The 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey revealed just how vital a strategic and communicated company culture can be:
- 84% of survey respondents believe culture is critical to business success.
- 60% of participants think culture is more important than strategy, or operating model.
- 51% of respondents believe that a major overhaul is currently needed in their culture.
- Only 35% of respondents believe their company's culture is effectivly managed.
Now, after a study was done at Duke's Fuqua School of Business in late 2015, there are new findings that stress the importance of a strong company culture:
- 90% of respondents said that culture is important and critical in the business.
- 92% of CEOs said improving their firm's company culture would improve the value of their company.
- More than 50% of respondents said culture influences productivity, creativity, and profitability in their firm.
YET... Only 15% believe their company’s culture is where it should be.
Learn how to create a goal-driven culture with our guide:
What's a company culture warrior to do? Don't know where to start? Get your company culture ID card right now! Here are some of the most common corporate cultures and what defines them:
This company is full of leaders and soon-to-be-leaders. The hiring structure ensures that only go-getters, with their eyes on the prize, are coming on board. Everyone is headed for the corner office, and competition is the M.O. Average isn’t going to cut it around here. Ambition is the name of the game and teamwork can ocassionally suffer at the hands of cutthroat competition. Try to foster collaboration and allow each of your emerging leaders to be captain every now and then.
This organization rejects silo work, and puts the focus on pooling resources, knowledge and skills to get the job done quicker and better. Efficiency through collaboration is the way they run things. They’re looking for team players here, so leave the headphones at home. Sometimes in the quest for efficiency, actual work can get lost in all the planning and helping. Help your teammates learn how to delegate and give everyone an opportunity to have tasks that belong to him or her.
The Work-Life Balance Buds:
This group knows how to work hard, and play hard, and they will often do both together. They find that their passions for work and a social life meld into this fun, productive office machine. If you don’t know how to let loose around punch out time, you need not apply. In this fun workplace, chaos sometimes gets the best of meetings and after-hours drama can overwhelm a hard-working team tasked with too much togetherness. Make sure to give private space to each person when needed and allow easy ways to opt out of all-company gatherings or meetings.
The Grindstone Gang:
This performance driven organization puts work ethic at the forefront – noses always to the grindstone. It is important to always be seen pulling your weight, and contributing, no matter what happy hour might be commencing at 6pm. While these folks work well together, their work ethic is the thing they're most proud of. In fact, it can become a "poor me" competition to see who is the busiest or who leaves the office last. Prevent burnout by creating flexible schedules and organizing the ocasional non-work fun!
The Busy Bees:
Who’s got time to build and maintain a culture?! These guys and gals are at full-throttle, all the time. What they lack in organization, they make up for in delivery. If you’re not going 100mph, you probably won’t fit in around here. While this culture is super productive, it can lead to disaster quickly. Instill some structure whereby there is time for one team member or department to rest every so often. Focus on creating some time for thinking and organization, or your team may become so overcome with stress, they all quit simultaneously!
Tips for Defining Your Culture
First, look outside of yourself and your own perceptions. Look to things like:
The Company Mission Statement – this should uncover the directives, goals and values of the organization. If it's been awhile since yours was updated, talk to management about revisiting what those really mean to the company you are TODAY.
The Company Brand – this should uncover how the organization wants to be perceived. Has the company recently gone public or pivoted product-wise? Make sure that your brand reflects where you want to go, not who you used to be as an organization.
The Talent – Who is getting hired, who is being retained and how are those people working together? Your top performers are excellent indicators of who will be successful at your company. But be forewarned, the top producers are not often the most engaged in the culture. Sometimes they may be the biggest agitators and advocates of change.
Now literally look around, what does your office feel, look and sound like. Look for things like:
- Are they collaborative in their work, or does everyone have their headphones on and heads down?
- Conversely, is it a constant cacophony of conversation?
- Do you see friendship or irritation? Focus or distraction?
- Are they moving around too quickly (or slowly) for you to even gauge emotion, or interoffice engagement?
- Are there feet on the desk and a casual vibe or well-polished pros with pressed suits on?
Lastly, does anyone ever care about cultural fit? Can you see cultural fit assessments at work in the hiring process or outcomes?
- Do you find that most turnover is due to lack of skills, or lack of cultural fit? If you aren't currently using performance management software to track this, start!
- Does anything about your company’s recruiting practices reflect the culture? (Job descriptions, the career page, social sharing, culture fit interviews, etc).
- Does anyone ever talk about the company culture? What are they saying? (Ask at the Christmas party or summer picnic... the spouses will tell you).
Defining, building, maintaining and communicating the company culture can be tough when you’re starting from the ground up, and perhaps even worse when you’re attempting to pivot. Start by defining who you are and what you want to get accomplished. You can do so by downloading our Goal-Driven Whitepaper!
As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent hundreds of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.