What Really is Company Culture & How Should You Cultivate It?

What Really is Company Culture and How Should You Cultivate It?

The term ‘Company Culture’ gets thrown around a lot; in interviews, company meetings, conversations with managers or peers, and for many job seekers. If you Google the term, many definitions or examples come up. But what really is company culture to employees and employers? And more importantly, how do you plant the right seed of culture to encourage the desired environment?

First and foremost, it should be noted that company culture can vary by organization or industry, based on the type of environment that is cultivated. However, the high-level understanding of company (or, organizational) culture should be universal. The best description of company culture that I have found is that, “Company culture is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.”

Wait, but none of that description includes Ping-Pong tables, colorful squishy chairs, free gourmet cafeterias, beer on tap, casual dress-down attire, or nap rooms. Why? Because those are company perks, which is a very different element than company culture.  Don’t get me wrong, employee perks are not bad and they can make the workplace more fun or comfortable. Nevertheless, these perks cannot be a substitute for a high-performance culture or expect them to solve performance problems.

For all employers, these fun “extras” will not be sustainable enough to keep high performing employees around. What companies really need to focus on are the roots of their organization, what truly brings them to work everyday, and encouraging the activity that brings value to employees and the firm.

These common components of great cultures should be the emphasis of promoting and cultivating “good company culture”:

  1. Knowing the Values and Mission of the Company

“Why do you want to work here?” is one of the most common interview questions asked by employers. Well, it’s about time companies give interviewees something to answer with. And, it is not just about having a documented Mission Statement; it’s about creating an environment where employees are passionate and dedicated to accomplishing goals, aligned with firm values, and on board with the company mission. You will have much more engaged employees when they are invested in the success of the company mission.

  1. Hiring People Who Fit Your Culture

An important note for employers to remember is that employees also represent your company outside of work. It is imperative to hire the right candidates that will represent your company well. For companies that are very goal-driven, you better make sure you’re hiring motivated individuals. Many organizations have actually created interview/hiring processes that will eliminate the candidates that don’t want to put in the extra effort; however, it is also crucial to determine personality fits and people who align with the company values.

One note to employers: Don’t make the process TOO lengthy so that candidates who are actively interviewing end up getting an offer elsewhere before you pull the trigger.

  1. Encouraging Autonomy, Creativity, and Trust

If you can’t trust your employees to work flexibly, why hire them in the first place? Although some organizations truly can’t have ‘remote work’ options or flex schedules, it’s important to consider the fact that if you do not trust them to work from home or flexibly, should you really have considered them to be a high performing contributor at all? Employees will be much more invested in reaching company-wide (and individual) goals if they are trusted to get their work done. In addition, giving them the creativity and autonomy to do so, on top of the training and resources necessary, will also create the environment where employees feel valued.

  1. Investing in Your Employees through Professional and Personal Development

Investing in your employees means much more than paying them a competitive salary. Again, don’t get me wrong; a competitive salary (or lack thereof) can be a huge motivator to find a new job. However, when really asked about what it is that job seekers are looking for in a new company, it is the opportunity to grow and be taken care of professionally and personally. Some employers provide a “career roadmap” or mentorship opportunities in many forms to promote leadership. The bottom line is, employees will leave if they see no room for growth. Cultivating an environment that allows for new opportunities and development is key to fostering the company culture that will retain employees.

  1. Acting as a Team, Not Individual Contributors

If you watch sports, you see how teams function. They work together, collaborate, communicate, support and encourage one another. There will always be those individuals that are accused of putting their needs or goals before the teams’, which will impair the success of the unit. It is important for leaders and managers to encourage teamwork and take accountability for the team as a whole. From personal experience, when a manager is willing to take ownership for a mistake one team member made, it moves mountains when trying to accomplish a common goal and cultivates the right team culture.

Do you have a strong company culture? Tell us about if in the comments below.

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