The concept of company culture is more than just a buzzword; it’s a driving force that shapes an organization’s identity and success. When candidates ask about your company culture in interviews or anywhere else, we want to provide a genuine and compelling answer. So, when thinking about that question for your company, how would you respond? At Blais + Associates, we believe that a well-defined culture is the foundation for attracting the right top talent, boosting engagement, retaining employees, and delivering outstanding results. In this post we’ll explore what company culture means, the factors that influence it, and how leaders can steer the ship in the right direction.
Defining Company Culture
To embark on this journey, it’s essential to define what we mean by “culture” in the workplace. To that end, culture in the workplace encompasses the beliefs and behaviors that dictate how an organization’s employees and management interact and accomplish their goals. It’s the invisible and visible thread that weaves through every aspect of the workplace experience.
Factors That Impact Culture
Numerous factors influence an organization’s culture and here are a few:
- Leadership: Leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. Leaders not only define the culture through their words but, more importantly, through their actions, behaviors, disciplines, and habits. Leadership is one of the most pivotal factors in defining and upholding the desired culture. While leaders may articulate the company’s values verbally, it’s their actions that truly shape the culture. Leaders set an example, whether they are aware of it or not, and this example has a profound impact on employees’ perceptions and behavior.
- Values: Company values are the core beliefs that underpin business operations and guide interactions with both internal and external stakeholders. These values serve as a compass for making crucial decisions. Company values are the bedrock of culture. They serve as the North Star, guiding decisions and behaviors. When tough decisions arise, these values determine what’s non-negotiable. For example, is it customer satisfaction, unwavering commitment to results, or, in a true family business, putting family first? Leaders must communicate and live these values clearly and consistently, ensuring alignment across the organization.
- Mission, Vision, and Goals: The organization’s mission, vision, and goals play a significant role in shaping culture. They provide a sense of direction and purpose for employees. When building your organization, it is critical to start with your Mission or Purpose—why your company exists—followed by your Vision of where you want the company to go, and your goals, both short-term and long-term. When clearly defined, the job of implementation becomes exponentially easier.
- Workplace Practices and Policies: The policies and practices within an organization affect how work is carried out and how employees interact with one another. How these policies are applied and their consistency are vital and where the rubber meets the road. If everyone isn’t held accountable to the same policies and expectations, employees will see right through the smoke screen.
- Work Environment: The physical space and atmosphere of the workplace, as well as other factors like dress code, work hours, flexibility, and how work is done—whether from the official office, from home, or through a hybrid approach, all contribute to the overall culture.
- Communication: Effective communication, including its frequency and by whom, is vital for promoting transparency, collaboration, and shared values. As leaders, we should not only talk about our culture and expectations but also highlight examples of success.
- Clients and Customers: How an organization interacts with its clients and customers can impact its culture, as these interactions often reflect the organization’s values and priorities. Regardless of whether you’re at a specific work event or possibly in a more casual environment, living up to your culture and values will prove essential to building trust.
Building and Maintaining the Desired Culture
Creating and preserving the desired culture requires commitment, resources, and deliberate efforts. Here are five key steps to building and preserving your culture.
- Hiring for Culture Fit: Recruit individuals who align with your company’s mission, vision, and values. This is probably the most important step because if you recruit individuals who already believe in what you believe and behave like you want them to behave, then you’ve already won a big battle because they will be bought in, more engaged and willing to put forth the discretionary effort to deliver results.
- Training: Invest in training programs that reinforce the desired culture and equip employees with the skills to live it.
- Incentives and Compensation: Reward behaviors and achievements that support the culture you want to foster.
- Technology and Systems: Leverage technology and performance management systems to deliver, measure, and reinforce the desired culture.
- Transparency and Accountability: Regardless of your role and importance to your organization, EVERYONE must be accountable for delivering on cultural expectations.
Defining a High-Performance Culture
In today’s world, you often hear a lot about creating a “High-Performance Culture”. High Performance should not be narrowly defined by numbers and results alone, although usually very important. It’s about aligning the organization and its members around a shared understanding of excellence. It’s about having clarity about the dynamics of your organization, and what’s important and what you’re willing to live up to and change if necessary. Be honest with yourself because if you say one thing, but are unwilling to take the appropriate action to live up to your words, then achieving the excellence or “High-Performance” you’ve defined will be nearly impossible. Once Excellence or High-Performance is defined, don’t forget about also defining specific metrics to to track and communicate regularly to make sure everyone remains accountable to living the culture.
Cultivating a strong company culture is a strategic imperative. It impacts everything from employee satisfaction to business outcomes. Leaders must take an active role in shaping culture through their actions, and company values should be the guiding light in decision-making. By investing in the right resources and being intentional about cultural development, organizations can create a thriving culture that attracts the right top talent, retains employees, boosts engagement, and delivers outstanding results. Ultimately, a well-defined and well-nurtured culture is the key to long-term success.