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What Is Company Culture?
A company’s culture can be best defined as the beliefs and practices associated with your organization, the why and how you do what you do. The way employees interact creates an ongoing experience and is a direct reflection of company culture. If you take all the systems, behaviors, and values and put them together, you create what your employees and customers experience every day: the culture.
Why is Company Culture Important?
Now that you understand what company culture is, you can see how it affects everyone inside and outside your organization. Let’s dive into specific reasons that make company culture so important.
- Employee retention. The “vibe” of an organization speaks volumes to employees. If your organization is able to foster positive company culture and encourage all employees to adhere to it, employee retention will follow.
- Collaboration and innovation. When employees are empowered through beliefs, leadership behaviors, and corporate systems, collaboration comes naturally. Team members who work together typically create an environment of open ideas and innovation as they strive to benefit the organization.
- Service. It’s no question that a happy workplace translates into employees being more productive. When your employees are emulating the positive company culture you’ve established, your customers will feel it and continue coming back. What an effective business model!
Factors That Shape Company Culture
As we review factors that shape company culture, you’ll see that you also can shape that culture!
To drive a company culture that’s positive and inviting, examine communication first and foremost. Look at the way your employees communicate to each other and to customers, and the way leadership communicates with them. Typically the former is a direct reflection of the latter. Many employees will evaluate this before they even start working for your organization which can be a major factor in moving forward with your company or going to another.
The way decisions are made shapes the culture even if your executives don’t like it. How your organization decides to move forward or not on a policy, system, or process is a reflection of your culture. You are setting the tone for your employees by how you handle major decisions and this, in turn, defines your culture.
An employee lifecycle is the process of hiring, on-boarding, developing, promoting, retaining, or terminating an employee. The way your organization does this directly reflects your culture. This will greatly affect your organization because this is the first interaction many will have with your company and it can make or break the relationship. Begin a positive employee lifecycle from the first interaction all the way to the last in order to foster a positive culture.
Without positive, supportive leadership, no organization can succeed or have an effective company culture. Employees look to the leaders in your organization to see the culture played out in real-time. Even without positive, supportive leadership, your culture is still being shaped, just not in the direction you may want. Consider this when evaluating leadership at your organization. A leader should emulate the type of culture you are trying to create because they will be a major factor in shaping the continuous company culture.
Types of Company Culture
While a company can assimilate to any culture, there are a few cultures that can be a typical starting point for the direction your organization will follow. Let’s review them below.
Organizations with this type of culture are typically flexible and not inhibited by bureaucratic procedures and policies, hence the name, ‘ad hoc’ and bureaucracy. If your company has an adhocracy culture, you put an emphasis on improving and constantly innovating. Your organization will be fast-paced and exciting while still providing a little leeway to be innovative and creative. A start-up is often a good example of these cultures, as they want to come out of the gate fast and get as much ground covered as possible from the beginning. While this culture is creative and innovative, if your organization is looking for a bit more structure, it’s okay to adopt some of this culture to blend with others to make your culture unique.
If you’re looking for a family-type culture, clan culture is for you. You’ll see these mostly with family-owned businesses where employees are all valued at the same level and you truly feel that close-knit support. In a clan culture, you’ll see the organization work hard to ensure each employee feels like an equal no matter their position. This creates open and honest feedback and helps the company keep employee engagement high. Customer service often follows suit with five-star ratings as employees feel truly valued. As the organization continues to develop and grow, this type of culture may fizzle out because it’s difficult to maintain. Blending other cultural ideas into the clan culture can ensure you keep the family mentality for years to come.
The hierarchy culture is the most common in the corporate world today. Think of structure, procedure, and well, a hierarchy. This type of culture creates clarity and a concise vision. Employees know exactly where they fit into the chain of command and there are typically no issues regarding who reports to who. You’ll see that duties, operations, and systems are clearly defined and streamlined allowing these organizations to mitigate risk and operate efficiently. A downfall to this culture is the lack of innovation and flexibility, so adding a bit of a “start-up mentality” culture can assist your organization if you find yourself operating within a hierarchy system.
The numbers game is where market culture falls. Anything to stay ahead of the competition and keep those profit margins is a great way to define this culture. Market culture is results-oriented with a strong customer satisfaction focus. You’ll find a great deal of innovation in these cultures because without innovation, you can’t stay competitive. With the strive to be innovative comes an immense amount of pressure. While this culture typically creates long-term achievables for the business, it is typically difficult for employees to maintain long-term. This culture could benefit from a bit of the clan culture to ensure employees feel valued just as much as customers.
How To Shape Your Company’s Culture
As overwhelming as this may seem, let’s see what the steps are to shape your company culture.
Step 1: Start Now
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too small or your organization is too large. Start now. Create a dialogue between employees, executives, leaders, and even customers to see what makes your workplace stand out, then use that as your baseline. These conversations will help you see what the current culture is. You can decide from there what you would like to preserve and what you would like to change. There is no better time than the present to start shaping your company’s culture.
Step 2: Cast Vision
Once you recognize where your company culture is currently, take time to clearly define what you want it to look like moving forward. Ask questions like: how do you want customers to feel about your company? What day-to-day experiences do you want employees to have? What is an absolute “no go” for your organization? Answering these questions can help you cast a vision for the direction of your specific culture.
Step 3: Lead by Example
You must not spend time and research focusing on how to create company culture without emulating it yourself from the top down. Leaders need to step into action and make sure the company’s mission and vision statements are being lived out. That mission and vision should be driving culture home daily. Ensure your leadership is building trust as you establish the culture. Make every interaction with your employees count, especially as you’re taking steps to shape your culture.
Step 4: Keep Track
Shaping a company culture is not a one-and-done deal. It may require a few attempts. If you establish something that breeds a high turnover and does not support the long-term goals of the organization, head back to the drawing board. Keep track of where you were and the feedback you received in the process to pave the way for where you are headed. Asking for feedback and utilizing it in your strategic HR decisions will continually help your organization shape and adapt your culture over the years.
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Shalie has over 4 years of experience working in a variety of HR positions and organizations including: working as an HR department “of one”, working with a start-up based in Europe, to working in a fully established robust USA based HR department. Shalie has experience in multiple states and countries with all aspects of the HR spectrum. She has a passion to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the HR profession!
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