What is Company Culture, and How Do You Find Yours?
Company (or, organizational) culture is defined by Wikipedia as “the behavior of humans who are part of an organization,” and includes “organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits.” It’s the personality of the company – it defines what is important to that company and helps shape their employee hiring, training and retention programs.
A shared mental assumption like, “teamwork, above else” (for example), will guide that company’s interpretation of daily events, and will also define appropriate behavior for certain situations. On the other hand, a company who wants to “keep the customer happy, no matter what,” would have a different interpretation of the same day, and act in different ways to similar situations than the former company.
While it’s easy to just “let it happen,” culture usually needs to be defined explicitly by leadership, and be maintained by someone in a leadership role. After all, culture is mostly shaped how the leadership acts and thinks, as employees look to their supervisors for direction on how to act.
A great first step to defining your company culture is to go offsite with your team. In addition to “taking a step back” and getting out of the office, restaurant, retail shop or wherever you might work – it’s a great opportunity to bond with your team. If you can bring everyone, great. If not, make sure to bring several team members who exemplify what you what your company culture to be.
Questions to ask:
- What is culture, anyway?
- Why does culture matter?
- What do you like about the current culture?
- What don’t you like?
- How can we change what we don’t like into something we do like?
Know that you won’t have a definite answer at the end of your session. But, you will have a framework for going forward and making changes that will ultimately benefit your customers and your employees.
Your new culture will “touch” every part of your business: from how you answer the phones, to what your business card looks like, to how you handle a customer issue. However, company culture is not a “set it and forget it” activity. In order to ensure that your company is constantly evolving around your company culture, it’s important to define your expectations of company culture (and your values and priorities) both internally and externally. Reward employees that are moving your culture forward, and have open and honest conversations with those who don’t.
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