Defining Company Culture
Company culture doesn’t always get the attention as other areas of the business, but it’s just as important because it influences almost every discipline from operations to sales.
But what makes up the culture of a company?
In its essence, company culture refers to the shared set of values and ideals within an organization. It’s what brings character and personality to a brand name.
It can be influenced by:
- Team members – what are their shared values and ideals? A culture is created by the people.
- Mission statement – what is the organization’s collective goal?
- Values and ethics – what is considered important or pointless? Acceptable or unacceptable? Right or wrong?
- Environment – where does the company work? How do space and amenities affect people’s behavior and mindset?
Why is the culture of a company important?
Organizations in any industry experience change every day. The one constant is the company’s culture- the highest standard expected of each individual, and the values that glue everyone together. Company culture is more than a collection of words, its a collection of ideals.
Culture pervades every aspect of professional life, even though it’s not always apparent. For example, if an employee has a birthday, the way that the rest of the team treats that individual can represent the company’s culture. Similarly, if the team is hostile to one another, that may come out in customer interactions.
Whether it’s a simple interaction or a major initiative, culture plays an important role in unifying and directing people.
Still confused? Be sure to read our post on the importance of company culture.
How To Describe Your Company Culture
So how do you describe the culture of your business or the culture of the workplace? That might not be easy questions to answer, so we’ll cover a few steps on how to refine your culture messaging.
Brainstorm your brand’s top core values
Gather the key stakeholders of the brand in a room and come up with the top 20 values of the brand. Then narrow them to 10. And then again to five, until you have three left. While the others are still important, focusing on three main values will be easier to embed in the brand’s identity.
Start with the team
Find people that aren’t just qualified, but exemplify the brand’s core values. In most cases, you can train the individual to become proficient with a certain program or process, but you can’t train them to follow core values. During the interview process, picture how that person might behave with the team or under pressure. Would you still hire them?
Check out our tips on finding the best talent for your company.
Get down in the trenches
The best way to learn about the top values of your company is not just to ask, but to observe. Watch your team at work or at events and try to find the best aspects of their personality. Chances are these personalities and traits are what influence your current culture.
Listen to feedback
And not just to your team, but to your customers and partners as well. Read the reviews (as hard as that may be) on Google or Amazon, or whatever website your business may be rated on. What do others say about how your team’s interactions? Criticism can be difficult but can also be opportunities for change.
Measure, Evaluate, Revisit
It’s not enough to write down the values, you have to actually uphold them! Set milestones to check in with your team and see how closely the values are being followed. Send out anonymous surveys to get real opinions on how well the values are implemented, and how they might be improved. Use that feedback to build upon the values you created.
10 Attributes to Assess Your Company Culture
- Communication – The interactions between your team is in itself an example of the company culture in effect. Observing how your team discusses both professional and personal matters can give you a better sense of how the culture is implemented. If the culture is creative, collaborative, and upbeat, chances are that interactions at work will reflect those values.
- Feedback – Praise is all well and good, but if you really want to measure a culture’s efficacy, you must stay cognizant of how the company handles even the most critical feedback. Companies with well-realized cultures understand how to respond and act on criticism while staying consistent with the brand’s voice and personality.
- Goals – Culture is as much about setting objectives and creating plans of action as it is about how people interact. Some cultures place high importance on excellence and prestige, while others are about moving fast and innovating.
- Learning opportunities – Learning shouldn’t stop after school. In fact, companies have a responsibility to encourage its employees to expand their knowledge base. Unilever, the global consumer goods brand, even goes as far as to offer tuition reimbursement. This has lead many of their employees to get degrees in higher education for marketing, entrepreneurship, management, and more.
- Purpose – Organizational culture is heavily rooted in meaning. Without it, the company’s employees would not have a reason to come in each day, let alone stay long term. A good way to test whether your company’s purpose is clearly conveyed is to ask every person on the team what they believe the purpose is, and how they interpret it. Depending on the responses, you may have to fine-tune the language to ensure it is clear as it is inspiring.
- Decision Making – Culture can also dictate the best course of action to take when faced with a certain dilemma. Nordstrom, the luxury department store chain, defines their philosophy in a simple way: “Use your own initiative to provide customers with exceptional levels of service. You’ll never be criticized for doing too much for a customer, only for doing too little.” While other brands force adherence to a rigid process, Nordstrom employees are encouraged to be their selves, as long as it benefits the customer in some way.
- Responsibility – Everybody should be accountable for something within an organization. To understand why, look no further than Apple’s example. For any project or initiative, there is a DRI (Directly Responsible Individual). Whenever there is an issue, a bottleneck, or a general question, the DRI is the person to seek out. The DRI ensures everything stays efficient and that communication stays as clear as possible.
- Teamwork – Collaboration is often the key to a happier and more successful time in the workplace. You would be hard pressed to find a culture that doesn’t involve teamwork and collaboration somehow in their values. How well does your team mesh together? What is their chemistry like? How can you encourage them to work together even more?
- Trust – Teamwork, communication, and respect… none of these values would even be possible without first having a shred of trust for your coworker or leader. How much does your team believe in the strengths of one another? Trust forms the foundation for any social interaction, especially in the workplace.
- Adaptability – Cultures that are set in stone do not age well. The world today is very different than it was ten years ago, twenty years ago, and it’s vital that a company culture is continually revisited to be relevant to the times. Your company culture should have an open mindset, open to change and new developments, if it truly wants to stay competitive.
20 words to describe company culture
Below are a few words used by companies to describe their culture in a positive light:
A Higher Standard
Company culture and values act as the north star for a business, guiding the team during tough times. It’s easy to shrug off company values as a low priority item, but doing so only leads to further ignorance and conflicts in the workplace.
Take the time to make the company culture a priority. The lasting effects of a well planned, fairly enforced value system can cause ripples beyond the business and beyond the workplace.
Be sure to read our article on the 8 must-read books for 2018.
Follow Novel Coworking’s blog and social media for more resources and guides for entrepreneurs and startups!