Google the words “company culture” and you’ll find nearly ¾ billion results. Yet ask business leaders to define their company’s culture or to discuss ways their culture was created or changed, and the results are minimal. Company culture it seems, is a bit of an enigma.
On the surface, it’s often characterized as a product of the company’s values, beliefs, and behaviors. But when the stated values, beliefs, and behaviors take a detour from the reality of daily business activities, the culture isn’t living up to the mission of the organization. And most certainly the employees know it, further destabilizing the potential of that purported culture to ever take hold. As an added concern, the opportunity for the company culture to positively impact clients, customers, and consumers is lost as well.
So where does the declared culture separate from reality? The divide occurs through daily interactions, and decisions, through policies and practices. Look to the following to determine where your culture is truly defined:
1. Rewards. Who and what is promoted in your company? Are the hardest and most competent workers rewarded in kind? Do employee attitude or workplace relations factor into opportunities and pay raises? How are requests for paid time off granted? Also looks at areas of nepotism, loyalty (regardless of competency), and highest sales performance (regardless of attitude). How each of these is rewarded will also impact your company culture.
2. Punishment. Who is terminated and why? Does poor behavior, insubordination, dishonesty, or other problem behavior get addressed – and punished – in a swift and decisive manner? Are problem people allowed to move about seemingly untouched? How many opportunities is staff given to change/improve before consequences set in?
3. Communication. How open are the channels of communication? Do staff have a voice in discussing things that impact them – like a new computer program or a recent update to how work-load is to be calculated? Or are they blind-sided or surprised by things that are occurring or changes that are implemented? Can staff adequately rely on the chain of command for getting information to or from where it needs to be? Is communication one-way (ie: top-down) or reciprocal?
4. Teamwork. How do people work together? Are teams thoughtfully created with competent leaders put in charge? Is blame or finger-pointing a problem? Are accountability and personal responsibility being reinforced? Are collaboration and operational reciprocity a reality or are people or divisions siloed and disconnected?
5. Conflict Management. How are tensions or conflicts managed? Are people encouraged to seek help or left to deal with issues themselves? Are people in leadership roles trained in basic conflict management? When help is offered, is it legitimate and multi-tiered or superficial and temporary? Do managers and leaders receive training in employee relations or conflict management?
The above questions offer just the start for examining the factors which determine your company's true culture. We hope they pose a healthy challenge to all companies looking to create or improve their own company culture.