Company culture can be loosely defined as the beliefs, values and attitudes of an organisation.
A good culture is one where those beliefs, values and attitudes contribute to the growth and prosperity of the organisation. A bad culture is one where they work against the organisation’s goals.
Benefits of a good culture
Studies have repeatedly shown that a good company culture has a significant influence on how an organisation performs. Some of the many areas it impacts on are:
- Productivity – it leads to a continuous improvement in performance levels
- Morale – a good culture engenders pride, trust and loyalty in employees
- Operating costs – employees who take responsibility for their jobs will actively seek savings on the company’s behalf
- OHS practices – safety levels improve through employees taking personal responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace
- Efficiency – as communication and cooperation improve, so systems and procedures become more streamlined
- Punctuality – an employee who is happy to come to work is more likely to do so on time
- Attendance – committed employees take less time off and voluntarily work longer hours
- Retention – in a good culture, employees feel valued and are more likely to stay with the company
- Recruitment – a good company culture is a powerful tool for attracting top talent
- Customer service – improved morale creates a better attitude amongst staff, which translates into better customer service
- Workplace relations – a good culture increases cooperation between staff and management and leads to fewer grievances and disputes
- Initiative – a heightened sense of responsibility leads to employee-initiated improvements in operations.
Identifying your existing culture
So, given that there are numerous benefits to having a good company culture, the question is, how do you create one?
Well, the first thing is to identify what kind of culture you currently have in your organisation and the best way to do this is to open your eyes and ears and have a good look around you.
Note how employees interact with one another, with management and with customers and suppliers. What is the prevailing vibe or mood of your workplace? Is it quiet and solemn? Bright and cheery? Are people smiling? Do they stop for a chat or is it all business? Are they constantly watching the clock?
Another indicator of company culture is the way people talk about your organisation on the outside.
If a company has a bad culture, there will be plenty of evidence of this in the media and online, because bad news always spreads faster than good.
Creating a cultural blueprint
Once you have identified the kind of culture your organisation currently has, you need to develop a blueprint of the kind of culture you would like it to have. A useful way to do this is to look at some of the common characteristics identified in organisations with good company cultures and compare them with your own organisation. These characteristics could include:
- Employees who are committed to growing the company
- Employees who are empowered to contribute to that growth
- Effective managers and team leaders who are trusted and respected
- Effective systems and procedures
- A performance-based reward system
- A strong customer focus
- Good communications between all levels
- A commitment to internal advancement and skill development
- High standards of integrity and accountability
- A flexible attitude to work/life balance.
Improving your culture
Once you have identified the areas where your company culture is lacking, you need to start addressing these shortfalls with positive actions. These could include:
- Weeding out any bad apples that might be spoiling the barrel, such as ineffective leaders or disgruntled employees and either re-educating them or removing them from the company
- Improving communications between employees and management by instituting regular social events where they can interact on a less formal level
- Encouraging feedback at all levels and making it easy (and perhaps even rewarding) for employees to make criticisms and suggest ideas
- Hiring and promoting internally when appropriate and providing the opportunity and means for further education and development
- Doing little things to engender loyalty, such as the occasional staff lunch, or Friday drinks
- Training managers in effective leadership and making sure they are committed to and are promoting the company culture at all times
- Introducing the company culture to new hires at interview stage and only hiring people who ‘fit‘ that culture
- Encouraging employees to take shorter, more frequent holidays to reduce stress levels and the possibility of burnout
- Using performance reviews, not only to measure KPIs, but also to gauge how well the company is meeting employees’ needs.
Maintaining a good culture
It’s important to remember that a company culture, however good, will change over time. People leave and others take their place, employees’ needs change gradually over time, the company itself changes as it grows, requiring its employees to adapt to new circumstances.
This means that once you have achieved the kind of company culture you want, you will need to constantly monitor its temperature to ensure it doesn’t deteriorate without you knowing. Maintaining a good company culture is an ongoing job, but hopefully one you will realise is well worth the effort once the positive results start rolling in.