Company culture is one of those things that most people (at least, most people who work) understand implicitly, but struggle to define. In fact, I’m willing to bet that if you were to ask ten different people to define company culture, you’d get ten different responses. Before you can even think about improving your own company culture, you need to understand what it is.
If your office (or store or restaurant) is the body of your company, its culture is its personality. It’s a system of vision, values, norms, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs and habits that make up the heart of your business. And, just like a personality, your company culture may grow and evolve over time, as your business matures.
Company culture is difficult to define, and even more difficult to measure. However, it’s an absolutely integral part of your business, and ensuring yours is a positive one will pay dividends in spades. Here’s how to make that happen:
Assess your current culture
Measuring your company culture isn’t easy, but it is possible. There are a variety of tools coming out in the future (like Ento’s Workforce Happiness Rating), but until then it will require you to be
observant, as well as honest - it can be all too tempting to gloss over the bad when you’re personally invested.
Take some time and answer the following questions about your workplace:
● How is space allocated?
● What kind of items are displayed on the walls?
● How are commons areas set up?
● Do staff have personal items displayed? If so, what?
● What kind of tone do you read in company emails, memos, or messages?
● How do employees talk to each other? What kind of emotions do you see during their interactions?
There are a number of other questions you could ask, but this is a great starting point. Effectively, you want to ask questions that will help you paint a picture of the kind of culture underpinning your organisation.
Decide what kind of culture you want
Let’s take a moment to think about what kind of culture you’d like to see in your workplace. While there are as many different company cultures as there are cultures, it makes sense to have an idea of what your ideal culture looks like.
According to online education provider, Udemy, there are nine main types of organisational culture:
● Academy Culture: Places emphasis on training and development, and values staff that are willing (and able) to grow and learn.
● Normative Culture: A ‘traditional’ corporate culture, which littletono deviation from roles and rules.
● Pragmatic Culture: Here, making sure the customer or client is happy is the focus for all employees, even if that means bending the rules.
● Club Culture: Workplaces that embrace a ‘club culture’ want only the best of the best, and consequently have rigorous screening processes for new hires. The result is a highly skilled, highly competent workforce.
● Baseball Team Culture: Unlike the ‘pragmatic culture’, which champions the customer, this culture is all about the employees. As long as the employees are happy, the work will get done.
● Fortress Culture: This is all about cold, hard numbers. As long as quotas are met, staff keep their jobs, making this a high pressure environment.
● Tough Guy Culture: Essentially another way of saying ‘micromanagement’, those in a tough guy environment are subject to constant scrutiny, and are called out if they don’t meet expectations.
● Process Culture: Like the normative culture, a process culture is you guessed it pretty process driven. However, unlike the normative culture, staff in a process culture environment are more likely be self starters.
● Bet Your Company Culture: This culture is one for risktakers where employees have the power to make decisions that could make or break the company. This is not for the faint hearted.
Make the change
Now that you’ve assessed your current culture, and decided what kind of culture you’d ideally like to have operating in your organisation, it’s time to figure out the size of the crevasse that lies between the two.
Changing your organisational culture is a challenging task, and not to be taken lightly. As such, you’ll want to make sure you have a comprehensive plan in place before you make any changes.
This is a good time to have an open discussion with your employees about your vision for organisation’s culture. While you will have observed aspects of the workplace that you view as problematic, your employees may have new insights you’ll want to take into consideration.
There is, unfortunately, no one-size-fits-all plan for overhauling your company culture. Your plan needs to be specific to your organisation, and will need to take into consideration the following:
● Your current culture
● Your desired culture
● The size of your organisation
● Your existing policies and procedures
● Any contractual/legal obligations you have to your employees
● How open your employees are to change
● The time frame within which you are working
You’ll also need to make sure your plan includes:
● SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound)
● Appropriate communication and training for employees
● Guidelines for updating or creating new documentation
● Guidelines for obtaining and dealing with feedback from employees on any changes that are implemented
● Strategies for reinforcing behaviour that aligns with the new goals
Overhauling your company culture is never going to be easy, but it can be worth it. Your current culture may be stifling progress, ingenuity or efficiency, and an overhaul (or even a refinement) may help to improve the way your organisation.
After all, to quote Henry Ford, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.