Positive corporate culture can influence better morale, less turnover and absenteeism, greater efficiency, more innovation and larger bottom lines.
Your company has a corporate culture, whether you believe so or not, and it can work for you or against you. Chances are if you’re ignoring your company’s culture, it’s working against you.
Your corporate culture is the collection of attitudes, experiences and values that guide the way your employees behave. Even business start-ups have a corporate culture, and they may be just as influential as those that are the product of decades of development: think BC Hydro (147 years), BC Tel/Telus (103 years), Canadian Forest Products Ltd. (69 years) or The Jim Pattison Group (46 years).
Managers differ in the way they deal with corporate culture, and they fall into roughly three groups.The first, who are typically involved in traditional manufacturing businesses – often in assembly-line or production-line settings – take the “not relevant here” approach. They ignore the importance of corporate culture and invest their efforts in perfecting their operating efficiencies.
Those in the second group acknowledge the importance of corporate culture but do nothing to develop or enhance it. Sometimes they are over-tasked and have no time for the “soft” side of business. At other times, they have the time and motivation but do not know what direction to take, or they assume that the culture will take care of itself.
The third group includes managers who not only believe that corporate culture is important and make the time to create and nourish the culture in their business but also have the skills they need to nurture a healthy corporate culture. If you’re tempted to think that the first two types of companies have no corporate culture while the third type enjoys a healthy one, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, every company has a corporate culture; it is inevitable as long as people work there.
The question is, does culture make any difference? Virtually every observer of organizational behaviour over the past three decades has answered this question in the affirmative. Healthy cultures mean better morale, less turnover and absenteeism, greater efficiency, more innovation and larger bottom lines.
This reality arises from the fact that one of the fundamental desires of employees (indeed, of all human beings) is to be connected to a larger whole, to have a sense of purpose that is defined by the collective. Healthy cultures, therefore, are those that foster building and maintaining connections between
employees and their organization.
Those companies that make no effort to build a corporate culture risk developing an “I don’t care” culture. Their employees have no way of connecting to the larger purpose of the organization, nothing to identify with, nothing that gives work greater meaning than the mere production of widgets. Companies that focus their cultures on quantifiable results, such as operational efficiencies, take an even greater risk. They can easily pass from a simple “I don’t care” culture to one that says, “I care more about the numbers than I care about you, the employee.” Not surprisingly, such companies will have trouble motivating their employees over an extended period of time.
Those managers in the third group, who are successful in creating “I care” corporate cultures, build their connections to employees in at least five ways.
Successful cultures include a clear statement about what the organization’s core values are. They are clear about what they stand for, what they believe, whom they serve and what they strive to become.
Successful cultures include a statement of the targets
toward which they are aiming. Employees want to be part of an organization that is moving ahead and appreciate knowing how their efforts should be directed.
Successful cultures are consistent. This is not to say that they are static; certainly goals change periodically to reflect changing conditions. But they do so in predictable ways, as a result of an annual planning session, for example.
Successful cultures communicate continuously and effectively. Employees are never surprised, particularly by bad news. Discontent can be brought into the open and defused before damage is done.
Successful cultures celebrate achievement. They create heroes and make sure that everyone knows about their deeds. They also accept failure, up to a point. Employees cannot be expected to take the risks necessary to achieve great things if they fear that their jobs might be lost if they fall short.