It’s a commonly held misbelief that company culture is just a bunch of motivational adjectives (brave, creative, innovative *delete as appropriate) graffitied on the walls of funky/industrial looking offices with pool tables, Nespresso machines and beers on a Thursday at 5pm (look how relaxed and fun we are)…. However I’m afraid I’m here to burst this bubble. If culture really was that easy to nail, every company in Shoreditch would be winning the Best Company’s award and constantly turning away the cream of London’s talent pool.
So what is a company’s culture?
In its most simple form, a company’s culture can best be described as the way you do things as a team and how you behave towards each other. There is no point having ‘be bold’ emblazoned across the wall in flashing lights if every time someone takes a risk at work they are chastised by senior management for not seeking several layers of approval first.
How do I define ours?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I passionately believe your organisation’s culture is the backbone of your business and what I’m about to say next is probably my best piece of advice on the topic…
*** It’s OK not to be Facebook, Google or Airbnb when it comes to culture ***
In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s mandatory (unless of course you are Facebook, Google or Airbnb in which case, as you were!). Culture is about being true to who your organisation is, stating what kind of company you are and working out what it is about your company that makes people join (and more importantly, stay!) then singing that tune from the rooftops!
The best way of working this all out is to…. ask people
It’s that simple. From the co-founder who’s been by your side since day 1, to the newbie who kicked off their induction yesterday and the leadership team who make critical decisions about the business every day. Everyone will have a view and you’ll probably find a handful of similarities running through what they say – that’s the foundation of defining your culture.
Once you’ve got this key information from your team, it’s time to decide if it’s in line with what you really want the culture to be. If the answer is yes then great, good work! You can now focus your time on how you’re going to spread that message to both current and potential employees (employer branding, your recruitment page on the website and sure, why not paint those words on the wall in the canteen, after all you know they are true now!)
But what if my view of our culture is different to everyone else’s?!
There is of course the chance that what employees currently say about your business, doesn’t really align with how you want to be perceived (for example: I was told at interview that this company values work life balance but if I leave my desk on time then my manager makes comments about me being a part timer).
Look for the trends in what people are saying
It’s tempting to dismiss these views, ‘oh the manager is just mucking around’ or ‘god, she’s being way too sensitive’ but this isn’t advisable. Whilst it’s important not to dwell on every negative piece of feedback you might get (that’s a pretty destructive and depressing way to live your life after all), the silent killer of culture is saying one thing, and doing another.
Take definitive action to get things back on track
So, armed with the definition of your ideal culture and this knowledge of what reality may well be like, it’s time to address the way you do things and how your team behaves so that it’s more in line with what you want your culture to be.
I won’t lie, this can be challenging and will probably take a fair amount of time. You won’t change people’s deep set behaviours overnight. A few tips from me on the topic? Lead by example, call out people when you see them acting in contradiction to the desired culture (but do so in a way that’s in line with it too!) and of course, reward people who do demonstrate the company values – this will encourage more people to follow suite!
Here at The HR Hub we’ve worked with a wonderful array of businesses at every stage of culture definition (from the head scratching start up phase of ‘who do we want to be’ to the exciting growth phase of ‘how do we scale our business whilst keeping our culture strong’) and we love nothing more than helping a business to align its actions with its words. So, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help your business to define, manage or enhance your culture?