What are we doing here? – Understanding company culture and your business
I am guessing that everyone reading this article is at least partially aware of the idea of company culture. It’s one of those regularly used terms that comes up time and again in discussions around HR. But what are we actually talking about when we discuss company culture?
What is company culture?
The interesting part of being involved in Human Resources is that we are dealing with people. That is never more apparent than when you are looking at company culture because it is essentially about how those wonderful people in your business behave. Probably the most common view of company culture is that it is ‘a set of values, goals and attitudes that are, or are expected to be, shared by all employees’. That rather dry description may well describe what it is, but it is a long way short of explaining what it really means. Your company culture is more than just a handful of easy to repeat sentences about goals or general aims, it is a vibrant and changing thing that can have a huge effect on the workplace. Your workplace culture is active and present every single working day and it can be a fantastic tool or a dangerous trap.
What company culture is really about in a very practical sense is the way your workforce interacts and behaves. It influences how your team feels about their working lives and how they treat each other and those outside the business. It will affect everything from productivity to customer interactions and if, as sometimes happens, it goes toxic, it can plunge efficiency through the floor and send your staff turnover through the roof.
Your company culture is about who you are, what you stand for and why you are in business in the first place. In a very real way, it should answer the question of ‘what are we doing here’ on multiple levels.
Why is it so important?
Well, one of the main reasons there is so much focus on company culture is the fact that it sits right in the core of what your business is. When you consider how much of our time we spend in the workplace, it’s no wonder that we are invested in its culture. A workplace has a wide range of personalities all pressed together and that can result in a spectrum of responses ranging from a combined effort to a pressure cooker. When you think about that it is easy to see why everyone responding to the same set of values is important.
People who are invested in something they believe in are happier, less likely to leave and more likely to recommend your business to others. We all want to belong and feel part of something. Accepting and relating to a strong company culture will enhance the level of loyalty and commitment in the workforce and that means a more productive team.
How do you create a good culture?
Certainly, there are a number of ways to help your team to ‘buy into’ your culture. It usually starts with a clear definition of what your expectations of a good culture are. To get there you need to define your purpose, your values and what expectations you have of for the behaviours that show your culture in action. It’s easy to say ‘we are inclusive’ or ‘We respect our customers’ but what does that look like? When you add words like excellence or high standard to your mission statement for example, you also need to back what that means in the real, day to day, working world. Cultures must be appropriate and achievable and then endorsed by leaders who demonstrate them in their own actions. Great cultures tend to be built by the workforce as much as the C-suite executives though and listening to and including the team when creating cultures will usually result in a more rounded approach.
Cultures develop around (and because of) groups of people. If you don’t look to build one in your business, it will develop anyway and may not always go the way you want it to. When we see a business struggling to get the right people or having issues such as staff engagement and low retention rates, culture is usually at least part of the issue at the root of the problem. Guiding and refining your company culture will pay dividends and that starts with the awareness of what one means to you and your team.
If you want to talk about your company culture and how we can help you create a more positive and welcoming one, call us on 01604 261380 and let’s chat.