Do you socialize with your coworkers outside of the office or do you keep to yourselves? Is your CEO on a first-name basis with each employee or do staff members only address one another formally? Does your dress code mandate blazers year-round or is the dress code itself more like a list of suggestions? Does management write open letters to staff about internal plans or did you find out about your company’s merger when NPR’s Marketplace broke the story?
These questions don’t necessarily have right or wrong answers but they can help you define your company’s culture. Organizational culture is essentially the personality of that organization. Just like a person, an organization can be rigid, flexible, formal, relaxed, collaborative, independent, creative, staid, et cetera. A company’s culture encompasses the values of the corporation, the attitude of its employees, and all the quirks that make an individual (whether a human being or a legal entity) unique. Company culture is not only weekly departmental check-ins, it’s also on-going activities like taking the new hires out to lunch during their orientation week or quarterly town hall meetings. It’s the strictly-enforced dress code and the annual clothing drive for people who need appropriate attire for interviews.
In a company, the culture dictates everything from business dealings to hiring decisions. Your culture shapes your brand, your employees, and your values but the reverse is also true. Your branding is informed by your culture and you might find that your culture changes to suit your brand (believing your own press, as it were). Prospective employees are attracted by your culture, but turnover in staffing and management will cause your culture to modify over time, especially since individual employees affect workplace culture. Values are a bit trickier since your company’s culture should be dictated or driven by your corporate values. As a company matures and expands so, too, will its values evolve.
The most important factor when establishing a positive culture, no matter what that culture might be, is consistency. A consistent culture will ensure that everyone from the chief executive officer to the mail room intern is on the same page and holds the same expectations. People want to know what they should expect and a corporate culture that is consistent throughout every department, and across all levels of a corporation, will keep everyone on the same page.
Consistency will also help ensure compatibility between staff and operations. Both your corporate brand and word-of-mouth have a major influence on job applicants. For example, Hernán applied to Mariah’s Paradise, a cosmetics brand that emphasizes organic ingredients and eco-friendly manufacturing, partially because he is interested in protecting and preserving the environment. When he noticed that the corporate office did not provide any recycling bins and that the executive parking lot was filled with gas-guzzling cars, he realized that the company’s branding was perhaps disingenuous and he subsequently turned down the position. In another example, Tilda, an accountant who acts as caretaker for her dementia-afflicted mother, thought about applying to McIver’s, a prestigious accounting firm, but did not because their reputation as uncompromising and cut-throat. This made her doubt that she would be given the flexibility she needed to take care of her mom. She was surprised when a recruiter from that firm reached out to her, especially when the recruiter described the laid-back office environment and healthy work-life balance. In each instance, the company’s brand belied the company’s culture. If a company’s culture is consistent (or at least consistently hyped), then that company will have an easier time recruiting and retaining talent.
Culture has a major impact not only on job satisfaction, but also your company’s bottom line. In a 2016 study by Deloitte, 82 percent of executives surveyed agreed that a company’s culture could give it a competitive edge in the marketplace. Truly, organizational culture is a crucial factor in success.