Company Culture: Defining it Properly

company culture

Culture is a funny, funky thing. And a lot of articles speak about it as a nebulous force that could make (or break) your company.

Kathryn Jarrell from Xplane wrote a fun article for Medium on 3 Ways Your Organization May Be Misusing the Word Culture, which I’ll share here so we can level set.

To start, as a company, you need to define your organization’s purpose and mission statement. And clearly. This way, your employees know what you stand for as a company. They can begin to act as brand ambassadors, and consider situations through the eyes of your mission statement. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:

1. The first impression culture fit:

The most successful organizations are made up of employees with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise untied by a strong foundation of similar values

So, just because everyone happens to be 20-years-old and wear hoodies, that’s not necessarily culture. People need time to explore the company and hear from all angles how employees view their mission and company.

2. After hours culture – beers on Thursdays doesn’t explain what your culture is like. It’s more important to know how people interact with each other, how they view success or how work gets done.

3. Can we have some more culture please? – Culture isn’t a packaged deal. In order to have more culture, you have to create it. By employees finding values in the company and sharing them with others, culture is being created. By deciding that as a company you’d like to affect culture, and having open discussions about how to obtain it, you’re already moving towards that.

And to continue: 5 Signs Your Company Culture May Actually Suck, by Chuck Longanecker for covers some indicators as to what may really be happening in your company’s culture.  Here are some big to-don’ts:

  1. Your culture relies on perks – happy hours galore doesn’t make for a strong base where people share their own opinions, philosophies and collaborate with each other
  2. Your company has a generic mission statement – this comes back to people requiring a clear Purpose to what they do. In order to become brand ambassadors, we need to know what we’re bringing to the market.
  3. Your culture only exists at work – Not in the sense that you should be throwing back brewskis every night, more in the sense that your team brings the culture into their own community.
  4. You hire skills, not people – that’s a huge red flag. Jim Collins in Good to Great covered this when he wrote “leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”
  5. You discourage risk – with low risk, low reward. Teams need to have the opportunity to try things, fail, and learn from failures in order to improve. If people are so fearful of making mistakes, they will avoid risk at all costs and they won’t take responsibility for mistakes.

This was lengthy today, but fun. Culture is everywhere right now in the news, so I’m sure I’ll have more to add, but this was a nice start.


Credits: The Noun Project

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