3 Things to Remember when Defining Company Culture

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Throughout the corporate world, the idea of “Culture” is spreading like wild fire. According to Forbes, 50% of CEO's rate culture, employee engagement, and talent retention as urgent issues. I personally believe culture is an organization’s unique identity that outlines and defines the criteria of what constitutes their success.

Two weeks ago my organization sent a group of us to the Creating Healthy Organizations conference hosted by Vanguard University. After sitting in on almost a dozen sessions, I came to a realization that every speaker touched on the idea of culture. So, I’ve compiled my notes and gathered my thoughts to come up with 3 things to consider when thinking about your company’s culture:

1. Culture Stems from Values

"Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do" - Elvis Presley. A profound statement from the King of Rock & Roll, but it’s true. Every decision an organization makes is based on a set of beliefs that guide and direct the way employees interact with customers. Furthermore, "Values cannot just be a plaque on the wall," they need to be integrated into the character and behavior of every employee within an organization.

At my company, one of our core values is "valuing and reciprocating employee loyalty." I don't know about anyone else, but when I first read value statements like this I roll my eyes and say, "yeah, that's what everyone says." However, when the owners pay their employees bonuses on personal credit cards, and buy them Harleys for their 20 year work anniversaries, these values come to life. They come off the wall, into hearts of employees, and suddenly a culture of valued and engaged employees is born.

2. Culture Should be Defined

“Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires." We take time to define our sales, marketing, services, products, and virtually every aspect of our businesses yet we ignore culture, even though it has proven to dramatically impact the bottom line (Jeff Baietto, 2018). According to Glassdoor, "Companies with positive culture outperform S&P 500 by 122%,” so allow me to offer a little help.

Culture is defined by values that drive behaviors, which create outcomes that produce a Positive Culture (Jeff Baietto, 2018).

For example, our organization operates on a value of "uncompromising integrity." A defined behavior for this value is using an open book policy when going through contract negotiations to show the client price changes throughout the market.

This type of behavior creates consistent and honest outcomes that shape the positive culture of the organization. Be specific and educate your employees on the type of behaviors you want to see lived out on a daily basis.

3. Culture is What's Accepted, not What's Expected

Ultimately organizational culture comes down to the behaviors and actions of employees. Organizations can spend hours creating the perfect list of values, but if customers have a negative interaction with employees, the values are immediately discounted. So how do leaders of an organization ensure a high quality experience to their customer? They only accept the behaviors that align with the values of the organization.

I remember when I played baseball, the coach would say, "every player is expected to run on and off the field,” yet players would walk off the field and receive no punishment. It would start with one guy walking and quickly turn into more. Suddenly, the expected culture of running hard had a whole new accepted identity of players walking on and off the field. It is much the same in organizations. An organization will expect employees to be on time but accept when they are late. An organization will expect employees to treat customers with respect but accept when an employee gets in a yelling match over the phone.

No organization and/or employee is going to be perfect. However, it is the responsibility of organizational leaders to set an example and align the accepted and expected expectations of individuals in the organization. This will help create consistency, which is key to creating culture.

To Conclude:

Treat others the way you want to be treated. I think often times we get so caught up in research and new formulas for success that we forget the simple truth that people like to be treated nicely and with respect. Culture can be defined with a set of values, enforced with a list of behaviors, and maintained by aligning what’s expected with what’s accepted in an organization. However, we must not forget that people always remember the way you make them feel. I believe that if we treat people with respect and integrity and demand the same of our peers, company cultures will thrive.

I will leave you with this final thought. “Respect is like air. As long as it’s present, nobody thinks about it. But if you take it away, it’s all that people can think about!”(Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzer (2012).

If anyone has questions, comments, concerns, or advice please let me know. In addition, if anyone has a specific topic they are interested in, please message me on LinkedIn , would love to try and write about what the people want to know.

I would like to thank Consolidated Contracting Services, Inc. for giving me the opportunity to attend this event, as well as their commitment to helping their employees grow personally, as well as professionally.

 About the Author:

I have a passion for honesty. I want to transcend corporate culture by breaking down the walls of fear to engage in vulnerable and transparent honesty. Through a solid foundation of truth, I want to build a working environment that meets the needs and passions of every individual through humble and honest communication. We spend most of our lives at work, so we should be able to enjoy waking up and going to work every single day.

I am the process of completing my MA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and I recently joined the work force as a Marketing Assistant for a multi million dollar construction company.

I played baseball for four years at Vanguard University while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Along the way I learned many valuable life lessons that you will hear me reference quite a bit. Overall, I am driven by my passion to be the best I can be day in and day out.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and please if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me. Thank you.

References:

Baietto, J. (2018), The Secrets to Creating Positive Change. In Annual Creating Healthy Organizations Conference (CHO). Retrieved from:https://www.vanguard.edu/uploaded/Academics/Graduate/Organizational_Psyc...

Weisman, M. (2018), Value-Based Organizations. In Annual Creating Healthy Organizations Conference (CHO). Retrieved from:https://www.vanguard.edu/uploaded/Academics/Graduate/Organizational_Psyc...

Patterson, K., Grenny J., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations. New York: McGraw-       Hill. 

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