Considering Corporate Culture

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I was putting my thoughts together for this article, and I thought I would do some field research.  I asked someone for one word that came to mind when they think about “Corporate Culture”.  Their one word was “integrity”.  I thought that was encouraging, and went on to ask the next person.  Their one word was “corruption”.  Hmmm.  I stopped there.  Granted, I could have included some more research. But I think that the first two answers gave me an indication of the scope of attitudes towards “Corporate Culture”.

So, is the use of the word “culture” a rhetorical device, or does it have actual meaning in the business world?  Nobody would feel comfortable saying that their company really doesn’t focus on culture.  Everyone wants to think that it’s a very big deal in the workplace.

Corporate Culture is based on a set of common “core values”.  These may be expressed in the company’s mission statement, which is given as a handout to new hires.  How much actual time in management meetings is spent talking about core values on an ongoing basis?  Isn’t it more likely that the conversation turns to shareholder value? 

Values clarification exercises are critical to personal self-improvement. This is the process through which core values are identified and used as a guide to behavior and actions.  They must be revisited from time to time, and adjusted as necessary.   I just can’t picture executives sitting in the boardroom discussing values clarification.  They are more likely discussing ways to increase growth and revenue.  That’s not a problem.  It’s the way business works.

Another facet of Corporate Culture is shared attitudes and beliefs. How do we come together on beliefs and encourage diversity all at the same time?  I understand that this means corporate beliefs and not personal beliefs.  I know that in the business boat we all have to row together to get anywhere.  I’m just saying that in this climate, we can’t count on people to separate personal from professional.  People don’t want to set aside their differences.  They will cling to their uniqueness, even if it means that they’re not as “successful”.

And… do we profit (pun intended) if we all think and act alike?  Does that get us to the goal faster?  Consider that it takes all kinds of people working together to really make a dynamic difference!  Yes, we all have to move towards the goal.  Are there different ways to get there? Is there a benefit to taking the proverbial road less traveled?  Does somebody know a shortcut?  Or is the direct route best?

Enter the “team builder”!  Team builders are always fun, and help you learn something about other people on your team.  I think that they are beneficial to the team, and they keep meetings from being boring. They may be quick exercises, off site days, or even corporate getaways. They can be invigorating, and help employees approach work with a renewed gusto.  Team builders are touted as one of the best ways to build culture.  They’re awesome, but do they increase focus on core values?

Communication is key to building culture within an organization.  If you can go a step beyond that, and actually connect with people on a human level… even better!  Listening to people increases their feelings of self-worth.  It’s natural that your team will perform better, together and as individuals, if they feel valued.  As a leader, if you want to teach empathy to your team, be empathetic.

Culture makes a difference to every aspect of a company.  It affects the hiring process, training, and employee retention.  It will affect the way your customer service initiatives are carried out.  It can determine the landscape of the work environment.  And… bonus!  It will affect your earnings.  Be a company for which people want to work.  Attract and keep quality employees by considering, reviewing, and living your culture everyday.

–  Cat