Building a Strong Company Culture
As a business owner or manager, you’ll already know that company culture is important – but what it means to you could be very different to what it means to others. That’s because it’s really quite a complex thing: it encompasses so much of what you do, how you conduct business, and how you and your people behave. So there’s a lot to think about when defining and building yours.
In this post, we’ll look at what really makes up company culture, why you should spend some time defining yours, and how to go about strengthening yours.
Company Culture: what does a stranger see?
Company culture incorporates everything: what you do, how you do it, your system, values, priorities, behaviours, goals, and the experience you give both your employees and your customers.
The way your company behaves is immediately obvious to someone new to the business, even as a complete stranger. Imagine someone walking into your workplace for the first time – what’s their experience? Are they greeted warmly and offered a seat, or are they ignored until they approach someone and ask for help?
Each version demonstrates a widely different culture. The first is a culture that proactively looks for ways to help new customers or visitors, and gives a welcoming, positive impression. The second is focused elsewhere, and new customers are low on the agenda. That visitor (who could become a new customer) will not feel prioritised, valued or inclined to stay.
Your company culture will be felt inside and outside the organisation and understanding that first impression is so valuable for shaping how you want to appear.
Why is it so important?
The culture you establish shapes the attitudes and behaviours of the people within the business. It determines whether they are motivated, engaged, committed, and how they communicate. It demonstrates the behaviour you want to encourage, and what’s unacceptable. It’s enormously powerful, because when your culture aligns with your people’s values, motivators and needs, it can unleash a huge amount of energy towards achieving your shared goals.
When you lead by including others and genuinely valuing their input, you foster a sense of team purpose and energy. Employees feel happier, more creative, more efficient, and more productive. They also find adapting to change a lot easier in this kind of environment.
When a company has a great culture, it’s diverse, inclusive, and rewards its people. That means your customers get a better service, they feel heard, and the whole experience of dealing with your business is more positive. And we all know that means your customers are more likely to return to you time and time again, spend more, and even recommend you to others.
How do you create and shape your company culture?
You set your company culture in a number of ways: how your people communicate with each other and customers, how decisions are made, your hiring and firing processes, how you encourage personal and professional growth, how you recognise hard work and effort, and how a job
well done is celebrated.
There are lots of theories and models on creating and changing company culture – and of course, they can be vastly different. However, generally speaking, it comes down to two questions – how do you prefer to communicate, and how do you deal with change?
Communication: When it comes to people, do you prefer a highly independent experience or a highly interdependent one? If it’s independent, you’ll place more importance on autonomy, competition and individual action. If you prefer an interdependent team, you’ll prioritise relationships, integration, and group effort and collaboration.
Change: do you favour a business that prefers consistency and predictability, or one that likes flexibility, adaptability and receptiveness to change? If it’s the former, you’ll prioritise seniority-based staffing, hierarchy and efficiency. If it’s the latter, you’ll favour innovation, diversity and openness.
The different combinations of these four variables offer eight broad culture styles:
- Caring: focuses on relationships and trust
- Purposeful: tolerant and compassionate, and people want to do good for the long-term future
- Learning: creative, inventive and openminded. People spark new ideas and explore alternatives.
- Enjoyable: focuses on fun, excitement and humour
- Results: prioritises achievement and winning. Workplaces are merit-based and outcome orientated
- Authoritarian: competitive and driven by personal advantage.
- Safety: focuses on planning, security, predictability and preparedness.
- Orderly: prioritises respect, structure, rules and shared norms.
It’s likely that you will take influence from a number of these if not all of them, rather than fitting neatly into one category – but it’s worth being aware that some of the styles actually work against each other, which will make it hard for people to know where they stand and what matters more to you and your business.
Embedding your culture
When you’ve established the way you want to be as an organisation, commit it to paper. Create a manifesto that sets out your values, visions and shared goals, and how your people behave and communicate in line with those. Display it somewhere prominent and reinforce it regularly with your team.
Gather feedback from your employees. This is invaluable as an acid test of where your culture is at the moment – where it’s doing well in the areas you want to encourage, and where you may need to do more work. Keep monitoring staff welfare as you make these changes, because it’s important to bring everyone along with you.
Need a little help?
If you’ve never taken the time to think analytically about your company culture, it can feel like a challenge and you may welcome a hand with it from the start. Perhaps you’d prefer to gather feedback and take stock before deciding how to proceed. Either way, Haus of HR can help and we’d love to be there for you – just give us a call to arrange a conversation.
Download our free business owner’s guide to company culture here.