Company Culture 101
In short, your culture is the essence of your company. Much like a society’s culture, a company’s culture can’t be encapsulated in one thing; it’s more of a sum of everything your company promotes and how your workers carry out their duties.
This can be a hard thing to grasp, as company culture is not as tangible as your supply chain, inventory or assets, but company culture is just as important.
What Difference does it make?
Imagine for a moment if your employees worked in the same way that machines worked; they have a task, and they fulfill it. In this world, the 1999 cult classic Office Space wouldn’t have endured.
What makes satirical deconstructions of the “cubical farm” so affecting is how they portray the misery of a workplace without any real attention paid to company culture. Even rituals like office birthdays will do nothing to genuinely fulfill your workers if they see their environment as a dead end.
Fostering a good company culture means building in real systems of improvement. Ask yourself the following questions about your workplace:
- How often do my departments communicate?
- Do we cross train our employees to handle any potential bottlenecks?
- Is there a system in place to recognize potential in employees and to expand their skillsets?
- Do employees have long-term career and life goals that involve sticking with the company?
Answering questions like these reveal how a poor culture can manifest. Employees who stick to their own departments can create information silos, and a lack of cross training and overall sense of comradery will mean that you may have to play catchup with training during critical times. You may have a department that brings on seasonal workers, but if your supervisors aren’t trained to recognize potential, you may lose out on a great employee that you have already vetted once. Even established employees may begin looking elsewhere.
All these problems add up to a lot of potential waste that will hurt your bottom line. Mentoring employees will always be more productive than the training treadmill that comes with high turnover. You also risk losing established employees to burnout, and with them will go a lot of institutional memory, especially if your business is growing.
Now, think of your customers. Do you want them to be interacting with a dynamic and motivated team, or a customer care team only there to collect a paycheque?
What about my company?
By now you should see what company culture is. It’s the invisible system of gears that move your company along.
Company culture can broadly fit into many paradigms. Startup cultures, for example, tend to include smaller teams committed to putting in extra hours and working in a casual environment that can be seen in their attire and communication styles. By contrast, traditional cultures involve clear lines of communication and chains of command, as well as a more conservative dress code. No culture has to rigidly conform to these norms, but it’s helpful to keep in mind what kind of culture you are aiming to establish, as there will be implications for each of these decisions.
Say, for example, you wanted to have a modernized open-concept office with shared workstations and no walls between workers. This could indeed promote more communications, but studies seem to indicate that this type of office may decrease communication between co-workers and overall productivity. There will always be these costs and trade-offs wherever you look to change your culture, so be sure to do your homework on any new initiative you intend to introduce.
In the next post, we’ll be outlining what steps you can take to map out your own culture and what tools you have at your disposal.
For more information contact Torrey & Co at firstname.lastname@example.org
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