Ping pong tables and dart boards, a break room fridge stocked with microbrews, a neverending buffet of free food — too often these are the things that come to mind when the term “company culture” is brought up. But company culture has very little — if anything — to do with these Google-esque perks. Company culture is far more important than an xbox or cereal bar; it’s the very essence of what makes your company unique and attractive to both employees and customers.
Let’s dig in further:
What Is Company Culture Really?
Culture is the sum of your organization’s values, traditions, attitudes, behaviors, and interactions. It is incredibly important, as it has the ability to either strengthen or cripple your company. We can more clearly define company culture by understanding the multitude of factors that play a role in developing this crucial system:
- Employees: The personalities, beliefs, values, experiences, behaviors, and diversity of the people that you hire.
- Leadership and Management: How leaders and supervisors within your company treat and interact with your employees is perhaps the most formative part of company culture. Consider how leaders:
- make decisions that affect their employees
- communicate with employees, and how transparent they are
- celebrate and recognize employees
- empower employees to make their own decisions
- support and encourage employees
- consistently treat all employees with the same level of respect
- Company Vision: The clarity of your company’s vision, mission, and values and whether they are honestly reflected in the actions of your organization.
- Policies and Practices: The practices related to the recruiting, on-boarding, compensation, benefits, recognition, training, development, advancement, wellness, and work/life balance of your employees.
- Work Environment: The safety and security of your building, what people are allowed to place on their desks, how the workplace is decorated, how offices and other spaces are allocated, how common areas are used, and whether or not there are quiet, private areas for employees to work.
As you can see, a lot goes into company culture. All of the things listed above can have a major impact on your business — and it usually happens by way of your employees.
What Effect Does Company Culture Have On Employees?
Company culture impacts the happiness and satisfaction of your employees, thus creating a work environment that either increases or decreases employee engagement and retention. Happy employees are more productive — organizations with strong cultures and engaged employees have been shown to outperform their competitors financially.
Furthermore, a healthy company culture attracts top talent. Believe it or not, culture is one of the first things potential employees evaluate when determining whether or not they wish to work at your company. The stronger and more positive your company culture is, the more likely you are to find the right fit and talent for open positions. As for your current employees, potential interviewees will be looking to them for their opinion of your company. Depending on the way they’ve been treated, they can end up being your greatest allies, or your worst enemies.
What Effect Does Company Culture Have On Customers?
The effect of company culture on your employees has a marked influence on customer service. Your staff — whether they be cheerful, irritable, satisfied, or discontent — interact with your vendors and clients. And customers have a keen eye for ascertaining how happy your employees are to work for you.
Disengaged employees who hate their jobs (or their management, as the case may be) don’t care about customer satisfaction or the success of your company. It’s in this way that a broken culture can be extremely detrimental to customer service and your brand’s reputation. On the other hand, happy employees deliver a far better customer experience because they are friendlier in their interactions with customers, are more loyal to the company, and are more motivated to do well for both your business and themselves. It’s for this reason you need to be absolutely sure your company culture is positive, strong, and well communicated.
Signs Your Company Culture Needs Work
Taking a hard look at your company culture isn’t always the most pleasant of tasks. In fact, it can be downright depressing sometimes. However, the success of your business depends greatly on the strength of your culture, so it’s important to take a fearless inventory of what’s going on around you. If you’re concerned your company’s culture is toxic, look for the following signs:
- You have a high number of angry, disgruntled, and disengaged employees.
- You’ve seen a decrease in the output of formerly productive employees.
- Recognition programs are flawed or non-existent.
- Employee feedback is regularly dismissed.
- Management isn’t trusted or respected.
- Management is fear/numbers based.
- Employees aren’t aware of the company’s mission, vision, and set of values.
- Employees don’t ask or answer questions in meetings.
- Leadership fails to consider how their everyday actions (or inactions) affect employees.
- Major decisions are made without consulting employees.
- Employees are being micromanaged.
- Review guidelines are not consistent for all employees.
- There is little to no opportunity for promotion or advancement.
If you’re seeing a lot of the above listed signs, it’s time to step back and evaluate your workplace culture. Determine what it is now and what you want it to be in the future. Then, you’ll need to anonymously survey your employees. If employees know their answers are linked to their identity, they will fear retribution and either answer questions dishonestly or refuse to do the survey at all. In fact, it may be best to contract an outside company to provide a confidential employee survey wherein answer data is aggregated and cannot be tied to any one employee. This honest feedback is the only way to reveal gaps between the culture you have and the one you want.
Though it’s wise to recognize the need for a culture change, you can’t expect immediate results. No matter how quickly changes are made, reshaping company culture can take three to five years. Employees who are distrustful of management (because they’ve been burned too many times) will take a while to come around. After all, trust is easy to lose and hard to gain.
As intangible as it may be, company culture is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly evolving as your organization and employees grow over time. It’s imperative you take time to shape your culture carefully. It’s impact on your business is just too significant to ignore.