Company culture has gone from a few unusual case studies of outlier companies to a permanent part of the global discussion on talent management. In reality, it goes way beyond just another project on the agenda of CHROs: it’s the heartbeat of every successful organization. In this article, I’ll cover what company culture is today, why it matters more than you might think, and how to start cultivating your own.
What Is Company Culture?
Company culture can be defined as the norms and collectively accepted behaviors in an organization. Sounds simple enough but in reality, pinning down the Company Culture DNA of your organization might be much more intricate.
It’s both an anchor that keeps the identity of your company and your team cohesive and consistent over time and a shape-shifting manifesto that evolves with your organization. More than just a rule book, it’s the very heartbeat of your company that bleeds into your strategy, branding, and hiring as well.
Prioritizing culture might seem like pulling the brakes on revenue growth for growing companies.
This is because even though the returns on this investment are substantial, they’re often not directly quantifiable.
Alas, investors who haven’t seen the long term benefits of strong company culture might undervalue this important asset. So do employees who never before worked for an organization that cared about the human aspect of the business.
So Why Is Company Culture Worth The Investment?
Making culture a priority in your organization has a huge positive impact on its internal and external branding, employee satisfaction, productivity, and revenue. The highly publicized case studies of now multibillion dollar companies like Airbnb and Google have proven it time and time again. Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb who is behind Airbnb’s award-winning culture said:
“The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.”
Having clear principles to act by that are accepted by everyone helps:
- align employees,
- improve team morale and motivation,
- and make work more enjoyable.
Personal fulfillment in a job is the most powerful catalyst for productivity. It creates a sense of community and belonging that in turn, makes the right talent gravitate towards your recruiters.
It’s not uncommon for top talent to leave their job and might even take a pay cut in order to work for an organization whose mission and principles they better identify with. It’s a testament to the fact that a consciously crafted company culture can create loyalty so strong that conventional incentives can never outbid.
How To Determine A Company’s Culture
Alfred Lin, former COO of Zappos said that a company’s culture is the everyday assumptions, beliefs, values, behaviors, norms, and actions of employees in pursuit of a company’s goals or mission. That mission normally comes from the conviction (and often a very personal story) of the Founders. It’s a raison d’etre that lays down the foundation for all other cultural attributes.
Besides a joint mission, company values are the backbone of your company culture. They need to fit the purpose that the organization was built upon, in other words, make sure the company walks the talk.
For example, normally all fashion brands embody aesthetics as one of their core values, but the Founders might also define other ones that matter for them personally (such as tradition or care for the environment). In a way, a company’s values are both informed by the larger societal context and by the personal preference of the founding members.
The key to embodying those values then is not to just throw words on paper but to create an extremely specific definition of what they mean in practice. That definition might be completely different from what another company uses despite having the same core values.
In the end, this is what decides the way you do every single thing as an organization and as a team. It affects who you hire (and fire), your meeting etiquette, founder accessibility, the distribution of decision-making power, and so on. The continuous reinforcement of these norms on a daily basis is what shapes your culture as a whole.
Startup VS Corporate Company Culture Types
Besides the individuality of values, there’s another dichotomy that shapes the culture of an organization. Startups, by nature, are companies that aim for rapid growth and innovation. An environment that constantly changes will naturally require individuals who can navigate it with high adaptability, creative problem solving, and personal autonomy. The same expectations in a highly structured large corporation are bound to create chaos.
Startups are still often associated with stereotypical perks like table tennis and wearing slippers to work. These benefits once questioned the status quo and the rigid norms of corporate culture, but today they are nothing more than perks masquerading as culture, or “deepfake” perks as Charisse Fontes, Founder of CultureCircle calls them.
The more important question for Founders to ask themselves is why they do things in a certain way and what does it say about the identity of the company. The reason why Airbnb prioritizes creativity, learning, and play is not to get press for their employee branding but because they want to build an “intimidatingly talented” team.
As a startup team grows, its core values and mission remain the same but the way things are done inevitably change. You can’t run 30 people the same way you run 300.
When your team ceases to be a village and people don’t remember the names of new hires anymore, the individuality of teams becomes more prominent. On the one hand, more guardrails need to be laid down to keep the company’s culture in place. On the other hand, each team has a chance to shape their own “subculture” with distinct work rituals, lingo, and ways to operate their daily work. This creates a stronger sense of belonging within their group while also remaining a part of the company as a whole.
Shaping Company And Team Culture
A lot of companies want to hire “top talent” in their organization without assessing whether those candidates are a culture fit. They look at their technical and soft skills but don’t evaluate their psychometrics. They hire for skills alone (the component that actually CAN be improved within the organization) but not for set qualities such as attitude, working style, and alignment with the company mission.
You can have the smartest talent on your team but if they don’t believe in what they’re working for, they won’t be committed. Your Company Culture DNA has to act as the first filter for both your hiring and talent management processes: from your interviews to expectations set by team leads all the way to performance reviews.
It’s your commitment to these norms that will keep people aligned with the values that matter in your organization and help retain the right employees. It builds a sense of trust and stability in your organization through clear and transparent rules to respect by everyone.
That stability will also give your culture something to fall back on when you’re forced to adapt to global events and market changes, such as shifting your entire operation online from one day to another.
Assessing Culture Fit
At Gyfted, we believe that the way we hire globally needs an upgrade. Our AI-driven job matching system aims to help recruiters simplify their screening process and make unbiased hiring decisions. Try our culture fit assessment tools now to find the perfect match for your open roles and teams.