You will hear a lot on this subject, from those that wax lyrical, but offer little practical advice, to the photographs of Google’s latest ultra-modern, beanbag festooned office. You will hear of companies and businesses and how their culture is all-enveloping, warm and welcoming, with great productivity rates and low staff turnover. You will hear of places to work where it is all fun, fun, fun and a quick game of pool at lunchtime. But what is a culture in a business or company? Is it THAT important? What do you want your office culture to be…?
An academic definition
The culture of an organisation is the collective beliefs, values and attitudes that you all share. It is, the academics say, imperative within a business as it has an impact on the strategic direction of a company. It influences everything from management, decisions as well as business functions.
Sounds simple enough and yet why are some companies thriving, with a great sense of adventure and productivity about them and others are, well, just plain boring?
To get the company culture you want, there are some essential components that need to be in place.
- Say it. Write it down. Be it.
Company culture starts with vision or a mission statement. You know the ones – to offer the best customer service for anyone seeking a new bicycle or Microsoft’s a computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.
Short, to the point and laid out for everyone to see. Behind this mission statement will be the people that drive it and so if the vision is not authentic, bold, displayed and adhered to, then you may as well not bother.
But, it is not just an outward show, it is an inward one too. When people come to work for you, they need to a) be aware of this vision statement b) contribute towards it and c) understand it.
Imagine working for Microsoft and thinking it is a rubbish product? Or working for Oxfam and not believing that the world cannot be fair, and not riddled with poverty (a just world without poverty)?
If you feel your company culture is either non-existent or not what you want it to be, you need to create that hymn sheet of a vision statement, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
So know you have your vision statement, you also know need to envision how this happens – and how people will act to make it happen.
We all expect our staff team to work with professionalism but it is more than this. It is about mindset, as much as it is about chosen behaviours.
There are some wacky examples out there; for instance, one of Google’s is don’t be evil, which you may think goes without saying but maybe it helps to create the idea that how we interact with each other is important, on and offline.
Some of the biggest and most responsible companies have recently started advertising their posts as a job you will love. Until recent times, a lot of these fluffy stuff was shaped using non-emotional words. But now, companies realise that being more emotional does not make them weak or amateur.
Injecting passions into your business can do a lot for a company culture. If you are your management team are enthusiastic, and then your staff team will be too.
- Your narrative
We are not suggesting that every business has a museum such as Coca-Cola’s World of Coke but, there is lot to be said about celebrating the history – the narrative – of your business.
It started somewhere – like Hewlett-Packard in the garage or Steve Jobs’ fascination with calligraphy (strange but true) – but it almost certainly started from someone’s passion.
We become bogged down in making sure that everything is ship-shape and bang on target, with goals met and surpassed and boxes ticked. Break free from these shackles and start to focus on what is important – the product, the brand, the people.
WHERE you and your people work, dictate how people will behave. Open plan offices are not always conducive to the best culture but what you are aiming for is openness.
So you know the next time you cast a furtive glance at the huddle round the water cooler? Don’t. You know the next time you see people in the kitchen – again – making tea – again – and you glance at the clock as if to say it does not break time yet? Don’t.
Start to model the culture you want but it takes trust. And time. And a dollop of passion. Enjoy!