It is hard to overstate the importance of company culture. It is a factor that can make or break a business and yet one that is perhaps too often overlooked or misunderstood. Contrary to what many believe, when it comes to corporate culture, simply creating a friendly working environment is not enough.
What is company culture?
One reason that many businesses get it wrong is because corporate culture is such a broad term, encompassing many different factors. But at its heart, it is the embodiment of your company’s personality, values and purpose. It defines the environment in which your people work, but also how they work and even why they work. Issues arise when these values are unclear from the outset. How can you create a cohesive and effective company culture when you don’t know what you stand for?
Clarifying your values and goals
The first thing to do when establishing or redefining a company culture is to ensure that you have a clearly articulated strategic direction and purpose. Why does your business exist? What is it you are trying to achieve? Knowing the answer to these questions is crucial if you are to create a culture that helps you to realise your overall business aims. Your values, goals and ethics should be at the core of your culture; in many ways they are the very things that define it.
Once you are comfortable that you know who you are and why, it is essential that everyone at every level of the company also understands and buys into this. Good management processes are key here; companies need role models in managerial positions, who espouse the company’s principles and standards - particularly in large organisations where corporate values could get lost. Of course, it is important that communication does not just go in one direction, i.e. this should not just come from the top down. Taking an inclusive approach and encouraging staff to play a role in shaping and creating the company culture enables people to feel more engaged and motivated to make it a success.
The more positive staff feel about the business, the better your external reputation will be – for, of course, culture is not just an internal issue. There have been numerous instances of toxic corporate culture hitting the headlines – unfortunately issues which all too often come from the top. If business leaders are behaving in a way that is at odds with the company’s stated values, the implications can be serious; there are inevitable reputational consequences that can affect everything from your capacity to recruit to your bottom line. We weren’t kidding when we said it is hard to overstate the value of company culture!
Embed the values
When thinking about how to embed the values and goals that form the basis of your company culture into the business, it is important to remember that, whilst this process should start at the recruitment stage, it should certainly not end there. Your culture will likely influence who you recruit and should be communicated clearly at this stage, but you can’t assume that your values will just become engrained and be enacted from that point onwards. Employees across the business should be reminded of your cultural values regularly – and a really effective way to ensure that this happens is to reward people for doing so.
Reward and recognition
Designing a reward and recognition programme that links directly to your organisation’s values ensures that your employees are engaged for the right reasons and in a way that will benefit the business and reinforce your culture. For example, if teamwork is important to your organisation, make sure people are recognised for it. Some companies choose a system whereby people can nominate colleagues via a portal, which can really encourage a culture of support and mutual recognition. But, however you manage your reward and recognition scheme, the key is to make sure that rewards are very clearly linked to one or more of your core behaviours, whatever they may be.
And it’s also worth remembering that linking your recognition strategy directly to your business objectives can help team members who are cynical about the effectiveness of reward and recognition to see its value.
Reward and recognition programmes offer a really impactful way to encourage and foster a company culture. Organisations that acknowledge exceptional performance and encourage specific values or behaviours are often those that have the most effective culture. Ultimately, it’s about saying thank you – literally, or with a gift of award - to employees for exhibiting certain behaviours in the workplace, whether that be loyalty, hard work, showing integrity, or just doing a really good job.
Creating a friendly environment is definitely important, but it alone does not constitute a corporate culture that will really deliver value to your business.
Employee recognition can be one of the best ways to motivate your team. Download our free e-book to find out more about how to build an effective recognition strategy.