When you walk in the doors of a great company, you can feel it. There's a kind of electricity in the air. Everyone is going about their work with sense of purpose and pride, working toward something they believe in and want to be a part of. What you're experiencing is the outcome of a great culture, and to an entrepreneur, it's poetry in motion.
Culture is the set of shared values, goals and behaviours that characterize an organization. It’s the glue that bonds people together for a common purpose. However, if you ask that same entrepreneur to explain it, they’ll often have difficulty. They might tell you about the outstanding men and women who work for them or about the amazing culture that binds them, but rarely can they explain how or why it works. Only that it does.
Sometimes a corporate culture is shaped unwittingly by the natural charisma of a strong leader who promotes and encourages a certain type of behaviour. Unfortunately, when a culture is driven by only one person, their influence can be diluted as the organization grows. Should that leader move on, the culture may leave along with them. To avoid this, a culture must be valued and developed as its own entity.
A strong and independent culture will be built on the foundation of a set of clear corporate values. Corporate values are intended to shape the behaviour of all stakeholders. They help keep a company pointed in the right direction and perhaps more importantly, help attract and identify the right employees. If your employees don’t share your corporate values, the environment at your company will be unlikely to reflect your principles.
As important as the right people are, it’s not enough just to hire well. What makes a culture truly effective is the value of continuous improvement. The result is an environment where everyone takes an active daily interest in making the company better than it was the day before. Whether you want to build a culture of innovation, customer service, or hard-driving sales, the core value of continuous improvement will take you there.
The good news is that you don’t have to go that far to make an impact. Start small and go from there. Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint, for example, can have a positive influence on the care your employees put into their work. A simple litmus test is to ask, “Does this positively influence the culture of our organization?” If the answer is “yes,” the employees involved are more likely to act as internal champions, helping you achieve the great culture you’re striving for.
You already know that there’s a culture that exists in your business. There are parts of it that you love, and parts that you would love to do without. Consciously watch for positive aspects of culture in your business. Build systems that support and encourage those aspects when you discover them. Often the best ideas will show up on their own. In fact, they probably already exist within your company. You just need to recognize them and capture them through documented systems. Otherwise they may fade away as quickly as they showed up.
Your corporate culture will reflect itself in your employees’ attitudes toward each other, their jobs and your company. You will be grateful for the investment you put into building your corporate culture and it will pay dividends in the long run. Not only will it have a positive impact on your employees and the environment at your business but your customers will feel the impact as well, increasing your bottom line for years to come.