Creating Company Culture: Yes, It Takes a Lot of Sustained, Hard Work

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Suzanne Rumsey from Knowledge Infusion wrote last month in Fistful of Talent about company culture. Her post is spot-on and deserves to be read by the widest possible audience. For those who are charged with creating or invigorating a strong company culture, this is a must-read.

Suzanne offers three thoughts on culture, but all three lead back to one key point: Creating the culture you want and need for organization success takes sustained hard work.

In Suzanne’s words:

“Thought #1:  to go at building or changing an organization culture directly is pointless, fruitless, and ultimately, a waste of resources… Conclusion:  actively changing an organization’s culture requires hard work and sustained effort towards outcomes that resonate with all employees.  This is more than a marketing campaign, a team building event or a newsletter. …

“Thought #2:  culture is cumulative.  It is the summarization, conglomeration, and amalgamation of demonstrated leadership behaviors, employee support systems, encouraged relationships, achieved results, and rewarded outcomes (the list is longer, but I have a word limit here) over time. …

“Thought #3:  culture, like many other things, is strongest when grown from the grassroots.  This looks a lot less like “company events”, marketing campaigns, and team building, and a lot more like encouraging individuals and small groups to undertake culturally aligned activities on their own initiative and reinforcing that.”

Culture drives employees every day

Creating a culture isn’t an “HR initiative” or a “2012 Goal.” Company culture is not a flowery sentiment or a soft “nice-to-have.” Culture drives and influences every decision made by every employee every day.

So how do you, as Suzanne says, “encourage individuals and small groups to undertake culturally aligned activities and reinforce that?”

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Strategic recognition is the most effective, efficient, and straightforward method to do precisely that. Identify the “culturally aligned activities” – your core values and critical objectives – and then frequently, consistently and very specifically recognize and praise employees for their “culturally aligned” efforts. This communicates for employees in real terms, through their daily work, what your culture is and how it operates.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


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