Company Culture: The Trick Is Crafting an Approach That Fits Your Organization

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I write regularly about company culture, the importance of getting your culture right for your organization, and how strategic recognition is a powerful method for achieving that culture.

But let’s be clear on two critical points:

1. Your culture is unique to your organization

Zappos has a terrific, powerful culture. So does Southwest Airlines, as well as many other companies. But that doesn’t mean that Zappos’ approach will work for you.

A member of my team did a Zappos culture tour and enjoyed it immensely. We won’t be adopting a Zappos culture at Globoforce, however.

We did learn several lessons and had many of our own beliefs firmly reinforced in that tour, though. And that’s the value of evaluating other strong cultures. Learn what you can; apply what makes sense. But you must create your own culture that works for your own organization.

2. Culture is not a ping-pong table or pizzas every Friday

A powerful article in Fast Company made this point:

Culture, like brand, is misunderstood and often discounted as a touchy-feely component of business that belongs to HR. It’s not intangible or fluffy, it’s not a vibe or the office décor. It’s one of the most important drivers that has to be set or adjusted to push long-term, sustainable success. It’s not good enough just to have an amazing product and a healthy bank balance. Long-term success is dependent on a culture that is nurtured and alive. Culture is the environment in which your strategy and your brand thrives or dies a slow death.”

How do you build that powerful culture, unique to you, that can drive your long-term, sustainable success? The Fast Company article highlights four building blocks of culture, including this one that I consider to be most critical:

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Living values – It’s one thing to have beliefs and values spelled out in a frame in the conference room. It’s another thing to have genuine and memorable beliefs that are directional, alive and modeled throughout the organization daily. It’s important that departments and individuals are motivated and measured against the way they model the values. And, if you want a values-driven culture, hire people using the values as a filter. If you want your company to embody the culture, empower people and ensure every department understands what’s expected. Don’t just list your company’s values in Power Points; bring them to life in people, products, spaces, at events, and in communication.”

How to make values real for employees

How do you bring your values to life? Another topic close to my heart. You must make the values real in the everyday work of every employee.

You do that by recognizing and praising employees – very specifically – every time they demonstrate a value in their work. This makes the values real and tangible to employees and gives them a reason to repeat those desired behaviors again and again.

Can you define your organization culture today? What is your culture based on?

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


1 Comment on “Company Culture: The Trick Is Crafting an Approach That Fits Your Organization

  1. Thanks Derek.   The reason why I don’t like “best practices”.   Every company is unique.   Trying to force something on a company because it is a “best practice” doesn’t “fit”.   So think about how your company is unique —- don’t just follow the pack.

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