How You REALLY Achieve a Powerful Company Culture

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Company culture is important. I think we can all agree on that.

But what is culture? And who determines it? I’d argue it isn’t what management or the executive suite suggest it is. No, company culture is what employees experience and feel every day.

In that spirit, today I point you to China Gorman’s Data Point Tuesday blog post It’s All about Trust: Honesty and Transparency. 

Important lessons in understanding culture

As CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, China knows of what she speaks. A shown by the decades of research conducted by the institute, “trust” is one of the critical and primary factors for building the “high-quality relationships” upon which a Great Place to Work is built.

In the post, China shares survey results that, in my reading, point to two important lessons in understanding company culture:

1. How employees define culture is the basis for understanding how to build a desired culture.

Most survey takers described ‘company culture’ as a value, belief, or habit of employees that worked at an organization, or the overall feeling of the environment at that company.”

This reinforces my position that the core values (or guiding principles) of your organization are the foundational building blocks of your culture. They are the outward expression in daily behaviors of the cultural “feel” of your company. That’s why it’s critical all employees know how to demonstrate those values in their work (and not just recite them or read them off a mouse pad).

Because it encourages all employees to notice and appreciate colleagues who live these values, social recognition is the most powerful means toreinforce the core values in the daily work. It also serves as an effective, informal training mechanism for others to read or view the detailed messages of recognition about specific values so they, too, can behave in similar ways.

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It’s about the culture employees choose

2. The type of culture employees choose to work within is more telling than obvious assumptions of what make good culture drivers.

So while ‘casual/relaxed’ and ‘fun’ ranked over honesty as the most common definition of an ideal company culture, the fact that ‘honesty and transparency’ are the bigger influencers on whether a prospective candidate actually applies at a company highlights what we’ve known about company cultures all along – that trust and values matter most.”

Sure, foosball tables and free lunches are always appreciated, but they aren’t what retain employees in a strong culture over time. Honesty and transparency about your company’s objectives and, critically, how you achieve them, is a far stronger recruiting and retention tool.

In this case, social recognition is an often under-utilized recruiting tool and opportunity to proclaim your culture of appreciation based on your core values. Symantec provides an excellent example of this in this video on their Careers page.

How would your employees define the culture in your organization? How do you?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on the 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 irvine@globoforce.com.

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1 Comment on “How You REALLY Achieve a Powerful Company Culture

  1. Thanks for sharing Derek. We follow China’s Data Point Tuesday and likewise find her research very insightful. Completely agree that culture isn’t defined by foosball tables and free lunches, rather it lies within the organizational core values and how employees live and achieve the core values every day. Part of the challenge we’ve seen is that while many organizations communicate their core values to employees, the core values are often not embedded talent management processes (e.g., ensuring prospective employees are assessed on the core values during talent acquisition, evaluating employees against the core values as part of performance management). Doing so will further define an organization’s culture and deliver more effective recruiting, engagement and retention.

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