A company’s culture is the distinctive, unwritten, informal code of conduct that governs its behaviour, relationships, and style. It is the essence of “the way we do things around here”. In many small companies, culture plays as important a part in gaining a competitive edge as strategy does. Culture has a powerful impact on the way people work together in a business, how they do their jobs, and how they treat their customers.
Company culture manifests itself in many ways – from how workers dress and act to the language they use. For instance, at some companies, the unspoken dress code requires workers to wear suits and tie or dress corporately, but at others employees routinely come to work in jeans and T-shirts.
Although it is an intangible characteristic, a company’s culture has a powerful influence on everyone the company touches, especially its employees. Sustaining a company’s culture begins with the hiring process. Beyond the normal requirements of competitive pay and working conditions, the hiring process must focus on finding employees who share the values of the organization. The process is continuous.
Creating a culture that supports a company’s strategy is no easy task, but entrepreneurs who have been most successful at it believe that having a set of overarching beliefs serves as a powerful guide for everyday action. Culture arises from an entrepreneurs’ consistent and relentless pursuit of a set of core values that everyone in the company can believe in.
As a new generation of employees enters the workforce, companies are discovering that more relaxed, open cultures have an edge in attracting the best workers. These companies embrace non-traditional, fun cultures that incorporate concepts such as casual dress, team-based assignments, telecommuting, flexible work schedules, free meals, company outings, and many other unique options. Modern organizational culture relies on several principles that are fundamental to creating a productive, fun workplace.
Respect for work and life balance: Successful companies recognize that their employees have lives away from work. A study of Generation X workers found that those companies that people most wanted to work for erased the traditional barriers between home life and work-life by making it easier for employees to deal with the pressures they face away from their jobs. These businesses offer flexible work schedules, part-time jobs, job sharing, telecommuting, sabbatical and services.
A sense of purpose: One of the most important jobs an entrepreneur faces is defining the company’s vision and then communicating it effectively to everyone the company touches. Effective companies use a strong sense of purpose to make employees feel connected to the company’s mission.
A sense of fun: For some companies, the lines between work and play are blurred. The founders of these businesses see no reason for work and fun to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they believe that a workplace that creates a sense of fun makes it easier to recruit quality workers and encourage them to be more productive and more customer-oriented.
Engagements: Employees who are fully engaged in their work take pride in making valuable contributions to the organization’s success and derive personal satisfaction from doing so. What can managers do to improve employee engagement?
- Constantly communicate the purpose and vision of the organization and why it matters.
- Challenge employees to learn and advance in their careers and give them the resources and the incentives to do so.
- Create a culture that encourages and rewards engagements.
Equality, diversity and inclusiveness: Companies with appealing cultures not only accept cultural diversity in their workforce, but they also embrace it, actively seeking out workers with different backgrounds. Today businesses must recognize that a workforce that has a rich mix of cultural diversity gives a company more talent, skills and abilities from which to draw. For companies to remain relevant in this environment, their workforce must reflect this diversity. Who is better equipped to deal with a diverse, multicultural customer base than a diverse, multicultural workforce?
Integrity: Employees want to work for companies that stand for honesty and integrity. They do not want to check their own personal value systems at the door when they report to work. Indeed, many workers take pride in the fact that they work for companies that are ethical and socially responsible. People want to look for an organization that makes a difference in the world rather than merely making a product or providing a service.
Participative Management: Today’s workers do not respond well to the autocratic management styles of yesteryears. Company owners and managers must learn to trust and empower employees at all levels of the organization to make decisions and to take the actions they need to do their job well.
Learning Environment: Progressive companies encourage and support lifelong learning among the employees. They are willing to invest in their employees, improving their skills and helping them to reach their full potential. These companies are magnets for the best and the brightest young workers, who know that to stay at the top of their fields, they must always be learning.