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 senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.

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