Why you should be as purposeful about your culture as your brand

Culture is the identity or personality of your organization. It is similar to culture in any other realm. It is what distinguishes your company. It’s the collection of all of the attitudes, personalities, beliefs, values, and traditions of your organization. An organizational culture that is properly developed and nourished will help attract talent, and keep that talent by, among other things, increasing satisfaction. It will also drive engagement, and impact performance. And as much as it has a wide-ranging impact on an organization, a company’s culture is influenced by everything — from leadership to policies to its people to its management style. 

Like It or Not, Your Company Has a Culture

It is said that if you don’t create your own brand, others will do it for you. Similarly, a company without a defined workplace culture will certainly define one as it goes along. But that means that you may end up with a culture that you do not want, or which is not the best for your business.

If your company has been around for a few years it may have already defined a culture. It is likely, however, that there are stronger subcultures within various departments that conflict with one another and perhaps even with the organization’s overall vision. As a quick test to check, ask five people in your company to tell you about its core values or mission. If you get five dissimilar or, worse, inconsistent answers, you have a culture problem. 

You cannot expect everyone to be driving full speed towards one goal if everyone is on a different page. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to you. If we think of the company as a product, these become core defects that need to be removed. You do this by defining a culture, then making sure everyone in the organization understands it and wants to be a part of it. 

Yes, you will have some attrition because of the new culture. But you need the right people in the right roles, and self-selection is actually one of the most painless ways of ensuring that. Having a formal, culture-focused hiring and firing process (so it’s not a waiting game) is even better.

Build the Culture You Want

You can work with the leadership team to define the culture, you can hire experts, or you can do both. The best approach is to work with the leadership as it encourages buy-in and allows you to hear ideas and values that are derived from the diversity of experience found within your team. Having said that, the right consultants can work well with the leadership and the entire company too. So it really comes down to how much time you have and how much you are willing to spend on the exercise.

Here are the steps you need to take to begin defining the culture you want to be a part of:

  1. Generate a list of your core values.
  2. Stress test those core values.
  3. Refine your core values.
  4. Publish your core values internally.
  5. Incorporate them in everything you do.

This sounds simple, right? Yet, most organizations actually get stuck at the first step. It is important to be persistent, purposeful, and understand the pitfalls of this process in order to effectively maneuver through it.

This article is an edited excerpt from a book I authored with two of my colleagues.