Why your company culture matters

Strong company cultures lead to substantial increases in profitability.

Every day each employee makes hundreds of small decisions such as which piece of work they prioritise, how they phrase an email, or even deal with an angry customer. Unexpected events, to which they need to respond, can arise at any time. Essentially the culture of your company guides your employees’ actions when you are not available to consult.

As the business owner, CEO, or Chair of the Trustees, you drive the culture in your organisation. How do you, or can you, do this?

Determine your culture

Depending on the market you serve some of this may be determined for you. The following tips are worth considering in how you set the culture.

Control – ask what level of control is required in your organisation. In highly regulated sectors and in the legal profession this may be substantial. Authority levels, job descriptions and detailed policies and procedures could all be appropriate.

Flexibility – this is going to be relevant in innovative sectors where the ability to respond quickly to fluctuating customer needs and a rapidly changing marketplace is crucial.

Relationships – in organisations that serve members or collaborate with other businesses and stakeholders the ability to build relationships is central, but it is also important in customer-facing businesses too.

Results – commercial organisations, in particular need to be mindful of the need to produce results.

Why – Simon Sinek’s book: “Start with Why” is highly instructive and a good read. Why does your organisation exist? What are you trying to achieve? Do you have a vision?

Some further thoughts on culture

Boundaries of control – Employees benefit from knowing what level of discretion they can exercise and where the boundaries lie. Broadly speaking the more you can empower your employees the more you are likely to get from them. You cannot be present at every decision an employee has to take.

Employee voice – listening to employees is a great leadership quality but employees need to feel that expressing an opinion will not be to their detriment. There is little value in listening to someone who only tells you what you want to hear. Technology now allows employee a voice through social media or through review sites such as Glassdoor. Some clients have experimented with enterprise social media such as Yammer but their success has been mixed. I’ve found “walking the floor” to be an effective way of listening.

Integrity – can you be trusted? Are you sure? Surprisingly (perhaps) line managers are trusted more than HR specialists! If employees only ever tell you what your want to hear, maybe they don’t trust you.

Engagement – this goes back to “why”. What is your vision? Can you expect employees to buy in to it? Do they know what your vision is? How do you sell that vision and purpose to your employees?

Reward – monetary rewards are relatively easy to give, hence the popularity of bonuses, commission schemes and salary rises. More difficult is tapping in to the motivation of individual employees, understanding what drives them, what rewards they seek. Among others, these could be excitement; challenge; security; CV- building; personal growth; status; personal or public achievements; etc.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice


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