These days, we can't talk about a successful business (or a failing one, for that matter) without discussing its company culture, and for good reason. An organization's culture is more than just a new-age buzz word everyone stole from MAANG companies; it's a critical part of how things work from top to bottom.
Corporate culture determines everything from how decisions are made to what kinds of environmental initiatives the company launches. But here's the rub: there are as many company cultures as there are companies because culture varies from organization to organization.
So, how do you identify the corporate culture in a business? And also, what exactly is culture and why can't anyone stop talking about it? Let's answer the second question first.
What exactly is company culture?
Company culture is the collective values, beliefs, behaviors and processes that make up an organization. Most tangibly, a good workplace culture covers how employees feel when they're in the workplace, or how they feel about their job.
But of course, it goes beyond the employee experience and also includes how the organization conducts itself in the real world, and how it is perceived.
It is a broad term that explains the way a business handles everything, including:
- Employee relations
- Working environment
- Leadership and senior management
- Communication within the workplace
- Customer communications and care
- Employee care
- Recognizing and rewarding staff behavior
- Engagement with the local community
- Environmental care and sustainability
And of course, a whole lot more.
In a nutshell, the company culture is how a business organization does everything from it's day to day operations through to it's attitude to the wider world. Company culture is very often shaped by the history, goals, and people within the organization, so it's often unique as you go from one company to another. However, you could pick any one process in this above list and get a partial picture of a company’s culture.
Why company culture is so important
A company’s culture influences its overall well-being, success, and long-term growth. It dictates how committed team members are to chasing goals and how management is to rewarding employee accomplishments. Let’s get a little more specific and talk about the ways a strong company culture matters.
1. Employee engagement and productivity
A positive culture often promotes a sense of belonging among employees with unsurprising results. When you feel like you belong in a work environment and that you matter, you’re more likely to be motivated and bring 110% to your job. A strong organizational culture often increases employee engagement, and you're likely to see employees disconnected from their jobs in companies with a poor corporate culture. (Copc Inc)
2. Talent attraction and retention
Later on, we will talk about Google’s corporate culture, but we all know how sought-after positions in the company have become. A positive company culture like that can be a powerful magnet for attracting top talent and a strong incentive for increasing employee retention.
Read more about employee retention in our guide.
3. Innovation and adaptability
Companies that encourage open communication and risk-taking are more likely to launch innovative projects. Employees in these strong corporate culture environments feel empowered to share ideas, experiment with new approaches, and contribute to the company's continuous improvement, all without the fear of failure. (Indeed)
4. Customer satisfaction
Harvard Business Review found that employees who are satisfied and engaged are more likely to provide better customer service. So, a positive company culture that keeps employees engaged can translate to better, more pleasant customer experiences. A toxic company culture, on the other hand, will eventually be felt by the customers.
The 5 C’s of company culture: What are they?
Next, let’s look at a more standard blueprint of company culture. You’ll often find these online as the “C’s of company culture.” The exact number and wording often vary, but they all talk about the same thing – the specific traits that make up a good or bad company culture. Let’s see what those are.
A company’s core values are its fundamental beliefs and principles. These guide behavior and decision-making in the organization. So how do core values come into play here?
Well, companies with clearly defined and communicated core values give employees a shared understanding of the company's identity and priorities. That means everybody knows exactly what the company aspires towards, and that lays a strong foundation for the organizational culture.
So whether that is a strong belief in giving back to the community, or a focus on environmental responsibility, these core values can shape how employees feel about the company they work for.
How freely information flows between upper management and employees is an important part of the organization's culture. That clear line of communication can help build trust, promote collaboration and get everyone on the same page with the company’s objectives.
In fact, communication has been seen as one of the most important elements in employee satisfaction and retention.
Read more: The guide to internal communications strategy.
A company culture that values collaboration between employees will spur innovation and a positive work environment. This is another major factor in job satisfaction, especially for younger job seekers and the emerging Gen-Z job market.
People want to feel like they can contribute to a successful company culture, and that their work has meaning. Nurturing collaboration and giving people opportunity to build strong teams can really help the sense of a strong culture.
Of course, the sense of friendship, mutual trust and positive social atmosphere among employees is a huge part of people enjoying their work. A friendly environment like this can help support employees, giving them an enjoyable workplace and even improving the sense of a good work life balance.
In short, good camaraderie in corporate culture can help strong interpersonal relationships to form, which in turn can contribute to employee satisfaction, engagement, and overall well-being.
An environment of continuous learning can really help employees acquire new skills, adapt to change, and continue their professional development.
When a company values continuous learning among its employees, it’s more likely to enjoy adaptation and innovation. That ensures that its workforce, and by extension, the whole company stays competitive in the market.
How do you identify a company’s culture?
So we now know what makes a company culture important, and how its a key part of improving everything from teamwork and collaboration through to improving how the business is seen by customers or clients.
But how can you identify the business culture? And if you want to fix or improve company culture, what elements do you need to focus on?
Start with the mission and value statements
A company’s culture is often much more complex than any single statement will ever show. But, looking at what the company says about itself can be very revealing. Do the company's mission and value statements talk about the company’s commitment to maximizing shareholder profit? Or are they more concerned with passing as much savings to the end user?
Some businesses might be more focused on giving back to the local community, or even the planet. Patagonia is a good example of this, with a strong focus on sustainability without greenwashing.
Business leaders who want to improve company culture often start with rewriting the mission and value statement. While this won't immediately lead to a healthy company culture, it can help get employees on the same page. And hopefully, the company's values as seen day-to-day, will follow suit.
We often see examples of businesses where the day-to-day activities stray from the mission statement, but you can at least see what they are going for, where their priorities are, and how they approach decision-making.
Look at the company’s structure
A company’s structure can tell us a lot about its culture; these two facets are often so related that one leads to the other. According to Synergita, a company’s culture determines its structure, and very often, team members will lean on the structure to reinforce culture.
Some great places to start are the hierarchy, reporting lines, and how departments collaborate. Is it a flat organization where communication flows easily across levels, or does it operate in a more traditional, hierarchical manner?
This tells you how the organization handles its decision-making, collaboration, and, more importantly, innovation. Seamless communication means that innovation can happen rapidly, and that could indicate the company’s commitment to quick pivots – signs that often point to a successful company culture
Hierarchical communication, on the other hand, could show that the culture is more controlled, with a top-down approach.
How satisfied are employees?
The next question we need to ask is along the lines of, “How committed is the company to satisfying employees?” Are they breaking training into bite-sized pieces with digital signage so everyone can learn at a comfortable pace? Or are training sessions packed into painfully long weekends?
Structures like these show where the company’s culture is at. We also have to think about how happy employees are more likely to be engaged, productive, and committed to the organization (Gallup).
You can use platforms like Glassdoor to learn more about how employees feel. Next, think about factors like work-life balance, job security, growth opportunities, and the overall work environment.
What does communication look like?
Communication can tell you a lot about how transparent and open the company’s culture is. Do you see a free flow of information, ‘cards on the table' style communication from leadership, or does vital information get lost in a maze of bureaucracy?
That tells you whether employees are kept on a need-to-know basis or if every team member is considered an important stakeholder in certain decisions.
You may also want to look into the specific ways they communicate. Is it a regular town hall meeting, open forum, or through collaboration platforms like Slack? Or does upper management simply update employees on current and future events through strategically placed digital signage?
This could tell you how well the company embraces new technologies and how much it prioritizes communication speed and efficiency.
What about community relationships?
You can tell a lot about an organization's values and priorities from how it connects with its community. A good place to start is investigating the company's involvement in local initiatives, charitable activities, and sustainability efforts. Do they do this at all? How far do they take their commitments?
Companies with strong community engagement show a commitment that goes beyond their bottom line and extends to their belief in a sense of shared responsibility and purpose.
What’s the prevailing leadership style?
Leadership style is critical because it influences everything from the work atmosphere to employee morale and the organization's approach to challenges and opportunities. By looking at the prevailing leadership style, you can understand how decisions are made and the overall workplace culture.
Some of the leadership styles you'll want to look out for are:
- Transformational leadership: Tends to inspire and motivate teams, encouraging innovation
- Transactional leadership: Focuses on maintaining efficiency and order, emphasizing rules
- Servant leadership: Prioritizes employee well-being and leads by example
- Autocratic leadership: Makes independent decisions and gives instructions without much employee input
- Democratic leadership: Involves everyone in decision-making, fostering a culture of empowerment
Patagonia: An example of great company culture
When most people hear “great company culture,” there are a few companies that spring to mind. Patagonia is perhaps one of the best known businesses who operate a strong corporate culture focused on sustainability and giving back.
Founder Yvon Chouinard is even famous for writing a book called, Let my people go surfing, where even the title refers to the work life balance inherent in Patagonia's corporate culture.
So lets look at what makes Patagonia a poster child for great company culture.
1. Strong core values
Perhaps most famously, Patagonia's Mission Statement focuses on environmental responsibility and reducing waste and pollution. As stated in their Core Values page:
"We’re all a part of nature, and every decision we make is in the context of the environmental crisis challenging humanity."
As well as environmental concerns, they're also focused on improving the lot of marginalized people from around the world, with a focus on social justice:
"We embrace the work necessary to create equity for historically marginalized people and reorder the priorities of an economic system that values short-term expansion over human well-being and thriving communities. We acknowledge painful histories; confront biases; change our policies; and hold each other accountable. We aspire to be a company where people from all backgrounds, identities and experiences, can be their whole selves and have the power to contribute and lead."
2. Work flexibility
Allowing staff to enjoy a great work life balance is also at the core of Patagonia's corporate values. They actually operate 15 different shift patterns to allow workers to work on their preferred schedule.
They also offer in-house childcare for families, and
3. Employee empowerment
This quote from Yvon Chouinard's book, "Let My People Go Surfing" explains the philosophy behind how he hires and treats employees at Patagonia.
"If you care about having a company where employees treat work as play and regard themselves as ultimate customers for the products they produce, then you have to be careful whom you hire, treat them right, and train them to treat other people right. Otherwise you may come to work one day and find it isn’t a place you want to be anymore."
4. Transparency and communication
Like any big company, keeping employees informed and up to date is key to successful communication and nurturing company culture. But Patagonia don't do this lightly. They refuse to schedule meetings during lunchtimes, avoid scheduling unnecessary meetings (could this meeting be an email?) and structure feedback so that employees feel they can input their suggestions for company processes.
Patagonia's town hall meetings demonstrate transparency and how to give employees a voice in a good company culture setting. This, coupled with communication from leadership, keeps employees informed about company developments and fosters a sense of trust and inclusivity.
Using digital signage to build a strong culture
We've already seen how training and communication influence corporate culture. But what you might not know is that these are two clear areas where digital signage can help. Strategically placed screens can help feed employees bite-sized training while also communicating critical company information.
But that's not all. Digital signage is also terrific at keeping team members engaged, promoting transparency, and even boosting employee and customer satisfaction.
Find out more about how ScreenCloud can help your business by booking a demo today.