Get on a Southwest flight to anywhere, buy shoes from Zappos.com, pants from Nordstrom, groceries from Whole Foods, anything from Costco, a Starbucks espresso, or a Double-Double from In N’ Out, and you’ll get a taste of these brands’ vibrant cultures.
Company culture is a balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined create either pleasure or pain, serious momentum or miserable stagnation.
A strong company culture flourishes with a clear set of values and norms that actively guide the way a company operates. Employees are actively and passionately engaged in the business, operating from a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than navigating their days through miserably extensive procedures and mind-numbing bureaucracy.
Performance-oriented company cultures possess statistically better financial growth, with high employee involvement, strong internal communication, and an acceptance of a healthy level of risk-taking in order to achieve new levels of innovation.
Company culture, like brand, is misunderstood and often discounted as a touchy-feely component of business that belongs to HR. It’s not intangible or fluffy, it’s not a vibe or the office décor. It’s one of the most important drivers that has to be set or adjusted to push long-term, sustainable success. It’s not good enough just to have an amazing product and a healthy bank balance. Long-term success is dependent on a company culture that is nurtured and alive.
Company culture is the environment in which your strategy and your brand thrives or dies a slow death.
Think about it like a nurturing habitat for success. Company culture cannot be manufactured. It has to be genuinely nurtured by everyone from the CEO down. Ignoring the health of your company culture is like letting aquarium water get dirty.
If there’s any doubt about the value of investing time in company culture, there are significant benefits that come from a vibrant and alive company culture:
Focus – Aligns the entire company towards achieving its vision, mission, and goals.
Motivation – Builds higher employee motivation and loyalty.
Connection – Builds team cohesiveness among the company’s various departments and divisions.
Cohesion – Builds consistency and encourages coordination and control within the company.
Spirit – Shapes employee behavior at work, enabling the organization to be more efficient and alive.
Think about the Marines: the few, the proud. They have a connected community that is second to none, and it comes from the early indoctrination of every member of the Corps and the clear communication of their purpose and value system. It is completely clear that they are privileged to be joining an elite community that is committed to improvising, adapting, and overcoming in the face of any adversity.
The culture is so strong that it glues the community together and engenders a sense of pride that makes them unparalleled. The culture is what each Marine relies on in battle and in preparation. It is an amazing example of a living culture that drives pride and performance.
It is important to step back and ask whether the purpose of your organization is clear and whether you have a compelling value system that is easy to understand. Mobilizing and energizing a company culture is predicated on the organization clearly understanding the vision, mission, values, and goals. It’s leadership’s responsibility to involve the entire organization, informing and inspiring them to live out the purpose the organization in the construct of the values.
Do you run into your company’s culture every day? Does it inspire you or does it smack you in the face and get in your way, slowly wearing you down? Is your company culture overpowering or does it inspire you to overcome challenges?
It’s important to understand what drives brand culture. Is it power and ego that people react to or a company culture of encouragement and empowerment? Is it driven from top-down directives or cross-department collaboration?
To get a taste of an organization’s culture, join an executive meeting or sit in the lunchroom, listen to the conversations, and examine the way decisions are made and how departments cooperate. Take some time out to get a good read on the health of the company culture.
Building a strong company culture takes hard work and true commitment. Here are some basic building blocks that can help.
A vibrant culture provides a cooperative and collaborative environment for a brand to thrive.
Branding is the single most important asset to differentiate a company consistently over time. It needs to be nurtured, evolved, and invigorated by the people entrusted to keep it true and alive.
Without a functional and relevant company culture, the money invested in research and development, product differentiation, marketing, and human resources is never maximized and often wasted because it’s not fueled by a sustaining and functional company culture.
Consider Zappos, one of the fastest companies to reach $1 billion in recent years, fueled by an electric and eclectic company culture, one that’s inclusionary, encouraging, and empowering. It’s well documented, celebrated, and shared willingly with anyone who wants to learn from it.
Now compare that to American Apparel, the controversial and prolific fashion retailer with a well-documented and highly dysfunctional company culture. Zappos is thriving and on its way to $2 billion, while American Apparel has been mired in bankruptcy and controversy. Both companies are living out their missions––one is to create happiness and the other is based on self-centered perversity. Authenticity and values in culture always win.
Building a strong company culture takes hard work and true commitment and, while not something that can be ticked off in boxes, here are some very basic building blocks to consider:
A vibrant company culture is organic and evolving. It’s fueled and inspired by leadership that is actively involved and informed about the realities of the business. The leaders are passionately engaged and genuinely care about the company’s role in the world. They are great communicators and motivators who set out clear visions, missions, values and goals and create an environment for the brand culture to come alive.
It’s one thing to have beliefs and values spelled out in a frame in the conference room, it’s another to have genuine and memorable beliefs that are directional, alive, and modeled daily throughout the organization.
It’s important that departments and individuals are motivated and measured against the modeling of the values. And, to create a values-driven culture, hire people using the company values as a filter.
For an organization to embody its culture people must be empowered and every department must understand what’s expected. Don’t just list values in slide shows, bring them to life in people, products, spaces, at events, and in communication.
Strong company cultures empower their people, recognize talents, and offer the framework for very clear roles and responsibility. It’s amazing how basic this principle is, yet how absent it is in many businesses.
Most companies that run at speed often forget to celebrate their victories, both big and small, and they rarely have time or the humility to acknowledge and learn from their failures. Brands can celebrate both victories and failures in their own unique ways, but should share them and share them often.
Article source: FastCompany – Adapted from article written by: Shawn Parr
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