Why is Culture so important in life and business and what does it really mean?
Culture means different things in different contexts and is essentially, the way a group of people behave. This article is about culture in the business or company context.
I have read and contributed to some interesting discussions and debates on LinkedIn about it. I have also read some terrific articles about Peter Drucker’s quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Not everyone understands what a business culture is.
What do we mean by the Culture of an organisation or business?
Culture is not one thing! It is many things and it is measurable. Gallup Inc. are experts in the field of analysing and quantifying things by making them measurable. Staff engagement is one of the core components of understanding an organisations culture. See Gallup for more details.
Culture in a business can be defined as:
- business purpose or mission
- values held by the leaders of the business
- company vision and mission
- the behaviours required to deliver the business purpose and maintain integrity
- the environment:
- what the organisation structure looks like
- how people interact,
- the way people behave
- what is accepted behaviour and what is not
- what is measured and managed such as team work and individual performance
- building design, furniture and fittings. For example, in a customer contact centre the noise level must be taken in to account as part of the culture. It will affect an individual’s ability to function in that environment
- reward and recognition and care programs for employees
- social events and the feeling of being valued by the organisation; which is part of staff engagement read more about employee engagement
- the way a business responds to current trends in their industry and how the business adapts which is sited in the New York Times as being an issue that has hampered them in the Digital era
- sustainability of the organisation which is related to adaptability and response to industry changes as sited in Successful_Habits_of Visionary_Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
These are just some and by no means all, of the components, that are important to understanding and defining what is the culture of a business or organisation.
Maintaining the desired culture is not, a ‘set and forget’ exercise:
Culture, is at the core of understanding how to build a successful, sustainable business. It requires maintenance and monitoring.
There must be a systematic method of maintaining and monitoring the culture. It needs to be part of the business operating system.
Regular maintenance of it requires focus and intention. The business operating system includes the way people are managed, recognised, rewarded and disciplined in line with the culture.
Business Culture is a key to success
Apple, Google, Atlassian, Twitter, Facebook and Adobe are household names because of their success. To maintain their success, they must ensure the employees deliver the vision and mission of the business. Therefore, it is important to have a human resources management system to keep everyone on track. Another potential bonus, is people aspire to work for them. Therefore, finding talent is potentially easier.
A recent visit to the Apple Store:
I recently visited Sydney, City Apple store to have my mobile phone examined for a technical issue. The experience was enjoyable from start to finish.
The centre was large, vibrant, well designed and incredibly busy. The wait time was not long because I had already booked ahead.
The attendant was polite, friendly and professional. The service/check took about 45 mins and it was thorough.
While we went through the checks on the phone, I talked with the attendant.
She told me how much she liked working their because they had a terrific culture. One example she gave was: “if we make a mistake, no one yells or blames”. Instead they will say: “OK let’s get you trained better and talk me through what you do not understand or know how to do”.
Further she explained:
That was only one of the examples. She also explained that everyone was friendly and supportive, and it felt relaxed but very organised. Everyone knew their job, what they had to do and if they were uncertain of anything they knew they could just ask for help. She said: “it really felt like being part of a team and that you were valued and important.”
If that is what it is like to work at an Apple Store and service centre, I imagine it would translate to most of Apple’s enterprise. A Culture of support, team work, professionalism, service and no blame, just train. That seems like a terrific way to work.
Everyone knows Apple and what they do and their reputation for delivering terrific technology. Their successful brand awareness is not just due to technology.
For example, Apple has had “Think different” as a slogan since 1997 therefore, its people must deliver on the promise for the company to remain a success. A culture of collaborative, team work and ‘no blame’ is no doubt why Apple remains a success story. More on that, in this article on ‘a recent visit to the Apple Sore in Sydney’.
How do these household names create a great Culture and maintain it?
First, they start by very clearly defining the culture they want to create. They link it to their business, what they do and how they differentiate themselves and make money to thrive.
Furthermore, it is visible to all and plastered on the walls. It is also, announced to the world in their mission and vision statements. They don’t stop there though. Read on.
Culture Code Policy
An organisations culture requires constant monitoring and maintenance to keep it on track. Thus, it is important to have a robust human resources management system. It begins with documenting the core values of the business into a company policy. This policy is a ‘Code of Conduct’, an agreed benchmark of desired behaviours.
Align all employees to the Culture (expected behaviours)
Documenting, policy making, and sharing are only the beginning. Every existing employee must be part of it and in agreement with it, or it is just not going to work so well.
There are many good articles on employee engagement such as Why employees at Apple and Google are more productive and this one Employee Engagement.
Hire into it
In the hiring process keep the company culture top of mind and share it with any potential new hires.
Before offering anyone a role with the company, be vigilant about whether the person will fit in with the culture or not. During probation, continue to monitor.
Manage by it
If you notice something say something. It is equally important to notice someone acting by the behaviour standards expected in the Culture Code as it is to notice someone not behaving.
Comment on behaviour as soon as you observe it. The company culture policy serves as a documented agreement about desired behaviour. Therefore, refer to the policy in discussing desired behaviour. As a result, it will reinforce desired behaviour.
In conclusion, a ‘great place to work’ will thrive far better than a not so great place. Driving profits in a business and being sustainable requires getting the culture right as the foundation. If you would like to know more about the other steps involved to use Human Resources Management to Drive Profits also read this article.
King Consulting HR created the Five Step Process© for creating a profitable, high performance business with the foundation step of first defining and developing the Culture. Read about our other Services. If you would like to find out more about this or any of the other services we provide please get in touch.
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