4 June 2016

Corporate Culture - How does your Company Behave?

HR Success Guide
Author: Linda C. Lucarelli (Paychex Inc.)

Would you know how to define corporate culture? If asked, could you tell someone about the culture of your organization?

Simply put, culture it is the "personality" of a company - the people and things that shape that personality. It is the relationship of both simple and complex factors, which can sometimes make a corporate culture take years to develop and mature.

What makes up a company's culture? Everyone in the company has a piece of creating the culture of an organization. Top leaders are generally the ones who will develop a mission, value, or belief statement. These will describe the overall reason the business may be in business, who the company services and/or what products they might create. Companies generally set the tone for that mission to align with organizational goals. Most organizations have their own mission or value statements but not everyone in the company can recite it. These mission, vision, or values generally will set the tone of the company but it is the people and their attitudes that contribute to the culture on a day-to-day basis.

Some factors that create the company's culture are:

 Change management

How do leaders spread the corporate culture? They generally have most of the responsibility to set the corporate culture, whether positive or negative. Having engaged employees, high levels of productivity, high creativity and the ability to adapt to change are all characteristics of a positive company culture. A negative culture can resist change, have employees who are unproductive and are unaccountable, and establish a hierarchy that is not inclusive. Managers also have a responsibility to allow their HR department to assist and hire the right employees to create a positive culture.

Communication and culture go hand in hand. Organizational leaders have a platform to communicate the culture and values to their employees. Subsequently, employees demonstrate those values to customers. How leaders communicate with employees and external partners is a crucial part of how your business builds it reputation, both good and bad. Customers can see right through an organization that can't communicate what is important to their business. Have you ever referred a restaurant to another person? You are not referring just the restaurant you are referring the product, the employees, the atmosphere, the location, and most importantly, your reputation. It is the culture and the beliefs of the organization that sets it apart from the competition.

Societal change happens at a lightning pace. Almost every small, medium, and large company probably had to realign and make changes during the 2008 economic downturn. How a company reacts to change from external or environmental changes like market share, economic conditions, and the demands on technology and their employees can set the pace for what is important to the culture of an organization. Are they able to adapt to these changes with an open line of communication, honest expectations, and a sense of optimism? Does the organization have a fast paced environment, quick to react to challenges? Or is the company chaotic and slow-paced, with no one making final decisions and a difficult-to-manage the environment? Change management training is a valuable tool that can be used to show how your organization will handle any challenges the organization will face.

Describing the corporate culture of an organization is all about attitude. What is the message you send to employees, coworkers, vendors, and customers? There are also some key questions to ask in order to make sure new employees understand and exemplify your company's culture. It is vital that managers are trained on the interviewing process and ask those questions, beyond the obvious discussion of whether the applicant has the skills to do the job. For example, how does the prospective employee fit into the team dynamics of the organization? Ask specific questions that would solicit examples of what is important to your organization, whether it be customer service, creativity, communication, innovation, or working independently. The message you send to the applicant regarding the organization will assist you in hiring the best person for the job and for the company.

So we see that corporate culture is not simply defined. It is a complex set of beliefs, values, and characteristics that describe what is important to the company both internally and externally. As a Human Resources professional, you have an integral part to play in that message. Your role is to be an employee advocate while having a seat at the table with leadership to help ensure that those goals and the mission of the organization are accomplished.

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