How to Define Corporate Culture – Demystify the Way Work Gets Done in Your Organization

Corporate Culture with Carol Ring

Here’s a challenge for you.

Give me three words that describe how your company gets the job done.

Can you?

If you can, it means you’ve invested time learning how to define corporate culture. Because that’s how you keep an organization moving forward as a multi-talented, diverse – sometimes remote – team of professionals all striving towards the same end goal.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that you understand how your employees interpret your company values…because they’re the building blocks of a healthy workplace culture and the key to your company’s success.

If you want answers, you have to ask questions.

I see it all the time in my practice…the glaring blind spot when it comes to understanding company values. Both from senior management and employees.

Managers will tell me they’ve done an engagement survey and everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, they have all the tools they need to do the job, they get along with their coworkers…

Employees tell me they feel well supported, they understand the tasks they’ve been given, they feel safe and well-equipped in their jobs.

But feeling engaged isn’t the same thing as feeling a common sense of purpose. That’s where your values shine through. Does your entire team understand your values? The only way to find out is to conduct a values assessment.

Springboarding off famed psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Richard Barrett created one of the best tools for assessing values – he identified seven levels:

  1. Viability – An organization focused purely on this has the goal of ensuring stability through profit, safety, and health.
  2. Relationships – If an organization has this focus, its focal point is based around customer satisfaction, respect, and open communication.
  3. Performance – This is all about achieving excellence! These organizations strive to be results-orientated, competent, and efficient.
  4. Evolution – Organizations with this value are always trying to move forward using innovation, empowerment, and continuous learning.
  5. Alignment – Organizations that focus on alignment try to create a culture of openness, creativity, passion, and transparency.
  6. Collaboration – If an organization has this focus, then its goal is to cultivate communities through mentoring and coaching, community involvement, and partnership.
  7. Contribution – These organizations have a focus on the long term by trying to create a culture of social responsibility to future generations.

A healthy, thriving organization will have a full spectrum of these values, although not many have all of them! By using these values to assess your organization, you will be able to see what values it has, along with what values it is lacking and need to be worked on.

Keep in mind, the assessment of the values will tell you what is…but that doesn’t mean what can be is set in stone…you have the ability to shape your company culture.

There couldn’t be a better time to define corporate culture...are you ready?

Knowing why they get out of bed in the morning…

Once you understand what motivates each member of your team, you can start exploring ways to shape a company culture that feeds into those motivations.

You’ll probably discover that the company culture you thought existed is radically different from the one experienced by your frontline workers, or those working remotely. Don’t worry, you can weave all those different threads together into a cohesive blanket.

It’s important that you take five steps to identify what is, and what can be…

  1. Define the culture that exists today in your company.
  2. Define the culture that needs to exist so you can achieve the goals set out in your strategic plan…especially during times of change.
  3. Define the elements of your company culture that resonate with every level of your team – use language that makes it clear what’s expected, even give examples of actions to be taken or behaviours to follow.
  4. Define the ways you’re going to support the processes and policies you’re setting out – this will begin with onboarding and continue with a program of recognition and rewards.
  5. Define a way to gauge your success – and be sure that everyone understands how to read the gauge.

It’s not uncommon for companies to gloss over the “why” of their operations. They get the “who, what, when, where, how” established and once they start to turn a profit, the “why” is seemingly irrelevant.

But if you want an engaged, committed workforce, one that will ride out the tough times with the same enthusiasm they brought to the table during the good times, you need to instill a sense of common purpose. You need to define your corporate culture, and then ‘sell it’ to your team.

Even during these uncertain times, you have an opportunity to reach out to your entire team and get them working on a common goal: to define your corporate culture and find ways to build on it for future growth.

If you’d like help identifying your company culture, contact me. Together we’ll find those three words that define your common goals…and build your business, even during these challenging times.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

The Impact of Culture on Mergers and Acquisitions
How Baby Boomers Are Causing a Shift in Workplace Culture
Transforming Workplace Culture: Difficult Decisions Successful Leaders Make

This article was originally published in 2016, and has been updated in May of 2020 just for you!

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