In short it means a common understanding of shared values, attitudes and practices within a company or an organization.
In more practical terms it means how employees feel about the work they do, what values they should believe in and how they are expected to behave towards their colleagues, external partners and customers.
If a company was a person, the company culture could be said to be its personality. And this personality will influence the behaviour of the organizational body.
Why is culture important for companies - even small businesses?
It's said that startups and companies can succeed or fail due to culture. Build a good culture from start and it will be one of your best assets for success. Have a bad culture and it will slowly tear you up and if not make you completely fail, it might be a major hindrance for growth.
For small companies and startups getting culture right from the start is of vital importance. 7 out of 20 reasons why early stage businesses fail, are related to culture according to CB Insight research.
How do you build it?
The most important concept to undserstand about company culture, is that it is not what you say that matters, but what you do. Fancy slogans and values posted on the walls will have no impact whatsoever, without action. The values needs to be ingrained in action.
- Be concrete about what you want to achieve and describe it through behaviour.
- Commit from day 1 and employee number 1
- Change structures and systems. It should become easier to act according to the culture and values you want to establish.
- Follow up actively
- Top management buy-in and commitment.
- Hire for cultural fit. Put emphasis on how new employees will fit into the culture you're trying to build. Make this a top priority. Dare to say no if there is no fit - you'll not regret later.
How do you improve company culture?
If you are trying to improve on your existing culture, maybe it's time to just start from scratch. Tear down the old, but consider to keep something you might like to keep.
Most important is to consider that it doesn't help to have lengthy workshops in order to define your values. At least if it only leads to empty slogans on a poster.
Values without action is worthless, and if you want the culture to be of any help building your organization, you'll have to make sure that it leads to the desired change that will move the needle.
See the steps above related to building a new culture.