***This is the first of a 2-part series on Company Culture.***
In our last blog related to company culture in July 2021, we defined it as: “…the way of life in a company at its core; it is the way the company operates toward fulfilling the goals and includes the core values and behavior of each employee. It is the habitat in which strategy lives, the way things are done.” It is the corporate personality of all employees – their feelings, beliefs, actions, attitudes which comprise the work environment; it is a collection of the intangibles in a business.
Why is this important? Experts like Peter Drucker seem to think that culture may be more important than strategy. One recent survey indicated that 66% of employees really do see their work culture as important. However, another study indicated that only 28% of executives understand it.
Let’s start with two negative examples:
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd shared a scathing review of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, saying she hated it because of the political and social negative environment. Says Lloyd, “…and by culture, I am referring to mentality, and respect towards coaches, teammates, support staff. I am also talking about the drive, the desire, the hunger, the fight, the accepting a roll and doing it to the best of your ability.” Lloyd continued “In any successful business or in any successful team, there needs to be a good culture in place … no team or business can be successful with a poor culture.”
For a BAM example, I think of a team of 4 couples who assembled under a dynamic CEO with a vision to start a BAM company in West Africa. He was well qualified in business, and he raised over $US one million to start a manufacturing operation for a mobile vehicle which had been tested, and consumer demand was proven. Prior to deployment the 8 individuals came to IBEC for some counsel relative to some clear culture issues which demanded attention. We gave our counsel and they arrived in Africa that same year.
About six months later, it was becoming increasing obvious that the counsel went unheeded, and the wives and children were increasingly unhappy. The living conditions were not chosen wisely, the husbands became overworked, and they did not try to learn the language. Before the end of the first year, all eight had returned to the USA and the project folded. From the start the company culture was not recognized as important, and rapidly turned negative.
Two positive examples:
Google many times has topped the list of best companies to work for in the US. Why? A few reasons include the repeated fact that employees think their work makes the world a better place. Other factors include the many perks the company offers like free healthy meals, on-site childcare, and flexibility to work on passion projects. More than one quarter of the employees are given the flexibility to telecommute. For this and other reasons, Google always scores high in employee satisfaction with their jobs.
For a BAM example, I am reminded of visiting a manufacturing company in Indonesia. I took along a videographer to tell the story of the business. We interviewed the employees with a national translator and without the owner present. We explored the company culture with questions about what the job was like, what they found satisfying, why they worked there etc. The workers overwhelmingly and independently affirmed how they loved the job. When we asked why, they said, the owner was fair, he paid above minimum wage, he was accommodating when they had a family crisis, he took them on camping trips, and when the contracts were low, he provided severance pay. It was no small wonder that one year after our visit, the first employee came to faith in Christ.
Three suggestions for how company culture can this be measured. How do you know you are getting it right with a positive company culture?
- Create an open-door policy, with transparency and honesty in all things; creating a communication structure so everyone has the information they need. Take steps to empower all employees with self-improvement instruments for employee growth.
One thing I did when managing an office staff of forty was to meet for 45 minutes each week with the entire staff, with all required to be in attendance, even my boss, the president. We shared vision and discussed it; we developed strategic plans together; we had in-service training; we prayed; we got regular reports from overseas staff to encourage them toward what the ‘end’ looked like; and I encouraged people to come to my office with issues that they wanted to talk about in private. Most of this can be measured.
- Ask employees for ideas of how to improve the place and for how things are going personally. Ask them how they see the culture, clearly explaining what you mean? Do performance appraisals and follow up on them.
One of those times I asked for ideas for developing and improving team culture, one person suggested that we set aside our normal work for a day and take on projects like planting flowers in the spring, weeding gardens, painting etc. It was an amazing time to learn from each other in a different context and the resulting camaraderie stimulated our corporate culture. Such events are fairly easily measured.
- Do a company culture audit with an outside evaluator. The idea here is to do something like a financial audit, but it provides information on culture, operations, communication mechanisms, teamwork, values etc.
I did this more than once and gave the auditors free reign to talk to anyone they wished, asking the questions they had developed to measure our culture. They were on campus for a couple of days and then gave me a verbal report, keeping the confidence of individuals. A month later, I received a written audit report of several pages with their findings.
The importance of company culture cannot be over emphasized. The author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, suggests that more focus should be made on process and building better habits; rather than worrying about the results you want, focus on becoming the type of person who will achieve the results.
- Next week Dave Kier will talk about a “culture of expectations.”
Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures