Defining Company Culture and Learning How to Change It

Leadership, Company Culture , Management


Defining Company Culture and Learning How to Change It

Company culture, also known as organizational culture, refers to a set of value systems, behaviors, and expectations making up the norms in an organization. This refers to how a company does business with customers and partners, how they treat employees, how they make and deliver products and services, and how the employees behave while on the job.
Every act leading up to the completion of goals contributes to the larger picture of the company culture.

Elements of Company Culture
Leaders should look to what makes and influences company culture. Influences include the leader, demographics, and education – just to name a few.
Leadership. AFirst Round article claims that 80 percent of company culture is defined by the founder. After all, how easy is it to define the culture of companies like Facebook and Apple, without looking at the founders, and their personal histories? For companies whose founders are long gone, and perhaps now forgotten, current leaders influence the culture of the company, by contributing to its history and public image.

Demographics. Perhaps the greatest influence on company culture is demographics. Demographic variables to consider include specifics about management and their employees; such as age, sex, ethnicity, and marital status.

Different demographics bring different assets to the company while requiring different needs. They also introduce unique cultures based on their backgrounds. The more the company has of some above others, the more the company’s culture leans toward that group and its specific needs.
Education. Education affects company culture in two ways. The level of education often decides technical competence, which can decide the company’s place in the market, and the confidence of the employees. For instance, NVIDIA, Google, and Facebook can expect the most educated computer specialists on their team, which makes the companies and their consumers confident of their products, and their position in the market.

The area of education can also affect company culture. For instance, a public relations firm may end up hiring a lot of people who studied journalism, marketing, or business administration, instead of public relations. This could be deliberate or just by chance, but whatever the cause, it’s sure to affect how that PR agency conducts business.

How to Influence Culture
Imagine changing the culture of America. While not altogether impossible, with the strong influence of the media, it would take a lot of work. It would also require mobilizing resources and a great deal of grassroots-level engagement.

But people are under no obligation to submit to that culture. This is essentially why every country has subcultures and countercultures, whether it’s the Rastafarians in Jamaica or minimalists in America.
Even though companies, for the most part, are much smaller than countries, the challenges are the same. However, as private entities, companies tend to enjoy greater control over the factors influencing the culture in their company. So here are some ways to bring about change.
Define the Culture and Determine the Goal. The easiest part of changing the culture is first defining it, but only if a company can remain honest. Every company wants to think of – and publicly describe – itself as ethical. However, most would agree that knowingly hiring child labor overseas, accepting and offering bribes, and shady accounting, disqualifies the company from such a title, no matter what it has written down on paper.

So, companies should honestly identify and describe what their norms are. How does management treat competitors, and employees? How do employees treat each other? How does the company treat customers, or deal with complaints? What are the rules governing actions in the company? And knowing the answers to these questions, what does it hope to change?

Hire the Right People. Many companies want a youthful and exciting brand that screams innovation, but then choose to hire older employees with decades of experience. Of course, there are endless benefits to having well-experienced people onboard, but creating a youthful, exciting brand fostering innovation isn’t usually one of them.

To build that, a company needs to hire youthful, exciting and innovative people – probably fresh out of college. The reverse is also true. Whatever culture the company wants to maintain or change, it should hire employees reflecting that.

Provide Orientation.
Hiring the right people alone doesn’t do much good if the company fails to point them in the right direction. For instance, youthfulness comes in many shapes and sizes: from trendy and classy, to bawdy and vulgar. Companies need to define what they’re going for and ensure employees get the right idea from the start.

To do this, companies should provide a proper orientation as part of the initial training process. This should include learning the company’s code of ethics, its communication chain, the chain of command, grievance procedures, and how it conducts business.

Set an Example. Management can talk about ethics and other ideal cultural characteristics all they want, but if they don’t set an example, the words go in one ear and out the other. To inspire action in other employees, management must follow the rules they set and lead by showing, not telling.
To showcase this good behavior, management should ensure there is a direct line of contact with employees, and they show their face – so to speak – in the office. Good behavior unseen is just as influential as good behavior not done.

Enhance Teamwork. If the individuals in the company cannot learn to work together, cultural change for the better is unlikely to happen. Culture is collective and requires collective action.
Otherwise, each individual will focus on their own self-interests, which ultimately leads to discord. To ensure everyone’s singing the same tune, companies should work on building successful teams, instead of just successful individuals. Companies can do this through team-building exercises, like a weekend retreat, canoeing, and conflict resolution exercises.

Company cultures are increasingly changing as new leaders, their decisions, and everyday events become interwoven into the company’s history. However, through proper management and an honest look at where it stands, companies can work to maintain a good culture, or change the culture to create a better one.

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