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How Do You Define Your Corporate Culture?

What can be said about corporate culture? Well, it can affect how your business markets and sells product, recruits new talent and keeps top performers, to start. Culture is paramount. However, before your organization’s culture can have any impact at all, you have to define it and that’s not always as straightforward as it seems. Here’s a few things to consider that will help you more effectively define and identify the appropriate corporate culture for your business.

Know the Identity of Your Company

Steve Jobs from Apple Computers may not have been the easiest person to work for. In fact, many remember him as somewhat of a tyrant. But he also knew precisely what he wanted for his company. And it was this identity – a passion for innovation and creativity – which drove the entire corporate culture at Apple. To this day, the Apple Corporation is revered for its ability to outperform the competition in terms of creating the next “big thing” and consistently delivering fresh products that consumers want and need.

Recognizing the identity of your company is the first step in defining a corporate culture. To be authentic and sincere, the process must take place organically, within the organization. Too many companies hire an external consultant in hopes that they will develop something meaningful. Then they’re surprised when it sounds fake and disingenuous. Consultants can be a great help, but only to facilitate the process with internal stakeholders.

Finding the Culture of Your Company

How do you find the cultural identity of your company? Often it’s as easy as thinking about behaviours (the behaviours that currently happen or that you wish would happen. Do you celebrate birthdays or recognize employee success? Beyond the formal, answers to these questions can help identify the way your organization runs. Do you have an easy going, relaxed atmosphere with an open door policy or are you more formal in your approach?

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos, ensure the success of his company by putting a few very specific practices in place that clearly defined the company’s identity leading to a corporate culture. His vision was based on the premise that the culture was paramount to the success of the company. One practice is that part way through every new employee’s 4-week training, they are offered a bonus to quit. This ensures that the ones who do not take the offer will be dedicated and loyal. Putting all of these elements in place helped establish an identity and corporate culture that was authentic and now world-renowned. Currently, Zappos has an amazing retention rate and their employer brand is amazing. Not everyone agrees with the Hsieh’s personality, but what he did for the culture was ground-breaking.

Document, Communicate and Live Your Culture

An important step in establishing corporate culture is to document it, talk about it and of course, live it. Keep it real without sounding cliché or too formalized, and if you say you want your company to be this way, then it’s critical that you live it that way. Communication is key and your culture should reflect your communication process. If you claim to have a formal, highly structured culture, then communication strategies must follow suit.

Companies change every day, and there are sure to be times when you can’t or don’t live your culture. At these moments, know why and be able to explain it clearly to your stakeholders. Sure, cultures will change and evolve, and they should. But change needs to take place in a conscious way. Forgetting about your culture and letting it evolve on its own will make it difficult to get it back to where it should be.

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