Much has been written about the value of company culture. A solid organizational culture encourages good work and happy employees while making retention and recruitment easier. So, most businesses are on board with the idea of having a company culture. The problem is when there is company culture confusion, which this article discusses in more detail.
It’s all too familiar: the C-suite has one idea of the company’s culture, but the employees have another, and new hires are getting a different perspective, too. It’s not that culture is missing, but rather that it means various things to the diverse stakeholders. First, we’ll quickly cover what workplace culture entails. Then, we’ll explore the causes of culture confusion.
The Value of Work Culture
Culture is a competitive advantage today. In The Values-Driven Organization, author Richard Barrett says, “Who you are and what you stand for have become just as important as the quality of the products and services you sell.”
Work culture captures the vision and values of the organization in behavior and intent. This collection of attitudes and beliefs will shape the working environment, how employees are treated, the relationships with customers, and the overall policies in place at the company.
A focus on company culture brings many advantages. It:
- Encourages employee investment in a shared goal, which can bolster productivity and drive innovation and creativity
- Provides a healthier environment for employees, reducing stress and improving well-being
- Increases employee retention — an important one when a 2020 Work Institute study tells us voluntary turnover increased by 88 percent in the last decade
- Drives higher profits since the business benefits when employees feel that people are put before profits
Every company’s workplace culture is uniquely influential. But, it is much more difficult to realize the benefits of positive work culture when each stakeholder has a different view of the company’s distinct culture.
Think of it this way: what does the word transparent mean to you? You likely hear it often enough nowadays in business meetings, but it can mean quite different things to various individuals. To the employee it might mean being apprised of the factors going into decision-making around say benefits, promotions, or raises. Yet, to the manager making the plans, it might only mean being sure to let people know a decision is made.
Company culture is a collection of ideas and actions embodied by a diverse group of people. No wonder there can be confusion. Let’s look at other challenges in more detail.
The Company Culture Confusion Conundrum
Creating a cohesive company culture is further challenged by factors such as:
- Management style
- Internal procedures
- Onboarding processes
- Multiple office locations
- Department silos
So much of business success boils down to management style. If one senior leader has a collaborative bent and works hard to cultivate individuals, people in that business area will have one view of culture. The team working for someone with low emotional intelligence who has difficulty delegating will have another experience of culture. And it won’t matter at all what the C-suite or HR is saying about culture. Those words won’t find purchase against lived experience.
Internal procedures are another area where company culture confusion is found. Culture is, really, an amorphous thing. But the beliefs and assumptions and norms and values that found culture are made visible through business processes. Let’s say a business intends to be inclusive and respectful of all employees. That only becomes culture when the written code of conduct is enacted in behavior, complaints are heard, and staff are involved in decision-making processes.
Communicating culture needs to begin at day one. That is, if you’re thinking about the first contact with that potential job candidate as day one. After all, individuals applying for jobs with your company will be looking to gauge culture. It’s how they decide whether they will “fit” and “feel comfortable” working with you. So, from the outset it is critical to include culture “providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal” in the onboarding process.
Work culture is generally viewed as a companywide thing. Yet when there are multiple office locations, spread out around the state, country or world, each one may have its own take on the culture. Even within a single work environment, individuals with different roles may have their own cultural conclusions. For example, someone in customer service under pressure to get calls answered quickly and upsell might have a harder time believing the company culture is one of empathy.
Avoiding Culture Ambiguity
As work culture author Simon Sinek put it, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” That’s where a strong culture comes in.
A consistent, shared view of company culture will improve interpersonal relationships among your staff and between leadership and staff. This, in turn, supports management and leadership practices, offers clarity of roles, fosters effectiveness of meetings, drives group successes and outcomes, and enhances commitment to mission and purpose. Confusion around culture undermines the ability to grow and thrive.
Now that you’re convinced company culture confusion needs to be addressed, you’ll want to know what to do about the problem. Look for our next blog on this subject sharing strategies to help get everyone in the organization on the same page regarding workplace culture.
In the meantime, it can be a good idea to survey employees at all levels to better understand how your company climate is viewed. Sogolytics’s Company Culture Survey Template can help.