By Frank Gormanley

Your business culture says a lot about you

How would you sum up the culture within your organisation? Are you proud of it? Is it something you even think about? According to research by The Harvard Business Review, adopting and practicing an effective culture can have an extraordinary impact on overall business performance and profits – Surprised by this? Surely not!

In my experience businesses that adopted a strong inclusive culture where positive attitudes and behaviours were prevalent from top to bottom, created an environment admired by staff and customers.

In contrast, organisations that select a divisive and hierarchical culture compressing creativity, resulted in a lack of motivation and drive to pull together on a common purpose. This fundamentally has an impact on the customer experience, staff retention and of course profits.

Business Culture is no different. How a business operates, it’s processes, working environment; to team behaviours and personalities, even the language they use all have an impact on the culture.

From families to countries, each have their own culture. Consider when you head abroad you quickly get a feel for the place and the culture present – some you may feel more at ease with, others more on edge. You will have friends and family that adopt different behaviours and routines that make their culture unique. Funnily enough business culture fits the same mould, each having different personalities trying to find their place in a highly competitive landscape.

I don’t see culture in business having any association with cost, let me explain. You could visit a two-star hotel for the evening, paying a price you’re happy with and find it to have met or even surpass your expectations, from the warm friendly welcome to the physical environment (how the place looks). The atmosphere within the hotel makes you feel at home and valued.

You pay more than double the price for a 5-star resort, but you feel let down, the welcome and attention to detail didn’t hit the mark and the resort lacked a sense of warmth. The point here, you could have the best-looking hotel on the planet, but if the culture is s*** – you may have problems.

Here are a few points to think about when creating or changing your business culture…

The Leader
Are you consistent with your approach, are you inspiring, do you get the best from your team? The business leader must set the tone, walk the walk, talk the talk and lead by example on all things relating to culture. Be the ambassador for the culture you want your organisation to be known for, it is not just down to the team. The CEO, boss, director – whatever the title has a duty of care and responsibility to ensure the culture of the business is where it needs to be. If it is working, sustain and if not – change it!

Business Vision
Look at your business vision, what is it? A strong business culture starts with a meaningful vision or mission statement. These statements should underpin what the business does daily, helping attract the correct customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders to your brand. Forming a key element of your culture.

Your business values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviours and mindsets needed to achieve your vision. For many businesses; integrity, customer focus and creativity are competencies seen with high importance. Employing the correct team members that work in line with your values will support you in fulfilling your vision whilst shaping and supporting the positive cultural behaviours for your customer to relish.

Selecting the right people that support your vision and values by having the appropriate application, recruitment and selection process. A quick chat and welcome on board won’t do your culture any favours. A robust, well thought out process will help attract the correct people to your organisation and remember people are drawn toward strong business cultures, tending to stay for longer.

How the business operates. Do team members have an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings? What are the internal rewards and recognition initiatives that inspire the team to work at their best? Does your business support flexible working, home based days? I recently read an article about an organisation that provides a day’s additional holiday for anyone that bought a new puppy, yes – it’s true. Terms and conditions of employment, looking after yourself, the team and having collaborative routines and processes in place inspires a positive working environment, filtering through to your stakeholders.

The Story
The business narrative is another key area in the development and sustainability of a desired business culture. A transparent journey of the business will help build trust and interest from your customer base, making them feel part of something, building ever important customer loyalty. Being a secretive, closed book and not sharing what is going on won’t create the culture of belonging and ever more that is what customers want to feel.

Where your business is located, its look and feel, architecture or the aesthetic design — impacts the values and behaviors of people in the workplace. Your environment should be in line with the strategy and vision. If you claim to be a creative business, I would suggest your place is creative in design. This will meet your customer expectations, attract a creative team and help model and shape an innovative culture.

Like most areas in business we should evaluate the impact of investment, new processes and culture is no different – How is it supporting our strategic objectives? Is it working for our customers and staff? Use practical tools to understand employee attitudes and actions, ensuring this is in line with the current and future direction of the business. If not, leaders need to work out why this is, acting before it gets too late. Remember culture can be both good, bad and ugly, playing havoc if not monitored.

Positive culture is driven by people, it is not over complicated or hard to work out. I’m sure many of us have experienced some incredible and let’s just say interesting cultures during our working lives. In fact, many entrepreneurs do their own thing based on struggling to conform by compressed, negative cultures thus create something themselves.

What is refreshing is that the business community is starting to understand the importance of culture and the many impacts it has on business performance, not only for the present but for the future.

Remember this – Culture isn’t what is written, it is what it is.

Until next time.