What is Culture Anyway?

I have found over the years that the definition of culture is diverse. For some it means social activities, foosball tables and beer; for some it is about the building, the decor and the “look”; and for others it is about how people are treated within the four walls of the organization – the values, the behaviors, the norms within the group.

We believe that culture is the wholistic experience of an organization and that the most successful organization, those where people want to be and work, are those that consider four elements of their culture.

  1. Values: What the organization believes, values and is passionate about.
  2. People: How people communicate, behave, move and work within the organization. The habits, norms and assumptions.
  3. Environment: The physical surrounding and how it supports and nurtures the values and the people.
  4. Care: How an organization values, nurtures and cares for the emotional, physical and psychological needs of their employees.

We have found that many organizations, while leaders focus on the business, allow their culture to grow and evolve organically and quickly lose control of the experience as leaders and employees change. Some may consider the first three elements but often overlook #4 outside of offering a wellness program and healthcare benefits. For organizations to truly craft and optimize their culture, the consideration of the entire experience is essential and is the recipe for a culture where productivity is increased, turnover is decreased, and an employees desire and willingness to stay and recommend their employer to others is enhanced.

Step 1: Know and clearly define what the organization believes and values. What is your purpose? Why do you exist? (This should be more than the tangible what you do, and get to the root of why you exist, what value or benefit do you bring to the world? Problem you seek to solve? Impact you intend to have on your customers, your employees? Don’t be afraid to think big. If a leader tears up during this exercise and thinking about their impact, you are probably heading in the right direction!)

Step 2: Based on your findings in Step 1, define your ideal employee experience. What should a day feel like at your organization? What do you want people to feel and think every morning before coming to work and every night as they leave work?

Once these two elements are imagined and defined, we can go to work understanding where you are at today, mapping the employee experience (today and future) and building a plan to move the culture in the right direction.

This is where the hard work and fun begins!