Building an Effective Corporate Culture: The Key to Thriving in Today's Business Landscape

What is corporate culture? You would never have guessed it, but it has some history.  

Back in the 1980s, people started talking about "company culture" - basically, the shared beliefs and behaviors that shape how folks act at work. Today, it's clear that culture can make or break a business. Think of it as the heart and soul of the company - the thing that keeps everyone moving in the same direction (or not). If you want your business to thrive, you need to pay attention to your culture. 

What can happen, if you don’t? Employees start feeling uneasy, under-appreciated and leave the enterprise. A new report by CNBC has shown that in February 2021, a whopping 4.4 million people decided to pack up their desks and say "adios" to their jobs. One of the factors that drove those resignations was inadequate corporate culture.  

In this article, we'll explore what corporate culture is, why it matters, and the various types that exist. Most importantly, we'll give you some top-notch tips on how you can build a strong, healthy culture from the ground up, or improve an existing one.  

If you want to create a workplace where employees feel happy, motivated, and valued, then stick around - we've got some great advice in store for you! 

What is corporate culture? 

Every company has something that makes it unique, and that 'something' is its culture. Corporate culture is the shared values, beliefs and behaviors that define an organization, and it has a huge impact on everything from how the company is perceived by the public to how engaged and loyal its employees are. A positive culture can help a firm attract and retain the best talent, while a negative culture can drive employees away. In addition, a strong culture can contribute to a company's ability to build a strong brand and reputation, which is essential for attracting customers and investors. 

Unfortunately, there is a sense that a much smaller percentage of people today than in our parents' generation identify with the culture of the business. Let's face it, people used to stay with a company for 20 years, now the average is two or three. There is more individualism and less attachment. Therefore, the corporate culture must be well-planned and effective to encourage talented people to stay. 

A "pseudo-family atmosphere" and empty words are no longer enough to retain people. Anonymity reigns, and if you don't build a corporate culture, which is also manifested in communication, feedback, development opportunities and organizational processes, your firm will not succeed.

Nor is organizational culture a closed system. It has links with social issues, ecology, openness and a culture of tolerance. It also has an important element of responsibility towards other people, the environment, etc., i.e. that the company complies with the core values of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).   

What is your type of corporate culture? 

Company culture is the personality of a company, the collective values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape its employees' actions. There are four main types of corporate cultures, each with its unique characteristics and examples. 

  • Clan Culture - The clan culture is a type of company culture where collaboration, teamwork, and consensus are prioritized above everything else. This type is often found in family-owned businesses, non-profit organizations, and start-ups. A good example of a clan culture is the online shoe and clothing retailer, Zappos.  
  • Adhocracy Culture - In the adhocracy culture, innovation, risk-taking, and agility are valued. Companies following an adhocracy culture follow the principle of "move fast and break things." They are often characterized by flat organizational structures, cross-functional teams, and a willingness to experiment with new ideas. A good illustration of an adhocracy culture is Google.   
  • Market Culture - The market culture puts emphasis on winning, achieving goals, and beating the competition. Firms with a market culture are often focused on financial success, growth, and profitability. Employees are pushed to their limits, but with satisfying returns and benefits like high salaries and health perks. Amazon is a prime illustration of market culture.
  • Hierarchy Culture - The hierarchy culture is a type of company culture that is controlled and follows a procedure of following the hierarchy at every step. This type of culture is often found in government agencies, military organizations, and large corporations. The hierarchy culture is characterized by a strong focus on rules, regulations, and strict protocols. A good example of a hierarchical culture is General Electric.   

Why is a company's corporate culture important? 

At the moment, although it's a cornerstone for some companies, there are still many organizations that don't even know what corporate culture is and why it's worth caring about. It exists somewhere in the head of the CEO, is not written down in any culture book and leads to crunch and resignations in the long run. 

With the arrival of a new, young, digital generation and its high turnover, a good corporate culture is more important than ever. Employees are 24% more willing to leave a company if they don't find the culture there to their liking. A positive company culture is key to attracting and retaining the best candidates, increasing productivity and promoting the reputation of your brand. By prioritizing communication, encouraging work-life balance, promoting inclusivity and leading by example, organizations can create a work environment where everyone feels valued, and maximize their effort and results.  

In short, a positive corporate culture equals high retention, employee engagement, productivity and welcoming work conditions.  Now you are probably curious about how to actually build corporate culture. Let's dig in!

How to change or build company culture?  

Let's start by answering two questions: 

What kind of culture do we have now? Is your company based on office work or manufacturing? What benefits do you offer your employees? Flexible working hours or Christmas bonuses? Think about how communication flows in your company - it can be open, based on constructive feedback, or it can be based on nagging, behind-the-back comments and a lack of clear accountability.  

What kind of culture do we want? What challenges do we face? This depends a lot on the size of the company and whether it is remote, hybrid or onsite. Think about what is missing from your approach or what you want to create from scratch. Evaluate your current culture - find shortcomings such as a lack of direct career paths, mature leaders or communication with employees, and plan to address them. 

Now see our collection of tips to consider during the process of change or creation of your organizational culture.

Define and live the company's goals and core values

A good idea would be to create an official and accessible policy. Write it in a form of an eBook or run regular webinars to remind staff and employees of these aspects. It's not enough to do it once! It's important to live and breathe these values on a daily basis. 

When employees see their leaders and peers embodying the company's goals and core values, they are more likely to follow. Make sure that your policies are integrated into all aspects of your company culture, including hiring, training, and promotions. 

Convene leaders, employees and management

The example has to come from the top - don't stop at talking about values and priorities, you have to act. Get HR and managers to follow the rules, embrace healthy ways of communicating, and care for everyone. 

Hold regular meetings between leaders, employees, and management to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Encourage open and honest communication, feedback, and conflict resolution. Create an organizational culture of trust and respect by holding everyone accountable for their actions and decisions. 

Culture book - what is in it? 

It is worth describing the organization's mission and goals in terms of diversity and inclusion. Describe the development of the company and the employee, the preferred style of communication and feedback. 

Leave room for ideas and conflict resolution. Include personal stories from employees and leadership that demonstrate how the company's values are put into practice. The culture book can serve as a reference guide for employees and can be used to onboard new hires.

Regular meetings and the following actions

Feedback and dialogue are the basis. So remember to hold regular one-to-one meetings, team gatherings and conduct employee surveys to let them be heard. It is essential to put these steps into practice, so make sure to act on the feedback you receive, and let employees know how their suggestions are being implemented. This will foster a culture of open communication, where everyone's voice is heard and valued. 

Interaction, not just processes

Building relationships is essential to growing a strong and positive culture. Invest in socializing at monthly team-building events and encourage people to go out together outside of work to climb walls or play board games. 

Work camping or canoeing weekend trips will also show that the company cares about the atmosphere at work, not just the results. When people feel connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to enjoy their work and be productive. It can take some time, but you should not give up and always strive for an effective ethical corporate culture.

Benefits, training and development

Conduct a staff survey to find out what is most valuable to employees and implement what you can to make their jobs easier. You can, for example, provide support for social security or studies, psychologists or medical care - the important thing is that it is consistent with the culture of the organization. Offering training and development opportunities can also help employees feel valued and motivated to grow in their careers. By investing in your employee's professional growth, you ensure higher employee retention and satisfaction.

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By following these tips, organizations can create a workplace culture that attracts and retains top talent, increases productivity and promotes well-being. It takes time, effort and commitment from all levels of the firm, but the results are well worth it. A positive corporate culture change is not only good for employees, but also for the company's bottom line. 

Remember though, that creating a good corporate culture is a complex and ongoing process that requires patience and commitment. Changing an organization's culture is not something that can be achieved overnight, and it may take several months or even years to see significant progress. 

By taking the time to define the firm's values and goals, communicating them effectively, and addressing challenges proactively, organizations can successfully modify their culture over time. If you are not sure how to change corporate culture by yourself, contact our top specialists who offer a free consultation. We will be happy to help!