Company Culture or Company Cosmetics?
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “company culture”?
If you’re like me, you probably picture a sleek looking office with floor to ceiling windows looking out on Center City Philadelphia. Bright colorful walls, a large kitchen area stocked with a never ending supply of food. And an awesome game room, where there are big bean bag chairs placed in front of a flat screen TV with a variety of video games and a ping pong table with a board behind it showing the winners from the last tournament. Sounds like a great place to work, a place that has a great “company culture” right?
Let me offer a crazy notion – none of those perks that I listed are culture. And there is a difference, a BIG one.
So what is the definition of culture? According to Dictionary.com the official definition is,
Culture: the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.
So if we classify a modern company as a social group, then the definition would read that
Company culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of said company.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2 elements that definition lists.
Company culture is the behavior of your company.
How do your employees behave? Do they behave the same way when you are standing right behind you as they would if you were across the country? Do they perform their jobs with hard work, integrity, and timeliness?
Yes, you can have the nicest offices in the world with all of the perks. But if you have a company that makes people sit at their desk for 10 hours a day without a break, your employees are never going to get to take advantage of any of those perks.
Similarly if your company doesn’t foster a “work hard” environment you have employees that take advantage of the perks without actually working to better the company that provides them.
Sounds like a work-perk balance is needed.
One could argue that beliefs should be listed before behavior because a company’s beliefs should directly influence their employee’s behaviors.
If your company’s core values are Fun, Sleep, and Food, then you will have no problem getting your employees to behave in a way that reflects those things. (Note: we realize those aren’t realistic values, we just wanted an entertaining example.)
However if your company values are more substantial, say integrity, teamwork, and confidence, then you will need to regularly judge the actions of your employees and make sure that ‘the rubber meets the road’ and their behavior accurately reflects your company beliefs.
Once you sit down and decide what is important to you and your company, that knowledge will influence everything you do. From whom you decide to hire, to how you train them, to how you keep them accountable, to what behaviors you decide to focus on and drive to increase.
So when you hear the term “company culture”, I hope you don’t think of fancy offices with food and games, but rather the behaviors of the company which may happen to be in a pretty awesome environment.