As a business owner, you know that company culture exists, whether it’s of your own design or not. We’ve all seen the implications of an underdeveloped company culture: Employees take it upon themselves to create a culture of their own, and that doesn’t usually end up promoting the values or goals a carefully crafted and modeled company culture would.
In fact, without proper direction, company culture can spiral downward and turn into a negative, contagious attitude about work that will permeate every aspect of your company if you aren’t careful.
So how can you build a strong, unified company culture that doesn’t leave room for negativity or apathy? By taking charge, of course. Here’s how to begin.
First, take your company’s culture vitals to find out how you’re doing right now. You’ll find that either:
- There isn’t any real company culture and you’ll need to establish it.
- The company culture is fine, but needs more support.
- The culture isn’t modelling your values and requires change.
To build on an existing culture that only needs support, check these resources out. If your culture is nonexistent or completely wrong for your company, keep reading.
The core of your company culture should rest on these 3 things:
- Company purpose
- Company values
- Company approach
Begin with your company purpose, values, and general approach to decide the direction you want your culture to go in. It’s very important that you fully understand each of these 3 areas. If you, as the leader of the company, don’t intuitively understand and model the way you’d like your company culture to be, employees won’t be able to follow you, even if they have the intention to do so.
The most important facet of establishing and building a beneficial company culture is modelling, and we’re not talking about the catwalk. Until the leaders at your company are actively promoting and modelling the values and approach you’ve decided on, your “company culture” is nothing more than an idea or a piece of paper. It has to be demonstrated to employees across the company, and it has to be demonstrated faithfully, every day.
This means you can’t decide that suddenly, yours is a company that likes to hang loose when you hired your employees under the idea that you operate a tight ship. Similarly, you can’t preach values that you don’t demonstrate. Employees notice their higher-up’s actions just as much as they notice their words, so the saying rings true: “Practice what you preach.”
Another component of the importance of modelling your ideal company culture’s values and approach is that people tend to learn things by “catching on” rather than by being taught, or worse, indoctrinated.
Sitting employees down, informing them that you’re building a company culture, and warning that they must act like this now, or else–all that’s going to do is create a culture that sits quietly and listens well, but mocks and undermines when the boss is away. This is the opposite of what you want, and it’s very difficult to come back from this type of situation once the perspective has taken hold.
No, a strong, unified company culture isn’t taught. It’s caught. It’s contagious and partly self-managing once it’s well-established. But don’t abandon your company culture just because you feel it’s on the right track. That’s just a sign that you’re doing the right things and need to continue to support and nourish the growing company culture.
What’s the worst company culture you’ve witnessed or been a part of? How did things turn out? Leave your answers in the comments!