You’ve heard it used as a buzzword, but do you know what people really mean when they reference “company culture”? Do your colleagues or leaders talk about it?
Different organizations approach and appreciate company culture in wildly different ways, and that tends to make it tricky to define and hard to recognize in our own businesses.
Company culture, clarified
Broadly, culture is the set of values, beliefs, or norms shared by a group of people. It develops and evolves and gets passed along, member to member and year to year. Company culture tends to be a little different—less organic, more forced, often to its detriment.
Businesses spend a lot of money and time trying to control and define their culture, dictating values and requiring norms. But the reality is, culture will always depend on the perspective of the individuals included, and it evolves much more out of what an organization shows than what it tells.
How leaders cultivate culture
A better way to define a strong company culture: a healthy working environment.
A better way to cultivate it: Consider how the leaders in your organization are creating opportunities to actively highlight what they value.
This requires thoughtful consideration from the top down, but a thoughtful culture creates the foundation of an employee’s work experience. It determines whether employees believe in what they do, how they interact with their colleagues, and how they feel about the organization.
At Snapshot, we value professional development, so our leadership routinely creates and encourages opportunities for employees. One example: Better Book Club (participants read books that feed their professional growth and get rewarded with gift cards). Another: the yearlong “Level Up” leadership development program, designed to guide rising leaders to the next step in their career. We also plan regular lunch and learns, dedicate time to certification training in digital media and HubSpot, and encourage team members to step outside their roles to learn new skills.
By offering and prioritizing educational opportunities, Snapshot shows our employees that we believe in their potential and support their growth. As our employees participate, this aspect of our company culture gets stronger. As they grow, the company benefits.
Thoughtful, action-oriented initiatives are a start. As leaders put actions in place to cultivate culture, success needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis too.
You don’t know if “cultural initiatives” are having the affect intended or if modifications should be made to your plan unless you collect ongoing employee feedback and carefully consider it.
Snapshot’s leaders use regular one-on-one meetings, stay interviews, and anonymous surveys to understand and respond to our employees’ overall work experience. These help us stay in tune with individual successes and struggles and better understand how our culture-cultivating initiatives are succeeding (or floundering).
Healthy culture matters
Cultivating and sustaining a healthy company culture isn’t easy. Every organization is made up of a variety of personalities and viewpoints, so we can’t control exactly what the culture outcome will be. But the work is important, and leaders lay the foundation for employees to have a positive experience, which can encourage engagement and boost retention.
As Snapshot’s Director of Administration, I’ve found that when employers and managers show genuine interest in and support of their staff’s aspirations and well-being, the payback in productivity is far greater than what they might expect. And it makes for happier workdays for everyone.