Designing a Corporate Culture From the Top Down

Every social environment has its own culture, whether it’s a family, neighborhood or workplace. Culture expresses the characteristics and standards of a group of people. When applied to a corporate environment, it articulates how business is conducted and how the members of the organization relate to each other and to other companies.

Corporate culture is a physical, social and emotional manifestation of the general beliefs and values of the leaders. It is a type of mission statement of the organization, expressing general attitudes and values. Its principles can determine the ultimate success or failure of a company.

As mentioned, the culture of an organization is mostly defined by its executives. Certain expectations and rules are established, and employees are encouraged or required to adapt themselves to this code. Corporate culture is manifested in many ways such as:

  • Office set-up
  • Employee benefits
  • Business hours
  • Customer service policies
  • Dress code

Deal Makers

What makes a great corporate culture? Because culture is so vital to the success of an organization, it is important to establish and nurture certain aspects of a culture that make it great. Some key components are:

  • An unchanging mission statement. The mission statement should be consistent from day-to-day, not subject to the whims of executives. While new ideas and ways of doing business may evolve and change, these practices should always be guided by the mission statement.
  • A plan of action. Developing a strategy helps employees and managers meet the standards of your corporate culture. When expectations are clear, the goal becomes attainable.
  • Clear communication. When employees feel that their managers and leaders are open to communication, it adds to the positive culture of the company. Likewise, when employees are approachable and willing to listen, this helps executives to promote the values of the organization.
  • Include everybody. The more people feel part of a unified team, the more they will behave as part of the team. Each person must be comfortable with the mission of the organization, and be willing to work towards the same goals.
  • Allow for change. Because a company is made up of people, change is inevitable. With every employee turnover, the combination of different personalities and attitudes shifts. As technology and communication changes how we relate to the rest of the world, our way of doing business also changes. While your mission statement may always remain the same, your ways of reaching those goals might need to be adjusted. Consistency is good, but remember to be open to a naturally evolving culture in the workplace.

Deal Breakers

Just as there are things that make up the ideal corporate culture, there are things that can hinder its success.

  • Unclear values.If the stated policies and the practiced policies conflict with one another, the corporate culture becomes vague and vision is blurred. Employees will learn not to trust their leaders, and each person will come up with varied opinions about how things should be done.
  • Rigid rules. Remember that the corporate culture affects attitudes and productivity of employees. While discipline is important in any social environment, rules should allow for individualism and personal application of the values and standards that they enforce.
  • Lack of planning. You must provide a map in order to have your employees follow the culture you wish to be established. Leading by example is commendable, but having a plan provides a way for everybody to keep the ultimate goal in mind. If your main goal is superior customer service, then outline what exactly that means. Does the company have a “no questions asked” return policy? Does the company have a training program for its customer service employees? Giving guidelines gives people a deeper understanding of the company’s culture and why it’s important. If there is no plan to reach company goals, then the goals become simply dreams.

Remember that a positive culture within your organization is crucial for reaching common goals. The market is competitive for jobs, but potential employees are also looking at workplace culture as a benefit of a certain company. Make your corporate culture appealing and competitive, and you will enjoy a positive atmosphere that welcomes communication, camaraderie and business success.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finance. He has received many accolades for his work in designing corporate rewards programs .

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