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A guide to re-defining company culture

Daniel Saunders - Head of Content EMEA - Qualtrics

Company culture is a ‘make or break’ aspect of any business. For organisations doing it right, company culture should permeate through every fibre of the organisation, touching everything from rewards and recognition to new hire orientation. The benefits go far beyond the happiness and engagement of your staff, impacting the wider enterprise and even the bottom line. In comparison, letting company culture standards slip below par can be disastrous for a business.

So, what does great company culture look like, what rewards can it provide and how can businesses ensure theirs is hitting the mark?

Defining company culture

It can be hard to define what company culture is, but everyone has experienced or heard of good and bad examples of it. The companies getting it right work hard to create an environment of shared goals, ethics, expectations, and beliefs. These values are then used to drive collective choices, plan how decisions are made, decide what actions are taken and reinforce the business results that follow.

Typically, culture originates with an organisation’s leadership team and founders. It will then be encouraged by managers and subsequently trickle down to every individual employee. However, while culture might come from the top, it’s often said that employees experience company culture in the absence of leaders. In other words, when leaders aren’t around to manage the culture, what happens? No matter the size of the organisation, company culture will dictate how your people behave and perform – even if employees are working outside of a physical office.

The ROI of a strong company culture

Employee engagement is simply commitment to helping their company achieve its goals and motivation to contribute to its overall success.  Reflected in how that person thinks, feels and acts, this can be shown in numerous ways – from intent to stay with the company to ‘above and beyond’ effort.

While company culture plays an integral role in the overall job satisfaction and success of an employee, it’s also a two-way street, with benefits for both sides.

When the values and interests of an individual align with those of the company, employee engagement is higher, and these individuals are more likely to stay. Conversely, disengaged employees cost UK companies thousands of pounds in salaries every year. Plus, if they do decide to leave, this adds to the costs of hiring and training a new member of staff.

Another benefit alongside employee engagement and retention is increased productivity. When employees are all engaged with their work and aligned on the culture, businesses see higher levels of productivity. For example, if the company is team-oriented, hiring new starters who thrive in a collaborative environment will drive productivity further.

Another, more tangible benefit of having a strong company culture is increased revenue. According to a report by global analytics firm Gallup, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. Put simply, engaged employees drive better business results.

So, with the ROI of a great company culture giving positive outcomes to both individuals and organisations, it’s worth asking how can business leaders begin to create such an environment, and what goes into maintaining this environment long term?

Building and sustaining a solid company culture

Both senior leadership and HR teams play critical roles in perpetuating a strong culture. For many, assessing the current environment can be difficult – it’s a case of asking what’s working well, what could be better and working out whether there are any specific norms and behaviours that need to be addressed and reshaped.

One way to get started is by looking at the hiring process. Conventional advice says to hire for culture fit, but progressive companies are upping the hiring ante by recruiting new employees for culture contribution. In order to do this, HR teams should look for new recruits that both align to their company’s values and bring diverse experiences and backgrounds to the table.

HR teams can also get involved in creating programmes that introduce and demonstrate the company’s core values, including everything from the business’s website to training and performance management exercises. This will ensure that the messaging is clear and consistent throughout every touchpoint.

It’s also essential to recognise when team members truly embody the company’s core values, reinforcing them through appropriate rewards and recognition. This will both give that particular member of the team a much-needed boost, improving their employee engagement and encourage others to follow their lead by creating positive reinforcement.

Measuring culture in the workplace

One of the best ways to understand what your employees are thinking and feeling is to ask them. Collecting employee data means businesses can use these insights to make positive changes for their staff. It also allows organisations to develop strategies that support their objectives and goals.

But it’s not enough to simply collect this information – the data must be assessed, communicated and then acted upon. This is where leaders and HR teams can unite to discuss the survey results, including areas of agreement and disagreement about the organisation’s culture.

It’s then a case of validating and following up on the responses your team has given. Through employee discussions, senior leaders can ensure that feedback is being listened to and, where possible, addressed. Leaders may agree on the internal culture, but that doesn’t mean all employees see the environment in the same light. That’s why it’s so important to give every employee the chance to voice their opinions.

Using the insights from these discussions, organisations can reshape the cultural norms and behaviours and commit to making changes for the better. While not every request can be actioned and not every piece of feedback can always be acted upon, it’s important that every issue is acknowledged. Businesses must be honest and open about what is and isn’t possible.

Company culture is intrinsically linked to employee experience, but it goes way beyond making teams happier and more effective. The companies that get it right will also have a competitive advantage over rival brands, keep their best talent for longer and even have more to gain financially by monitoring, measuring and acting upon the thoughts, feelings and emotions of every member of their team.

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