Employee Engagement ~ 12 min

Company Culture: defining and building it at your organization

Marketing Team, Experts in Employee Advocacy, Sociabble
Marketing Team Experts in Employee Advocacy

Company culture is so much more than surface aesthetics or clever mission statements. It’s the very essence of an organization, and having a strong one will permeate every aspect of company life. Discover what a corporate culture is, and how to promote its growth at your organization.

Company culture is too often associated with surface details. The snacks in the kitchen area, the billiard table in the break room, the karaoke nights designed to bring employees together. But company culture is much more than that.

It is the heart and soul of an organization, and everything from the way work is performed, to the kinds of people who are hired, to the way a company grows is determined by it. Which is also why it is crucial that this culture is understood and transmitted by everyone at a company—not just managers.

Frontline and remote workers need to be just as familiar and comfortable with it as top management at headquarters. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques for ensuring that this diffusion of company culture takes place.

What is a company culture definition?

Company culture is the heart and soul of an organization—its personality and values. It is defined by a shared set of beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and goals. It is a direct reflection of the standards that guide behaviors, be they written as a formal code, or unwritten as an informal set of expectations.

This doesn’t mean that every employee is exactly the same, or marches mindlessly like a robot to directives. It just means that there is an understanding of what the company stands for, and how that is reflected in daily life at the company.

Every company culture is different. No two are exactly the same, because no two organizations are exactly the same. A company’s mission and values will be a determining factor, as is the leadership, its business goals, and the way it views its own employees.

The kind of business being conducted can have an influence as well—a company manufacturing critical medical devices might have stricter policies than a place that makes video games. But then again, maybe not—it’s impossible to generalize too much with something as specific as an individual company’s culture.

company culture infographics

What is NOT an organization’s culture?

A common misconception is that company culture is something superficial or aesthetic. Perks and goodies, ping pong tables in the break room, free snacks in the kitchen, arcade games for employees to play. This is NOT company culture.

A more relaxed environment may be a facet of company culture, but it is definitely not company culture in and of itself.

But more important than that, company culture is not simply strategy, either. This is another common misconception.

According to the Harvard Business Review :

Strategy offers a formal logic for the company’s goals and orients people around them. Culture expresses goals through values and beliefs and guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms.Harvard Business Review

But that doesn’t mean strategy isn’t a component of culture, or that the two aren’t linked. They certainly are. But there is a crucial difference that needs to be recognized.

Why is company culture important?

A company culture is something you live and breathe every day. It’s a crucial part of the employee experience, and it determines how an employee feels, both in and outside the office.

It encourages employees to be part of a team, and if used effectively, their morale will improve and thus their engagement, for a higher degree of satisfaction.

This leads to higher productivity, increases employee lifetime value, revenue and profits, and also boosts creativity and innovation. As described by the Harvard Business Review, “When aligned with strategy and leadership, a strong culture drives positive organizational outcomes.”

quote on company culture

But the benefits don’t end there. Companies with a strong culture also see improvements in employee turnover, talent retention, and the attractiveness of the company for new talent.

In short: when there is a good culture in a great place, good work takes place. The best, most attractive, highest-performing companies are the ones with a strong corporate culture in place, one that is embraced and embodied by their employees.

How does a corporate culture form?

First, it takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any specific company’s cultural identity. You cannot simply create a pervasive culture out of thin air.

You can’t install a ready-made culture, at the snap of the fingers, into a corporate environment. This is why newer companies, without a longstanding history, often struggle to establish their own.

In the book Rework, the authors say that “culture is a result of consistent behavior.” It’s the product of years of actions being committed and reinforced, over and over again.

Culture comes with time; culture is the result of persistent ways of interacting with an ecosystem. For example, if you really and concretely treat your customers with respect, then respect for customers will become part of your culture. Your strategy will nurture the formation of culture over time.

Second, top management needs to lead by example. Leaders are catalysts for the establishment of values and behaviors for the entire organization. And even if leaders do not do anything, a culture can form on its own.

But it may not be the desired culture, and this may in turn cause harm to employees. This is precisely why leaders have a critical role of modeling behaviors—they need to be authentic and embody the values they believe in. As the analyst Hubert Joly writes,

Leadership is less about being the smartest person in the room, and more about creating the environment that will enable the purpose and the strategy to come to life.Hubert Joly

Third, everybody is involved in building a corporate culture, from trainees to the CEO. We often assume this is the responsibility of HR, or of the comms department, but everybody nurtures it and contributes to build it. And this in turn leads to the notion of employee engagement.

As noted in the HBR, “When employees feel that they belong to a team or organization—in the sense that it aligns with their values and enables them to express important aspects of their identity—they will not only tend to perform better, but also experience higher levels of engagement and well-being. In contrast, a lack of belonging will increase the risk of alienation, burnout, and underperformance.”

company culture and employee engagement

What words describe a good company culture?

A strong, effective, positive company culture is indeed marked by certain traits. Each culture is different, but there are certain common themes that are almost always present in a high-performing, well-managed corporation. A good company culture is defined by:

Shared core values.

It promotes diversity and is all inclusive, from frontline workers to interns to the CEO. Everyone receives the training and resources they need from the very beginning, at onboarding, with opportunities for growth and a sense of belonging and of being appreciated.

Clarity and consistency.

Company culture is something you live and breathe every day. It is not something written on a document like the ten commandments.

Rather, it includes a set of behaviors, actions, and objectives that concretely take place in the company. It is genuine, real, and embodied by leadership and employees over time.

A focus on purpose.

A good company culture prepares for the future, it’s forward looking. It has a long-term objective that serves a higher goal and purpose, from a societal or environmental point of view.

What is a good company culture?

Here are some values of a good company culture:

  • Shared core values
  • Clarity and consistency
  • A focus on purpose

How to improve a company culture?

If you’re concerned about your company culture, if you feel like there’s room for improvement or a lack of cohesion, never fear. This is a common concern, and there certainly are things you can do to improve the state of the culture at your business.

First of all, decide what your company culture should be. A good company culture can be a strong differentiator, but it needs to be embodied and genuine.

So choose values, behaviors, and objectives that reflect yours. And observe the current status versus the differences with your ideal. It’s only then that the long path to building a company culture begins. Here are the steps you can take to get started.

1. Ask your employees for feedback and input.

You do not establish a company culture alone. Every team member’s actions enhance or damage company culture. Employees have opinions on culture, and they can add valuable insight regarding what the company truly is, and the direction it ought to go in. When it comes to collecting feedback, surveys are a powerful too.

With Sociabble, the engagement platform, for example, you can create and send surveys with just a few clicks, with the option to make them anonymous, and to target the recipients.

use employee survey to improve company culture

2. Make sure employees know your expectations & reward achievement.

Cultivate proximity with your employees, keep lines of communication open, and establish clear expectations with benefits and rewards. This will help you to reinforce the established culture, and for the employees to better understand their role in that process.

With Sociabble, you and your managers can easily get in touch with employees: you can post different types of content (video, audio, images), and react to other posts too. You can easily set up live events and broadcasts to promote company culture. And the reverse is true as well—Sociabble promotes upward communication, so employees know that their voice is heard.

3. Use digital tools and a digital workplace to connect everyone at your company.

This should be done in an inclusive way, especially with the current prevalence of hybrid work scenarios, because everybody needs to feel like they’re part of the organization. In order for company culture to flourish, employees need to feel like they belong.

With Sociabble, you can connect everybody, including frontline workers, so that employees will not only be part of the life of the company, but also post their own content, share opinions, and have instant access to information.

Because Sociabble is mobile-friendly, and thanks to its chat and content posting features, employees can receive and share company information, no matter where they are.

4. Recognize employee achievements to boost employee engagement.

This means having a program in place to register positive employee actions, keep track of their progress, and announce and reward those who deserve it.

With Sociabble, colleagues can reward and acknowledge each other with its employee recognition feature. These virtual kudos can be set to be shared publicly, or kept private, depending on the circumstance.

They can be used for anything from assisting with a brainstorm, to nailing a presentation, to simply always being helpful around the office. This positive reinforcement will promote positive values and a sense of team spirit, as workers begin to feel that they’re all part of the same team.

employee recognition feature

5. Create opportunities to build relationships

So that everybody can feel part of a team. This way, employees can contribute collectively to forming company culture. The sense of team spirit can be enhanced even further if there is an element of social improvement or service, i.e. via a CSR campaign.

This will position the company’s goals in terms of the world at large, and help employees feel like they’re involved in being an agent for positive change.

For example, with Sociabble’sSupport My Cause” feature, you can easily link rewards to positive CSR actions, while also giving employees the power to nominate and vote for their favorite social causes.  This adds an element of philanthropy and social consciousness to your company culture, and helps it spread throughout the company, anywhere in the world.

CSR platform to boost company culture

6. Cultivate soft skills for managers.

Managers are essential in building a company culture, as they are the ones who will set the example that all other employees will follow. They are directly involved in communicating this through both actions and words, and developing the skills to do so is key.

Sociabble, as a communication solution, allows managers to form links with frontline workers. They can set up team chats, send tactical surveys for immediate feedback, have informal exchanges, and conduct training seminars to make sure everyone is on the same page.

L’Occitane en Provence: a concrete example of building a company culture with Sociabble

A specific example of how Sociabble can help large, global organizations build and strengthen their company culture was demonstrated by our client L’Occitane en Provence.

When top management decided to rethink their global strategy and inform their workforce about the change in direction, they faced one major hurdle: much of their staff consisted of frontline workers in retail centers, without access to a desktop workstation, let alone a professional email.

The solution? By teaming up with Sociabble, they were able to create a single, unified communication platform that brought employees around the world closer together, and that also gave them access from their mobile devices.

The new approach also allowed for upward communication, giving every employee a voice and the power to share content, which reinforced the sense of pride and belonging at the company, strengthening the company culture. And all of this was accomplished in just two months, thanks to the assistance of the Sociabble support team.

Want to learn more about building a strong corporate culture? Curious to see how Sociabble can help your company boost engagement and forge a stronger identity? We’re happy to chat.

In fact, we’ve already helped hundreds of companies in over 180 countries do just that, including industry leaders like Renault Group, Primark, and Coca-Cola CCEP.

Schedule your free demo today and see for yourself!

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