Every company has an organizational culture, whether or not it’s defined in any specific way. It can be felt in the vibe you get when dealing with the company; the energy and enthusiasm emanating from employees; and the structural integrity of your experience. Some cultures are healthy and others are toxic.
Don’t think that just because you’re a one-person business you don’t have an organizational culture – it may be just you, but how you run your business and deal with customers and suppliers very much defines what people will see as your business culture.
If you haven’t stepped back from the day-to-day operations of your business recently, now might be a good time to assess your organizational culture. Does it inspire you everyday, or is it dragging you down?
Do you know what your staff think about working for your company? At Thrifty Foods, a grocery store chain in BC, they poll their employees on a regular basis asking questions such as “How do you feel?” and “Do you feel respected?” The company has been carrying out these surveys since the early 1990s and takes the results very seriously. Their HR Director says, How employees feel about their work is like an oil pressure gauge.” The survey (completed anonymously) allows for both rational and emotional issues to be brought to light.
If developing a survey to assess your organizational culture seems overkill for your company, simply watch carefully, listen hard, and ask questions of your staff, customers, and suppliers. This will allow you to get a handle on the negatives and positives of your corporate culture.
In this day and age of rampant social media no company can hide from the harsh tongues of its customers; take this review of a restaurant taken from TripAdvisor, “The worst restaurant I have ever visited!” Of 71 reviews, 44 are in the terrible category. One doesn’t need to visit this establishment to know that the organizational culture is detrimental to its wellbeing. What are people saying about your business?
Even when the business environment is tough, certain companies are bathed in a golden light, they are quite simply revered. These are the companies that can pick and choose the best of the best employees. Management and staff get on well and it shows; positive attitudes prevail; and there is a sense that employees are part of a family. These companies are seen as trendy, vibrant, progressive, efficient, honest, accessible, and they have fans rather than customers – loyal fans. Their brands are powerful and magnetic and people desire what they sell. They have a heart and a soul, where others just have bricks and mortar. These companies inspire both customers and employees with their organizational culture; think Apple, Google, Starbucks and others that have an almost fanatical following. These companies have a strong, recognizable culture – one that people want to associate themselves with. It is this culture that makes their success sustainable.
The secret of what makes a positive culture is difficult to pin down but for many it’s about a ‘family’ feel, it’s about team-building, camaraderie, a coming together for the common cause. It’s the reason your business exists. For others it’s about being down-to-earth, genuine. Often a company’s organizational culture comes from the founder and is embedded at the birth of the company, which is why single-person businesses still need to consider their company’s culture.
Is it all about personality then? Not necessarily; an organization’s culture is, or should be, aligned with its vision, mission, goals, structures, performance and behaviors. Underlying this is its belief system. A company focused on making money at all costs, will have a very different culture to one that puts clients first. It is this foundational understanding of what the company is, and what it stands for, that motivates employees and drives its leadership. It promotes loyalty and productivity, and binds various departments. It builds consistency and control – it breathes life into a company.
The simple reality of having an organizational culture that owners, managers and staff fully buy into, and that translates into a way of being that is attractive and enticing to customers, is beneficial to the bottom line. It will help attract top performers to the company and reduce employee turnover, ensuring the company’s current winners remain loyal to the company.
Cross-department synchronicity and cooperation will be enhanced, and it will encourage consistent decision-making. In marketing terms, it will allow the brand to be communicated accurately and effectively across all media. The focus a strong organizational culture imbues on a company promotes creative thinking and creates opportunities.
Another major benefit of having an identifiable, experiential organizational culture is that each company is unique and therefore difficult for competition to emulate – it differentiates a company in a powerful way.
By now you might be reflecting on your own company’s organizational culture. Perhaps it’s not as strong as you would like, or it may be a little wooly around the edges. How can you re-set it, or at least give it a healthy tweak? Hotel owner Mandy Farmer, of Accent Inns, offers the best advice, “Look for the shiny spots.” What are you doing best? Where are you getting the best feedback from customers and staff? Develop those areas and make them shine. On the flip side, look at what’s not working – what elements of your culture are slowing you down?
This article is provided by Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen. Questions about your business? Contact their office at 250-493-2566.