One of the natural extensions of our team building work is the ongoing need to answer the question of “what is company culture?” with some regularity. While we have a decade of experience helping define cultures of all shapes and sizes, we have seen quite hits and misses in the general process of establishing this. Many companies have, at least in recent years, become infinitely better at understanding the “how” part of defining culture. But we often still see notable struggles when it comes to the “who” part of the question. Unfortunately, there is no one answer for every company, but there are some general guidelines to follow to help you determine who should define culture in your business.
Old School Company Culture
In not so far off times, culture was strictly a top-down affair. Leadership set course and employees followed. Whatever elements made up culture (and for many companies, this was a very short, often lackluster list), a mix of Dale Carnegie and Lee Iacocca leadership lessons often defined them. However, as the years have passed, company culture has evolved from a leadership style to a living, breathing part of your organization. Which requires a lot more than leadership influence to be successful.
Defining Company Culture Today
Today company culture is just as important a piece of your organization as any department, your mission and your core values. In fact, it actually is all of those things and more. So the blanket answer to the big “who” question begins in a way with everyone. Every department, every employee and every company project and event is a piece of who should define company culture. However, that likely doesn’t help you much when left at that.
What Does It Mean To Have Everyone Define Company Culture?
For very small teams and companies, this is a manageable goal by simply sitting down around a table to determine company culture. Everyone from the Founder & CEO to the receptionist should be included. Why? Well, because everyone is tasked with carrying out the principles of the company culture. And if your lower level staff doesn’t agree or believe in your company culture, it will ultimately fail, if it even comes to fruition at all.
For larger companies, all employees can be included in a variety of means. Polls, department-wide meetings, company events and online surveys are all ways in which you can encourage company participation in defining company culture. Chose representatives from every department and company level to gather and convey employee input and give each section a seat at the table. Task interdisciplinary teams with carrying out the implementation of initiatives and put in place measures to ensure adherence and ongoing attention.
Make sure to schedule regular meetings, team building events and retrospectives to capture activity, changing dynamics and updates to company culture. Task key employees with recording meeting notes and information to keep track of changes and critical concepts and use creative team building events to bring employees from different departments and disciplines together to inspire collaboration and development. Finally, put in place safeguards to keep close to the pulse of the company so you can recognize when culture changes are occurring in real time.