By: Sean McConnell, CEO of Modern Business Associates
It is easy as a leader of a company to get caught up in the countless tasks of the day and overlook or postpone issues such a company culture. Such “soft HR issues” are less important than the prospect call you have to make, the operations meeting, or review of company metrics, right? Well, the truth is, company culture is as important, if not more so, than many of the time-consuming tasks leaders handle on a daily basis. Leaders who choose to ignore the establishment and maintenance of company culture, however, do so at their peril. While some leaders may not believe company culture is critically important, rest assured that many of their competitors do.
The concept of “company culture” really has not been around that long. In fact, it was not until the 1980s that companies started acknowledging it existed and questioning whether there may be something important about it. Since that time, more and more companies recognize that company culture is far more than just some “soft HR term.” Still, there is a degree of confusion about what company culture really means. A quick internet search of “company culture” will yield numerous definitions. I find a useful, although broad, definition is that company culture represents the beliefs and values that dictate how employees act in a company. Below is a summary of what I believe to be the most important factors in the establishment and maintenance of company culture.
The deliberate establishment or change of company culture must start with determining the mission, or purpose, of a company. For instance, at Modern Business Associates last year, we considered whether our mission needed to be changed after we had some turnover in key leadership positions as well as significant operational and process changes. Ultimately, we determined that a wholesale change of our mission was not needed, but rather a clarification of who we are, and why we exist as a company. We ended up with the following mission statement:
“To provide superior end-to-end back office solutions that empower businesses to grow – and that our employees are proud to deliver.”
Whatever the mission for your company, it should be something that is simple and easy to articulate. Everyone will be responsible for upholding this mission, so everyone must be able to understand it.
Influencer Buy In
While I believe that the deliberate establishment of company culture starts from the top, it will not succeed without employee buy in. Most companies have employees who are influential because of position, attitude, work ethic, etc. Leadership should be able to identify those “influencers” and they should be included in determining the types of employee behaviors which further the company’s mission. Not only will they likely have useful insight into the specific behaviors to be encouraged, they will be particularly helpful in implementing and maintaining the company culture.
Your mission is the promise and principle your organization is built around. Do not stray from it. If the executive team and upper management will not exhibit the qualities and behaviors you are promoting, subordinate employees will be unwilling to support the cultural shift. Instead, leadership should mirror the change it wants to see in the workplace and lead by example. Likewise, apply those same standards to subordinate employees. Behavior or attitudes which are in conflict with the company culture need to be addressed, regardless of position. No special treatment should be given to any employee.
Recruit and Hire Carefully
A common trait that many executives share is the flawed belief that they can change most employees, regardless of shared values, into superstar employees. I can say, from personal experience, that is simply not true. It is not enough to hire just because an applicant has a desirable skill set. Consideration must be given to whether the applicant has shared values with the company. The deliberate establishment and maintenance of company culture is hard work. Do not threaten the company culture by hiring an employee that is not a good fit. I strongly recommend using one of the many pre-employment services which provide insight into the potential fit of an applicant.
Never Stop Listening
Company culture can be a fragile thing susceptible to unintentional change if it is not being properly monitored. Maintenance is critical. Leaders must observe and listen to their employees.
Regardless of whether leaders acknowledge or can accurately define it for their company, company culture exists within every business. Some companies have intentionally shaped and maintained company culture with clear purpose, while others thoughtlessly allowed the company culture to inevitably shape itself. Either way, establishment and change of company culture happens with or without leadership guidance. Far better for it to be established and maintained intentionally and in harmony with the objectives of the company.
Modern Business Associates
About Modern Business Associates
Modern Business Associates, Inc. has over 21 years of experience working with a variety of industries throughout the country enabling us to provide sophisticated outsourcing and tailored business advice. We service over 700 businesses with approximately 38,000 WSE. With our team of subject matter experts, we are our clients trusted advisors and single point of contact for human resources consultations, payroll processing, risk management compliance, and benefits administration. We help our clients save valuable time by managing their non-revenue generating back-office tasks.