It’s easy to feel the weight of expectation when thinking about building culture into your business. The fantasy working environments of Google or Pixar, the radical management practices of Netflix, or the carefully crafted ‘friendliness’ of Innocent Drinks all feel expensive in terms of planning and investment.
But your company culture already exists. The services your business provides, the people you’ve hired and your shared values are already in place. So how can you go about making it work for you, and what impact will it have?
Crafting a culture statement
A company culture may well ‘emerge’, but in order for it to be an effective part of your business strategy you need to be able to define and communicate it. By its very nature, distilling your culture into a clear statement has to be a collaborative process with input from your team.
Start by considering the three core values you hold as the leader of your organisation. Then, working with your management team, have them identify three values for each of the following:
- Their personal integrity
- What helps customers decide to do business with you
- What the company wants to be known for
The resulting list may contain overlaps and similarities. Refine what you have whilst bearing in mind the characteristics needed to fulfil the business’s mission, where your focus should be to achieve success, what qualities you value in who you hire and what traits might conflict with these values. Your final list will form the basis of your culture statement. This should sit alongside your vision and mission statements as the bedrock for your organisation’s operations.
The impact of a strong company culture
Research has shown that companies who adopt a ‘performance-enhancing’ culture can achieve up to six times higher revenue growth than those without. But aside from the bottom line, there are other advantages to being able to define and effectively communicate your culture:
- Attract and retain better employees, lowering costs and improving levels of expertise.
Your company culture should seek to support professional success, growth and pride in the role staff play. It should also empower staff and enable autonomy. Netflix’s ‘Responsibility and Freedom’ policy may be a little too radical for smaller business to implement effectively but the principles are sound. A good culture will provide the context within which staff have the freedom to act in the best interests of the business and the customer in the moment, whilst still upholding the company’s long-term values. This loose/tight concept is extremely effective in motivating staff and improving performance.
- Ability to adapt to change.
Having a clear set of values and practices independent of specific technologies or processes creates a ‘familiar’ environment for customers. This sense of safety means customers are far more likely to come with you when you seek to adapt to a changing marketplace.
- Encourages customer loyalty and advocacy.
A clear culture creates a consistent customer-experience no matter how they choose to interact with you. In a world where poor service is so rapidly shared, consistency and clarity are keys to customer service success.
The power of your company culture comes from its ability to directly impact your customers’ experience of your business and services. It doesn’t need to consist of expensive planning sessions, grand gestures and sparkling campuses.
A good company culture is one in which your staff can thrive and grow, where autonomy is enabled through a shared vision and where every interaction with your customers makes them feel like a VIP. A well-defined and strategically aligned company culture has the ability to drive all these elements and really set your business apart – which ultimately leads to greater impact, greater profit, and greater success.
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