CommonSense Blog

Culture: Vision and Environment

By Nea North | Apr 26, 2013

 “The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.”

Richard Bach

What is culture? When and how does it guide employee behavior? Harvard Business Review sheds some light, “Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time” (Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, Harvard Business Review). In this same article, it points out that culture happens where the employee handbook ends, and culture directs employees’ actions around new ideas, surfacing problems, and unusual requests. Employees must take numerous actions each day on their own, and when no manual or superior is around to drive decisions, culture can. Considering this, culture can become one of the most important elements to making a company successful and improving long-term profitability. It can encourage employees to want to get something done and not simply for their own benefit.

So what are some steps for building a strong company culture?

Forbes lists “four ways to put your money where your mouth is”:

  1. Abandon Your Reliance on the Money for Time Contract with Your Workforce
  2. Embrace the Idea of Allowing Your Employees to Work Remotely (When Appropriate)
  3. Be Willing to Let Your Hair Down Once in a While
  4. The “Why” is More Important than Most People Recognize

This article explains that standards have changed greatly in the work environment over a period of decades. Today, employees are usually giving a company more than the forty hours a week they are paid for, so the traditional contract with employees has changed. If an employee is expected to contribute more than the standard forty hours a week, then they are seeking other rewards and incentives from work to compensate for the difference. Ways to make up for that difference can include allowing employees to work remotely, play occasionally, and most importantly understand why they are working extra, what is the larger picture. Vision.

Why strive for a strong culture? There are a number of beneficial factors arising from a healthy company culture. These include: employee retention, company reputation, employee productivity, and quality of work (Luanne Kelchner, Houston Chronicle). Each of these aspects can lower expenses and/or increase revenue for a company. “In a business with an unhealthy culture, employees act as individuals, performing their duties to meet their own needs, such as a paycheck or health benefits. A healthy corporate culture values each employee in the organization regardless of his job duties, which results in employees working as a team to meet the company’s and their own personal needs” (Luanne Kelchner, Houston Chronicle). With a strong culture, employees will work for more than basic needs; they will strive to elevate the company because they enjoy the people and environment they work in as well as see and support the company’s vision.

Several companies have achieved wonderful results around company culture, and Google is an example of one company with a strong company culture. Google has held the spot as one of the best companies to work for over the past few years (CNN Money). And what makes it fantastic to work for? Its culture. There are many contributors to Google’s culture, but one that has been talked about is its compassion. Here is a TED talk about how Google works to spread compassion in its office:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTR4sAD_4qM[/youtube]

Regardless of the type of environment a company decides to develop, one of compassion or innovation and so on, studies have shown that the foundations to a highly effective culture include: clarity, communication, and consistency (Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, Harvard Business Review). Essentially, all a company needs to do is define very clearly what type of culture they want, communicate the core values across the company, and consistently stay true to deep rooted vision and values it wants to succeed by. Culture comes not only from the vision of the company but also in the environment every employee helps to build.