Corporate culture, at its best, can be a source of differentiation and competitive advantage.
What do we mean by Corporate Culture?
Corporate culture comes down to the character and personality of your organisation. It's a combination of your core values, beliefs, communications and behaviours. It can be examined in the way your employees and management communicate and interact, beyond the business meetings and sales pitches. Culture goes far deeper than the aesthetics of a beautiful office space or dress down Fridays, it’s about how employees ‘feel’ and ‘think’ about their work. What is their level of satisfaction? Do they connect with their teammates and what kind of rewards or benefits does their role provide? Corporate culture is reflected in the companies turnover rate, how decisions are made, how people react to and deal with problems as well as the layout of the office space. It is all encompassing. Some companies are known for their specific corporate culture, such as Google and Facebook, while others allow it to form naturally as time goes on. Regardless, all organisations tend to have common behaviours - the question is whether it is an advantage or disadvantage to their business.
How to use Corporate Culture to your Advantage
Your corporate culture is the one thing that separates your business from your closest competitors. While your competitor can try to copy your product, service, business plan or strategy (what you do), it cannot recreate your corporate culture (why and how you do it).
If you want to use this to your competitive advantage, your company must answer these 5 questions:
1. How do we want our employees to act and feel in the workplace?
Taking a moment to question and understand your company’s culture will give you key insights into your strengths and weaknesses as an employer and place of work. Thinking about this from the perspective of your employees will allow you to see their challenges, their mindset and their commitment to the company. Don’t assume you already know these things, conduct interviews, surveys, group discussions etc to get as much information and data as possible. Analyse it deeply and interpret it impartially.
2. Which organisations inspire us and what elements of their corporate culture would we like to utilise in our firm?
Take a look at the companies you admire and go beyond the product or service they provide. How do they treat their employees and what rewards do they offer for their teams? How do they communicate with each other? How do they encourage their employees to adopt their core desired behaviours? How do they treat their customers? Evaluate their culture and take note of the elements that stand out to you.
3. What are the key behaviours we want to see in the workplace?
By analysing your current company culture, you can identify the key behaviours that you wish to introduce. You may discover a long list of changes you wish to initiate, but focus on the 4 or 5 fundamental adjustments that are going to improve the overall behaviours within the company. Having an open discussion with multiple layers in the organisation will give you a better understanding of what behavioural changes are needed at all levels.
4. How can we hire and retain the right people, who demonstrate our core behaviours?
Once you have figured out which behaviours are important to your business, you will need to build a strategy that encourages your employees to integrate them into their working model. This will have an affect on how and why employees are hired, as well as how they are rewarded and retained. Clear communication is essential in developing your corporate culture as you shift towards new ways of working, new expectations and key behaviours in the company.
5. What can we do as a company to lead by example for our employees?
Every company culture begins at the top. It is essential that the senior team identifies, adopts and promotes the behaviours they want to see within the organisation. By advocating the new changes within their teams, employees will start to adopt the behaviours naturally as they follow the example set by their leaders.
Your corporate culture can be an advantage or disadvantage to your business, either creating a desirable place of work, where employees feel comfortable, supported and satisfied in their work and thrive as a result, or it can limit and challenge your company’s success.
Understanding your unique competitive advantage will not only help your business to grow in the long term, but it will also give you the tools you need to develop a company culture that your employees appreciate and are committed to day in and day out. Culture is essential in your company’s success, so putting in the time it takes to get it right should be your number one priority.