A 4-Step Approach to Creating a Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture

  • A great culture is critical to a great organization

In our way of looking at creating an extraordinary, highly successful organization, the mission, company vision, strategic objective and key objectives set forth the organization’s philosophy and direction. The next step is to create a very specific, clear and well-articulated corporate culture which establishes the “rules of the road.”

Every organization has a “culture.” Usually, the corporate culture evolves over time, rarely is it in writing, and, even worse, most people don’t know exactly what it is. Surely, some of the best-known companies like Google, Apple and the like have a corporate culture that is obvious and clear to everyone, but that is mostly not the case.

  • Most people have a very limited view of what a culture is

Some think that the corporate culture consists of the look and feel of a company, and that is surely part of it. For example, Google Inc. is well known for its employee-friendly culture. It defines itself as unconventional and offers perks such as telecommuting, flextime, tuition reimbursement, free employee lunches and, at its corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, on-site services like oil changes, massages, fitness classes, car washes and hair stylists.

I had the great opportunity to do a program for LinkedIn at one of its facilities in Sunnyvale, California. When I walked into the building, they had their own coffee facility where the barista would make you whatever you liked. Half of the top floor was a huge cafeteria where everyone gathered for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. The other half of the floor was a huge living room where employees could gather to talk and innovate.

  • The culture of an organization is more than just employee perks

While these employee-friendly perks are surely wonderful and contribute to creating a corporate culture that attracts many talented people, our view of a corporate culture goes much further. Again, we view corporate culture as the “rules of the road” that employees are expected to follow on a day-to-day basis.

Look at it this way: If you were going to take a bus trip with a group of people, which trip was going to last for months, years, even decades, wouldn’t you want to know, very clearly, right up front, what was going to be expected of you and everyone else? In our view, this is exactly why we recommend creating a written corporate culture which is clear, specific and well-articulated.

An organization’s culture establishes what behavior is acceptable and expected and what is not. It covers how people are expected to act individually, with each other, with the organization’s customers and vendors, and with the community at large. In this manner, the corporate culture makes things clear to everyone and eliminates the confusion and mischief which occurs all too frequently.

  • Here’s an example of where having a clear culture statement helps

Here’s an example of where a clear, written corporate culture statement solved what could have been a situation where an employer remained frustrated with an employee or the employee got fired. As the situation unfolded, the employee, who I will call John, consistently did not follow a couple of the rules of how he was expected to operate with other employees. So, one Friday afternoon, the company owner, who I will call Sally, sat down with John with a copy of the corporate culture in hand and asked him to read the paragraphs he was violating.

After he had done so, she asked him simply if he understood what he had just read. Answering yes, she then asked how come he didn’t follow those rules. He hemmed and hawed and made some excuses but promised to do better. Nothing improved so the same conversation was had the following Friday with the same result. Again, there was no improvement in his behavior.

  • The hammer got thrown down

So, the following Friday, Sally informed John that he was now the beneficiary of a two-week, unpaid vacation. John was stunned. He didn’t want to take off for two weeks without pay! He pleaded and promised to do better, to no avail. Sally said he could use the two weeks to decide if he wanted to reapply for his job and agree to follow the rules.

First thing Monday morning, John called for his job interview, hoping it would come right away. It didn’t. Sally scheduled the interview for two weeks later to let John sit with the consequences of his behavior. Two weeks later, John got his job back and became a model employee.

  • Here’s our view of what a corporate culture could look like

Here are some examples of the types of things we recommend our clients put in their corporate culture statement:

First: Who we are as a company:

  • We are here to serve our customers.
  • Integrity is the bottom line of the company; we are all committed to doing every piece of our work with the highest level of integrity and we do not ever hesitate to point out areas where our integrity can be taken up to a higher level.
  • We recognize and appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and the importance of everyone’s contribution to the company. We seek to utilize each person’s unique strengths and abilities. No one person is more important than any other.
  • We provide all employees opportunities to grow, develop and advance, personally and professionally.

Second corporate culture category: Who we are as individuals:

  • We are proud of our company, loyal to it, and feel it is a privilege to work for a company that has a great reputation and is well respected within our industry.
  • We enjoy our work, have a positive attitude and bring fun and enthusiasm to whatever we do.
  • We approach everything that we do as if it matters and do everything that needs to be done with integrity.
  • We are self-starters; we take initiative, and freely and willingly perform our duties at or above the level expected of us.
  • We are goal oriented and goal driven. We are accountable for the results we commit to producing.
  • Everything we do is important…we never accept second best as being good enough.
  • We stay focused in order to be there when our customers and team members most need us.

Third corporate culture category: Who we are with each other:

  • We are a team, in good times and bad. Win or lose, we stand together.
  • We recognize and appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and acknowledge each person’s unique contribution to the success of the whole.
  • We always communicate openly, honestly, directly and in a timely manner with each other. We do not withhold our communications. We are discreet and appropriate in when we communicate.
  • We are honest, ethical and conduct ourselves with integrity with each other.
  • It is a pleasure to work with each other. We are outgoing, courteous, patient, honest and friendly. 
  • We treat each other fairly and with dignity and respect and acknowledge the value of everyone else’s work. We do not belittle or abuse other people.
  • We do not gossip or complain about each other, our company or our customers. We express suggestions for improvements and dissatisfactions only to someone who can do something about them.

 Fourth corporate culture category: Who we are with our customers and the community:

  • We maintain our professional image in our dealings with customers on the telephone and in person. We promptly respond to telephone calls, e mails and correspondence.
  • We are creative in our thinking about our customer’s needs and look for creative solutions to solve their problems. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the customer’s needs are satisfied.
  • In all tasks we undertake, we seek to create greater value for our customers.
  • We are honest, ethical and conduct ourselves with integrity with our customers.
  • We always communicate openly, honestly and in a timely manner with our customers. We do not withhold our communications
  • We honor and respect the confidences of our customers and all matters involving the company.
  • We seek opportunities to be actively engaged in good causes and encourage our fellow workers to do the same. The company is willing to financially support employees in community service projects and, whenever possible, we participate as a group in worthwhile community causes.

If you’re ready to take action and let us guide you through our process of creating an empowering corporate culture, give us a call @ 949-542-6830.