Corporate culture is no doubt an overused term. Still, it has been on my mind lately. Recently a highly talented client accepted a job offer, which was attractive for many reasons, and one big reason being her perception of the organizational culture.
Nicely, it seems her perception was spot on and she is enjoying her time on the new job, knowing that she fits well in the organization.
Another client in transition knows he wants to join a “fast-growth” culture. He wants to become part of a culture that respects high performance and trusts their “stars” to contribute their best in that environment. He is emotionally intelligent and knows in a fast-growth culture he won’t be molly-coddled and will at times just “have to get over it.” He’s ready for just that.
Corporate culture is the sum total of the behavior of humans who are part of the company, plus the meanings people attach to those behaviors. You have a corporate culture whether you know it or not. Of course it works a lot better if you are aware of your culture, can describe it to potential hires, and know how to keep it strong. If you own the business, the culture has developed around your beliefs about how a business is run and how people in it relate to each other. The culture is lived out in your company’s practices — it is not just made of words on the plaques by the entrance.
A strong culture has to be shared by people in the organization. Employees need to embrace the belief systems in the culture. Without that, talented or not they will not fit and if they don’t, they will not add value.
Again, it is essential to know your culture, to know the kind of hires that will fit, and spend as much time as you need to determine if they are good fits. Having several—or many—people from your organization participate in interviewing can be helpful here.
There is no one type of culture that guarantees success. Again, it is the fit between the person and the culture that is important. If you’re surrounded by too many slackers, most likely the fit isn’t there. I will always believe that employees are happiest when they know they are performing well. Their commitment is strong when they embrace the values of the company and see those values in actions every day.
Part of your corporate culture is the history of your organization. The history is your story, a unique story that adds interest to company gatherings, to interviews, to any event where your company is center stage. The history will bring your belief systems to life and should be told again and again to reinforce your culture. If it doesn’t seem interesting to you, or lacks any sense of humor — you’re leaving something out. Take a long walk and remember the beginnings of your organization. Begin within.
Josh Patrick published an article on this topic in the New York Times recently. His article’s title is “The Real Meaning of Corporate Culture.” He suggests you make a list of the traits everyone in your organization must possess. He also said a strong culture values hard work and being humane.
It would be interesting to hear a debate between John Patrick and Cliff Oxford. Oxford also published a recent article in the New York Times called, “Where the Happy Talk About Corporate Culture is Wrong.”
I suggest you read both articles as part of determining the nature and strength of your own corporate culture.
In Patrick’s article, he made an important point about the fit between in individual and an organizational culture. “Technical skills can be taught,” he wrote. “I don’t think belief systems can.”
Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee area resident. Her website is www.coachingconbrio.com and she can be reached at (414) 305-3459.