The importance of cohesive company culture
It’s difficult to put a finger on what ‘company culture’ exactly is, but think of some often-used reasons for seeking another job – someone doesn’t like the management style, or how the work is distributed, or who is given credit for the work they do. These are all aspects of company culture; the ethos and shared values and practices of a company.
Given the impact that the day-to-day working environment has on employees’ workplace satisfaction, understanding company culture and how best to measure it is crucial in minimising staff turnover, maximising productivity, and creating a mutually-beneficial working environment.
Which aspects of company culture one chooses to emphasise is based on individual preference, and of course this preference won’t change the culture as whole – just because one individual likes working solo in a company that emphasises collaboration and teamwork doesn’t mean everyone should start working alone, but rather that that company in particular may not be the best fit for the individual. Advertising and exemplifying company culture is essential to create an employee base that shares those same values.
It’s very easy to claim to have certain values, like a focus on positive reinforcement, a proud history, or a multi-disciplinary approach, but what’s important is practicing what we preach. Rather than saying employees are rewarded, show it – quarterly awards ceremonies, bulletins detailing notable achievements, and regular personal development meetings are all by means by which this claim is put into practice. If you’re proud of your company’s history, then why is this history not visible in the environment? Timelines on reception walls or an overview on a website all contribute to a sense of bigger purpose and make it clear to clients and employees alike that your company has a heritage of which to be proud.
Creating a cohesive and consistent company culture reaps rewards than just efficiency and a positive working environment. By creating – and successfully implementing – a company culture, it’s much easier to attract the best talent. If a company culture is strong and evident, then individuals apply for roles knowing that they would be a good fit for the company itself and not just for the tasks of the role. This allows for upwards progression because employees want to stay in the company, and consequently lowers staff turnover.
It’s important to bear in mind that company culture isn’t static, but should constantly be developing and changing. Creating a receptive ear for suggestions and criticisms removes any hostility and the apprehension some may feel in bringing these feelings up with senior management. If a company isn’t receptive to feedback, then culture cannot change for the better. Rather, criticisms and suggestions should always be considered positive because they indicate an environment where individual workers feel valued and though their points of view will be heard. A static, outdated company culture is likely to leave employees feeling unsatisfied, and without the appropriate channels to change this culture then a loss of talent – and consequently the revenue that talent brings – is almost guaranteed.
Facilitating effective, receptive feedback channels is central to accurately measuring company culture. What is externally apparent, to clients or competitors, may be obscured by effective marketing or a hostile work environment. Judging company culture accurately requires input from those personally embedded within it; whether employees believe the practices and habits of the company actually reflect what they claim to endorse. A company may claim to have the most innovative, client-centric and honest culture known to man, but it’s the employees that can ultimately be the only judges of this.
Measuring company culture therefore requires the participation of the whole company, in order to provide an accurate reflection of the experiences of all facets of the company. A successfully-implemented strategy, in regards to any aspect of culture congruent with the company in question, is ultimately measured by the people whom it affects. A strategy may have been implemented, but if employees are not benefitting from it then it can be hardly argued that it has been implemented successfully.
Recent emphasis on employee wellness is more important than ever; an estimated 15.4 million working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2017/18, according to the UK Labour Force Survey. A positive company culture is central to reducing labour loss through stress. A negative culture not only leaves workers unsatisfied and stressed, but is likely to underachieve commercially because the impetus is not there for employees to want to perform above and beyond the bare minimum. When company culture is cohesive, explicit, and implemented well, everyone benefits.
Tina Chander is Head of Employment Law at Wright Hassall. Tina is a qualified barrister and solicitor with extensive experience in employment law matters for both individuals and businesses.