What is corporate culture, who does it well and why is it important? What steps can organisations take if they want to positively influence the culture in their workplace?
Defining corporate culture is difficult and measuring it is even harder. In short, it’s the values, beliefs and attitudes that guide actions within a company. Having a concrete vision of what you want your organisation to represent makes it a better place to work and appealing to clients as well. After all, a full time employee spends an average of 40 hours in the workplace every week and as such, the cultural dynamic is of utmost importance to employees’ happiness.
Beyond employee wellbeing, company culture has also been shown to have a tremendous effect on companies' financial performances. Managing workplace culture is a critical business function nowadays and in summary, a strong and positive workplace culture is believed to:
Whilst every company is different, and cultures can vary massively across sectors and locations, there are supposedly four organisational types workplace cultures can fit into:
Different organisations require contrasting environments in which employees can thrive. Below we give a brief overview and analysis of the typical cultures seen at companies across Banking and Financial Services, Professional Services and Commerce & Industry.
The 2008 financial crisis revealed significant cultural failings in the sector; dishonesty was rife from top to bottom in many firms. The primary factors contributing to these failings included a lack of clear corporate values, competing objectives and increased competition for skilled employees.
But since then, intense efforts have been made (under the watchful eye of the regulator) to rectify errors of the past. Financial Services firms have been striving to regain public trust by establishing stronger relationships with customers, regulators and shareholders that are based on truth, honesty and fair dealing.
In terms of the culture across Banking and Financial Services, a motivating environment is required to keep employees engaged and it should be the direct responsibility of leaders to maintain this. In order to effectively manage culture, senior management should be visible proponents of the ‘culture plan’ - they should personally encourage feedback and conduct meetings to establish direct lines of communication. Speaking as a whole, Financial Services firms seem to fit best into Market Culture.
It is often believed that culture in Professional Services firms is largely left alone, with little thought to how it could develop into anything other than the organisation’s original vision or purpose. The firms seem to think they know what works well and stick to it. One encouraging exception to this trend is the particular attention Professional Services firms are giving to diversity and inclusion; after all, this is a key building block to a healthy and more productive workplace.
Those employed in the Professional Services sector are highly trained, focused on their particular practice and have a high drive for prestige, but despite this, firms must still nurture a healthy and inviting culture. Given the fact roles across tax, legal and audit are paid well and generally synonymous with long working hours, certain employees tend to care about workplace culture more than additional benefits and compensation when considering a new position.
The primary focus for Professional Services firms should be fully understanding employees' needs, eventually learning what intrinsically motivates individual employees. This high level of engagement is hard to roll-out and maintain, but it will do wonders for business-wide culture. Across the board, the environment at Professional Services firms appears to be Hierarchy Culture.
Organisations within this sector, such as technology firms, retailers and FMCG companies, should promote a fully transparent culture that is directly connected to their brand image. In this day and age of clear desire for honesty, both customers and prospective employees want this high level of transparency. Companies that are successful in this respect consciously cultivate and manage their culture; as a result, it gives them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Generally, those across Commerce & Industry, and more specifically Tech companies, are considered the pioneers of establishing unique and inviting work environments. Speaking as a whole, these organisations fit could be considered as Adhocracy Cultures.
As previously mentioned, every organisation will have different expectations of what constitutes a good corporate culture. This said, there are a few consistencies that seem to contribute to establishing a positive environment:
If all else fails and an organisation is still struggling to establish an identity through its culture, they may want to consider enlisting the help of a third party organisation. There are numerous out there dedicated to helping companies create shared cultures and goals, embrace transformational change and communicate better with their employees and stakeholders by developing engagement strategies.