Throughout history, the most successful businesses have in common a solid sense of “who we are,” and, “how we do things.” We call this uniformity of purpose and commitment to certain core values a company culture. Investopedia.com, defines corporate culture this way:
“Corporate Culture: the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”
Just as every family has its own way of getting things done, every company does too. Every daycare center, grocery store, and each of the Fortune 500 Corporations has a company culture. Some know they have it. Others do not. The strong cultures are those in which the employees reflect the values, ethics, attitudes, and standards of the top dogs. The bad ones are those that go broke and close up shop. The good ones have an internal strength that comes from shared commitment. The bad ones have no structure upon which to hang the mantle of success.
Attributes Common to Strong Corporate Company Cultures:
Companies which have established themselves as leaders in their fields all have some basic attributes in common:
- A well-established and constantly communicated set of core values.
- Heroes to emulate: GE has Jack Welch. Microsoft has Bill Gates. The hardware store downtown has Big Walter, who sets the pace every day.
- Rites, rituals, and codes – This can be as simple as the ritual of saying, “Welcome to Rite Aid” every time the door chimes. It is expected and becomes a common language creating a bond between co-workers.
- Consider the little bakery on the corner. It’s been run by the same family since 1934 when Papa and Mama came to this country from Italy. The culture of this business has been in play for many generations. The culture here is the family culture. Papa and Mama hire their own children and grandchildren to do the work and, because these children cut their teeth on, “this is how we do things in our family,” the way the bakery operates is changeless. Here, there is only one culture to learn and it cannot be escaped.
- Other businesses do not have the luxury of a rock solid, ready-made culture. Other businesses must find ways to communicate their values and aspirations to new employees who come from many divergent backgrounds. These hirelings bring with them to the workplace all manner of attitudes, some of which are not helpful. It is management’s job to instill in them a sense of “how we do things here,” if the business is to continue to thrive. These lessons begin long before the applicant enters your office for his first interview.
Cultivate Keepers not Chameleons
If you’ve been in business for longer than, say, twenty three minutes, you already know that your people are your most valuable resource. Unless you’ve done an exceptional job of hiring people who think the way you do, you almost certainly have people in your operation who don’t play by the rules you’ve established. These folks tend to see you as a rich, fat cat who sucks up all the money. To this individual, there is probably no commitment to the business or his fellow employees. To him, it’s all about his paycheck and there is little else binding him to your operation. This worker is the black sheep in your work family and a bigger danger to your corporate culture than you might imagine.
This individual happily goes about sowing the seeds of discontent among your other well and wisely chosen team members. Like all weeds, his attitude can infect your garden and choke out the healthy, happy others.
Naturally, when you offered Dan D. Lion a job, you were convinced that he would fit right in. But even managers with polished interview skills occasionally get taken in by applicants who are chameleons by nature. They look at the operation, take your “corporate temperature” and quickly put on the skin you want to see in a color that matches your own. This is called ‘mirroring’ and it’s a very effective way of bagging that new job. Dan’s bad attitude may take weeks or months to reveal itself and, perhaps, by that time he will have proven himself to be very good at doing the work he was hired to do. Now you are faced with the painful decision of showing your best salesman the door, or allowing him to continue to erode your corporate foundation.
Don’t Ever Stop Developing your Company Culture
If your own corporate culture is teetering on the brink, gnashing your teeth is not the answer. Even strong charismatic leaders can fail to inspire and create loyalty among their employees if there are bad-hires among them. The chameleons are very clever and, perhaps even more so in this wobbly economy. No matter how careful you’ve been, you may be sure there are, indeed, bad hires in your group. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Fortunately for entrepreneurs like you who are committed to achieving the dream, there’s help available. Read more on developing and reinforcing company culture then create a game plan for it’s execution. A little focus on this important aspect of your business will go a long way.
We offer several tools to assist you and your leadership team to prevent these bad hires. Check out our eBook “Hiring Talented Team Players”. Using a well structured selection process in conjunction with powerful attitude and behavioral assessment tools like our IC and SL Behavioral assessments can help you combat these problem generators.
Here are some questions to get you thinking about where you are at with building a strong company culture:
What’s Your Own Company Culture?
- Does my company have a primary philosophy? (For example, employees at General Electric believe they bring good things to light.)
- Is this philosophy clearly and continually visible in my (shop, store, warehouse, delivery trucks, packaging materials, and/or aircraft?)
- How effectively do I communicate that belief to employees?
- Do my employees share the company philosophy?
- How Do we do things here? Is it effective?
- Does my company have a system in place to reward and recognize achievement?
- Does Dan work for me?