Company culture develops organically at small startups where every employee fits in someone’s garage. But what if you’re part of a global organization with offices around the world, and your employees number in the tens of thousands?
At an enterprise company, it might be hard to imagine getting everyone in the same book regarding culture, much less on the same page. However, Culture Amp data shows that investing in culture positively impacts both employee engagement and the company’s stock price.
In truth, culture might be more critical in an enterprise-level company than in that garage-based startup. When working in larger teams and organizations, individual employees sometimes feel like cogs in a machine or numbers on a spreadsheet. By investing in organizational culture, you can create an environment where people feel appreciated, empowered, and engaged.
In enterprise companies, individual teams often develop their own cultures. This is natural and good. However, when those teams inevitably need to collaborate or even swap workers, the culture clash can be stark and disruptive.
You help align teams on the same mission and principles by fostering a company-wide culture. An organizationally-aligned sense of culture makes collaboration more accessible and more productive. It can also reduce the potential for culture clashes among employees.
What does a healthy company culture look like?
While the specifics of a strong culture will vary from company to company based on a complex web of factors, there are some common themes among nearly all organizations with a healthy culture. Using these elements as a barometer, you can gauge how your organization is doing and determine if investing in culture could benefit your company.
Organizations with a healthy culture also have healthy communication. Employees feel comfortable expressing ideas and offering feedback, and they’re able to handle the inevitable workplace conflicts with tact and respect for one another.
On the other hand, if the culture is weak or toxic, employees may be reluctant to speak up, particularly about conflicts or concerns. There is often the unspoken feeling that nobody cares what employees have to say and that complaints will go unheard or be outright ignored.
A healthy culture encourages accountability – people take responsibility for their successes and their failures. Employees are willing and able to acknowledge where there is room for growth and take constructive feedback because they know it comes from a place of helpfulness. Instead of feeling competitive with each other, they are quick to share credit and point out when someone else has contributed to a team effort.
In a toxic environment, people may attempt to pass the blame for mistakes to others, and feedback is taken poorly (if at all). Individuals may try to claim full credit for a win, leaving none of the praise or rewards for peers.
In a healthy work environment, people are treated as people – regardless of race or ethnicity, gender, job title, or other external factors. Everyone has a voice. Everyone is treated as if they have something to offer.
In a hostile culture, favoritism is rampant, and the voices of junior employees are ignored, often to the company's detriment. This results in an atmosphere of jealousy and distrust, which can quickly undermine the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. It can also lead to turnover of some of your best employees as they start to feel their talents would be more appreciated elsewhere.
Three tips to help kickstart your cultural investment
If you’re on the wrong end of the culture spectrum, the following tips will get your company moving in the right direction.
1. Start with a survey
One of the best ways to get your finger on the pulse of current company culture and engagement levels is to conduct an employee survey. Now, it’s important to note that when measuring culture, you don’t want to survey satisfaction. Instead, focus the survey on engagement.
Employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm and connection people have with their organization. There may be things about your workplace that employees aren’t necessarily satisfied with (hours, pay, the brand of coffee in the breakroom), but they can still be engaged – and ultimately, engagement is what drives results.
Engagement levels can be a good indicator of how your current company culture affects your staff. Low engagement levels suggest that people feel unmotivated and disconnected from the work they do every day. Company culture may be a significant factor.
2. Define the culture you want to see
As you conduct your survey, take some time to spell out the culture you want to build in your organization. What do you picture when you think of your ideal company culture? Get that down in writing.
By starting this process higher up in the company, you can ensure that smaller subcultures across different teams and departments remain relatively consistent with your vision. Although a huge enterprise with offices around the world will likely never have a completely uniform culture across every single team, it’s certainly possible to get close.
How do you define culture? Start with these questions:
- Why does your company exist? What is your core mission?
- What do you consider to be the core values of your company?
- What are your strategic priorities? Where’s the focus currently?
These types of questions can help you create a broad cultural definition. Once you’ve got some momentum, the rest will come easier.
3. Leverage meetings to reinforce your desired culture
Meetings sometimes get a bad rap, but they remain a critical part of operations for many (if not most) companies. When you have several large departments working in tandem, meetings are essential. They can also be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce the company culture you want to build in your organization.
First, ensure that your meetings reflect the cultural values you want to instill. For example, if transparent communication is a key value, look to see if it’s being brought into the meeting room. If not, you've got some changes to make.
Next, look for ways to build your desired cultural values into the flow of meetings. To use the transparency example again, consider adding meeting segments where attendees are encouraged to ask questions or offer feedback on what was discussed.
Let culture make your company – not break it
With workers expecting more than ever from the companies they work for, leaders can’t overlook the importance of company culture. It’s a critical factor in creating an enticing, high-performing workplace that engages and retains employees.
This holds even for the largest enterprises. Whether your organization consists of 10 employees or 10,000, you can’t ignore the impact of investing in culture. Transforming culture at the enterprise level may seem daunting, but it’s not impossible.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Enterprise-level culture change requires serious effort, but it can be done, and the results are worth it.