Can You Describe Your Company Culture?

by Julie Heneghan

Can You Describe Your Company Culture?

Company culture is defined as the set of pervasive values, beliefs and attitudes that characterize a company. It’s what attracts job seekers and keeps employees. It’s not a box to be checked. It’s not a framed mission statement in the lobby. It’s not office decor. Culture is something woven throughout every aspect of the organization. Marketers call it ‘brand’ — what people are saying about you when they think you’re not listening.

Culture plays a driving role in all that your company does. It connects recruiting the right people to designing a benefit plan that supports your mission and values to how performance is measured to where the company party is held. It sets expectations for performance, employee and customer communications, and day-to-day interactions. It creates a structure and set of expectations that allow employees to operate from a place of passion and empowerment. An intentional culture can increase employee engagement, boost service quality, and, as a result, increase profits.

Why build an intentional culture?
Your company has a culture even if you aren’t actively shaping or defining it. If you’re not being intentional about fostering the culture you want, random forces can create a weak or even negative culture.

What should you do to design a culture that fits?

  • Hire for cultural fit. If someone doesn’t embrace and fit with the company culture, they’re going to have a tough time succeeding. It’s common for someone who’s a great cultural fit to ramp up and accomplish great things. Conversely, it’s equally common for people who looked great on paper to leave for reasons of fit.
  • Align culture to corporate strategy. Identify your company’s top business priorities, such as market share, profit growth, mission or brand. Then identify how you will achieve those goals: e.g. efficiency, quality, innovation, amazing customer service, etc. Invest in culture to support those goals and strategies. For example, if efficiency is the lifeblood of your survival and success, your culture will probably feature communication processes and analytics. If it’s innovation, it will reward and support risk-taking, a bias for action, and consistent recognition of new ideas.
  • Weave culture through the company. Based on your strategic business priorities, take the key components of culture and decide how they inform various functions, from workforce planning to compensation and rewards. Are they in your values? Your goals? Do you promote based on culture-building and reprimand for culture-damaging activities?

When exploring corporate culture, ask yourself these key questions:

  1. If you could describe your corporate culture in three words, what would you say?
  2. If you were going to give public tours of your company, what stops would the guide make?
  3. If the local paper was going to run a four-page feature on your company’s culture, what would be impossible not to include?
  4. What’s the best part about working in this environment that I won’t be able to see from just a walk around the office?
  5. What are the most common complaints employees make about your company culture?
  6. What do you love best about your company culture?


Here’s the reality:
People don’t want to work where they don’t feel comfortable. You can’t thrive where you don’t feel at home. And you can’t grow where you don’t feel welcome. More than money, title, or anything else we traditionally believe matters, attracting (and keeping) rockstar talent depends on your company culture. Make it a priority to know and live your company culture.

Written by Julie Heneghan, Founder and President of The Steely Group
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