Your Dad probably doesn’t think it’s okay to have a keg in the office.
Or wear shorts. Or pump in Bell Biv DeVoe tracks over the office sound system (though, really, if he’d ever HEARD “Poison” that might be a different story). Not necessarily because he comes from an older generation, but moreso because he worked in a very different corporate culture than some of those keg-serving, 90s R&B-bumping companies do now.
But how do some companies make it clear to their employees that casual work environments were okay, while others insist on a more-professional approach? They’ve developed and instilled a corporate culture in their employees. And even if you don’t have enough people to even think about an office keg, there will always be an office culture.
Like anything in life, the culture of your business will first be determined by its leader. Which, presumably, is you. So whatever values and standards you want your employees to have, make sure you’re the model of that. If you want your employees to act professionally, don’t start emails with “What’s up, Bro?”
That said, also remember that corporate culture is not unilateral. Sure, you may steer your employees a certain way and aim to hire those who fit your values, but ultimately it will be their attitudes and actions that determine it.
Figuring out how your workers are motivated and how they see the corporate dynamic is complex. So you’re going to need details, and the only way to get them is to ask your employees.
But what kinds of questions should you be asking?
Business Insider proposed a list of five simple questions to ask when trying to determine and develop corporate culture. They include:
And while this list is far from all-encompassing, it’s a solid start.
Believe it or not, the way your business is decorated will be the first indication anyone has of your corporate culture. For instance, if your office is filled with skulls and dramatic gothic furniture, employees might get the feeling that your corporate culture is a little intense. Or possibly terrifying.
Conversely, if it’s decorated with humorous photos and Dorothy Parker quotes, don’t be surprised if a potential hire begins joking with you right away.
Even small things like the colors you use – in any business – will speak to the attitude your company exudes.
Similarly, the layout of your business will also be a large determinant. Where do you (or whoever’s in charge) position themselves in relation to everyone else? Are you out with the employees? Or holed up in an office? Not that one is necessarily preferable to the other, but it will have an effect on how people perceive your business.
While creating office outings to a bar or the local build-a-bear is great for company morale, it also gives you a chance to see how employees interact outside the office. See how formal or friendly they are with each other, note the language they use, the way they approach you “after hours” and use that information to figure out your company’s culture.
Even during office hours, there are ways of gauging this without asking employees directly. Just walk around and see how everyone interacts on the job. Or, even more telling, how they behave in meetings.
The other people you want to look at: Your customers. Yes, not every person bases where they eat dinner on how much they relate to your witty menu descriptions, but most businesses – no matter what they are – attract a certain kind of customer. And that customer is generally a reflection of your corporate culture.
Once you’ve determined your corporate culture, you need to let people know what it is. And, we’re not suggesting sending staff a 5-page email stating your corporate culture? All that will do is create a corporate culture of people who don’t read stuff. So here’s what you do:
So, yes, developing a corporate culture involves a lot more than having a casual dress code and serving beer in the break room. But if you take the time to figure out exactly what your corporate culture is – then take the time to effectively put that image out to employees and customers – you will become the kind of company you want to be. Just, maybe, not your dad’s.
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