What about the questions you should ask about your company culture? What if you started with the assumption that you need to learn more about how your employees are operating day-to-day? What if you focused on educating yourself with data first and then came up with your own solutions?
Here is something we get asked a lot, “What’s the best culture for my company?” We know from research conducted over the past 30 years that strong cohesive cultures outperform weak cultures where there is more disagreement about core values. This research was not focused on the content of the core values are, but focuses instead on the strength of the agreement. Put another way, which core values your company focuses on matters less than how intensely they agree on the ones that are the focus.
We usually expect to read about financial firms in the context of regulatory scandals and quarterly performance expectations. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted how banks are struggling to define their culture as regulators increasingly focus new methods for preventing illegal or excessively risky behaviors. Consider this October 2014 speech from the head of NY Federal Reserve, William Dudley, in which he uses the word culture 45 times.
I woke up today to discover that the word of the year is culture. I can’t say that I’m surprised. When we first started working on Pomello (www.pomello.com), I had to search well past the first several pages of Google search results to find relevant articles and news on company culture. Now I see multiple articles every day written on the topic.
A few years ago I was working for a large company that was bought by another large company. When a merger or acquisition happens, the first thing most people do is have a quiet panic attack about their job security. But once that panic attack is over and you find that you still have a job you are left with the work of actually combining two companies. People often write about this challenge from a strategy, financial, or technical perspective. They also often write about the erosion of value that occurs after a merger or acquisition. Less often they write about the work of combining two cultures which is the cause of much of that lost value.
After reading the title of this post, most people are probably thinking of all of the places they worked where they were unhappy, and disagreeing with me. Our instinct is to label what we don’t like as bad and what we do like as good. But there is a more nuanced framework for evaluating your company culture that will lead to better decisions for your future. We believe there are two important questions to ask when reflecting on your workplace culture.
Company culture surrounds us every day when we go to work. For that reason it can be hard to define precisely. We have a sense of its importance to the way we operate at work, but we can’t point to any one thing and say “this is our company culture.” If we can’t define it, how can we manage it and fully understand its importance?