You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It starts at the top.” Never is that more true than when it comes to company culture. Company culture, also called corporate culture, matters to your employees and your customers.
Company culture is more than your mission statement or origin story. Your company culture defines who you are as a company – it takes all of your values, beliefs and actions (or inaction) and wraps them up in one big shiny package. From your marketing campaign to the minutiae of running your business, everything you do, and every decision you make helps define your company culture for your employees and your customers.
Company culture matters to current employees and prospective employees. Is your company culture one of intensity and 80 hour work weeks? Is it one where as long as the work gets done at high standards, your creative team can dress like they want and bring their dog to work? A culture where an employee or a prospective employee feels that they fit in with the company culture is one where those employees will work harder, stay longer with the company and interact better with their coworkers.
You as a CEO or business owner set the tone for your company culture. Call it your style, or your way of doing things, but you have the power to improve company culture by valuing your employees, and leading with honesty and integrity.
Your company culture affects your customer’s perception of your brand. People like to do business with socially responsible companies, for example, or companies that fit in with their own values. On the flip side, if your company culture revolves around values a potential customer disagrees with, they will choose another company to work with. Some of these displays of company culture end up playing out in the media, for all to watch.
Recent examples of this would include how Starbucks handled the incident in a Philadelphia area store where a manager called police on two black men who wanted to use the bathroom while they waited for a business associate to show up. Not only did the company CEO apologize, but closed all 8000 company owned stores to hold “racial bias” training. Many industry analysts praised the move, while many people said it did not go far enough. But bottom line, Starbucks showed that its company culture does not allow for racial bias.
In addition, Starbucks made a confidential financial settlement with the two men who were arrested, and will provide them with free tuition at Arizona State University. The ASU college program is the same one Starbucks provides for its employees who work more than 20 hours a week.
Before the CEO’s announcement, many people were calling for a boycott of Starbucks, and holding protests around the nation. Today, Starbucks has positive brand recognition and its stock is routinely mentioned as a good investment.
Another very well-known company culture incident, or series of incidents, would be the Hollywood culture of sexual harassment, brought to light by the accusations against producer Harvey Weinstein. Those original accusations soon led to the “#MeToo” movement, which has seen the downfall of powerful men across industry, politics and sports.
The Hollywood culture of sexual harassment has been around for years. It was accepted practice because the CEOs at the top of the various companies did nothing to stop it, and allowed it to continue. It was only when the women of Hollywood stood up and banded together that the culture started to change. New policies are being put in place and companies are being held accountable.
Hollywood has a black eye, but as companies move to change the company culture, they will be able to hire the big name stars and improve their brand.
There is always room for improvement in your company culture. You may be doing all of these things already, but look for ways to get better, and remember, you lead by example.
Putting time and effort into developing an excellent company culture helps you attract and retain the best employees and puts your brand in a positive light with customers. It’s a win-win.
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