What’s the purpose of reviewing your company culture?
Does social media impact a company’s culture?
I answer these questions—and much more—in my Live Facebook Video. Check out the recorded video here, or read the transcript below (including bonus content!)
Topic: Company Culture FAQs
Recorded on Thursday, 07/26/18 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time
This is the second Facebook Live event I’m hosting on topics related to running and managing a service business. You can also check out Vision and Mission FAQs: Facebook Live #1.
In today’s session, we discuss a topic that can be especially difficult for owners who feel really connected to their customers or patients. If you’re looking for ways to find more balance in running your business, or in creating structure, that’s what you’ll find here.
Side Note About Foundational Staff
While I was recording the live session, a trash truck pulled up in front of my house. I explained my deep respect for people who do things that are not so pleasant, like waste management and trash disposal.
One of my past jobs was at a long-term care facility, and I grew up visiting nursing homes to see elderly residents for most of my childhood and adolescence. This allowed me to see different aspects of service areas that are not always easy to do… cleaning, disinfecting, delivering food, serving patients who may not feel happy to be there. In life, not everything we do is fun; but some tasks, even though uncomfortable, are necessary for us to achieve the outcomes we want.
I have a deep respect for everyone who performs cleaning, direct service, maintenance, or food preparation for people. These jobs require a lot of physical effort. And although these tasks are incredibly important in our society, the people who do them don’t often get the respect they deserve. They do work that is unpleasant, but it needs to be done. So “Thank you, Mr. or Ms. Trash Handler!”
This subject does tie into Company Culture. One of the concepts I’ve developed in my strategic risk philosophies has to do with Foundational Staff. As I mentioned, I’ve worked in long-term care, in hospitals, software companies, and other healthcare service and medical groups. One thing I noticed was that people who worked in roles at the bottom of the organization had, in my opinion, the best ideas. The best solutions. And they really did the most critical work that the company needed to succeed.
I eventually worked my way into management roles as a Director and worked on executive teams, and now I consul with executives. But I’ve also worked at the bottom level of organizations—as a dishwasher, a secretary, a food server, patient care associate, and housekeeper. I did these roles myself, I’ve managed them, and then I moved to a level where I didn’t have much to do with day-to-day activities of Foundational Staff roles.
There’s a change in thinking that happens when you get to that top level. It can be hard to see when you’re going through it, but the change is obvious to everyone else. When you focus on long-term strategic decisions but forget to involve the people who really make a difference in your organization: what they’re thinking, how they see the world. Unfortunately, their perspective doesn’t feel as relevant once we get into top levels of leadership.
So I observed this and eventually got lured into a mindset of making big decisions without listening to anyone below our top leadership level. I later realized how foolish that is.
It’s foolish to not give credit to those who do the work that keeps the organization going.
I call individuals who are the “glue” that holds everyone else together Foundational Staff. You can find out more about the 4 types here.
As we transition into today’s topic, I want to say that culture is a manifestation of what the company owners believe. It’s the reflection of how the owner sees the world.
So if you have very strong beliefs and expectations, and a philosophy of how things “should be,” this will reflect in the way you do business, in your behavior, in the way you set up policies and procedures (and expect things to happen). It will come out in how you celebrate events, how you treat people, and how you manage employees, and how you relate to your customers.
Culture is the surrounding and spirit of how your company works, and it reflects your deep beliefs as a business owner.
Frequently Asked Questions about Developing a Company Culture
I’ll be answering questions that were sent to me, or based on discussions with owners. Thanks to everyone who has contributed a question related to this topic.
1. Could you explain what “company culture” is and what it includes?
Culture is a defined, clear, spelled-out expectations as a business owner (whether or not you’re consciously aware of it) including:
- Behavior (how everyone should act)
- Words (what you say or don’t say)
- Symbols (that may connect, or how you relate to the people you serve)
- Habits (tasks you do in the cycle of your business)
- Values (You don’t hire someone to join your company unless they agree with your core beliefs and values; and if you hire people who don’t have those values, you’ll find out very quickly that they do not fit well in your organization.)
- Beliefs (ideals and strongly held ideas about right and wrong).
Culture is both defined and unspoken expectations about what is acceptable, and also about what is not acceptable in your company. It’s a set of activities and behaviors that you have decided are needed for your organization to succeed.
It impacts an organization’s:
- Work environment
This could be an encouraging, team-based environment that allows people to collaborate, or it could be one that creates friction, fighting, and competition. Depending on your personality type and how you design the work environment, you will reward behavior that you believe is helpful and—possibly subconsciously—penalizing behavior that doesn’t align with your personality and temperament. Company culture is based on your understanding of the world and how you believe people should act.
- Vision and mission
Whatever you decide is the ultimate future goal for your business (Vision), who you serve and how you do it (Mission) will reflect in the way your culture feels to others.
- Ethical practices
I know several business owners who are very hard workers, and have strong moral values… but they bend a lot of rules. This can border on unethical or even illegal activities. A few times, they were called out and even investigated for fraud.
This can happen even to people who are extremely honest. So it’s important to determine what that line is that you will not cross. Because when you’re faced with financial pressure, or other problems, it can be really tempting to cross the line. Decide beforehand “This is as far as we go; no one in our organization is going to do [this].”
Your ethical practices have a huge impact on the culture in your company.
If you are extremely focused on reaching goals, staying up late, putting in 80-hour weeks, then your culture will be very driven and goal-focused as well.
If your ultimate objectives are to build relationship and flex with the needs of your customers, and you encourage behavior that is accommodating and open-minded, then the culture will be more relaxed. So you can see how a culture can be very different depending on your personality.
- Performance standards
How do you measure whether someone is achieving the objectives of their role in the organization?
Do you reward people who reach a certain level of achievement, or do you punish people who fall below that level?
The system you use to define the behavior everyone should use, and the goals they should reach, will have an effect on the culture of your company.
I continue with part 2 in this Company Culture series. Find it here.
Or read more about this topic:
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.