As your business moves from being a small start-up to an SME with double or even triple digit employees, you’ve probably nailed the ‘what’ you do and your focus may now begin to shift to the ‘how’ it’s done.
A lone business owner / director will probably have had full control on both the what and the how for some time but as the business grows and more and varying personalities are added to the mix it might feel that you have less grip on how your teams are fulfilling business requirements.
Establishing a company culture may sound like a very broad statement but in most cases it’s something that already exists and just needs nurturing. There may be some scenarios however where you feel you need to redefine the culture and behaviours of your employees to ensure that the direction your business is taking is in line with the overall business vision.
What is company culture?
All companies whether small or large have a culture of sorts. It is reflected in the way individuals behave at work whether consciously or un-consciously. It affects the way in which the business operates, recruits and retains employees, but will also impact the image that is portrayed externally.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) neatly summarises an organisation’s culture as something that “affects every aspect of how the organisation operates and how work gets done”.
Why do you need to think about your company culture?
As we’ve just said, it affects everything that you do. You may not see it directly impacting the bottom line but if you look closely you will see how your employees’ behaviours or your company procedures affect your profitability or the quality of what you do or produce.
You may have never even considered what your company culture is, but if you feel like there are some repeated performance niggles or that your overall output has plateaued, you might want to take the time to question whether the way you do things has changed or if it hasn’t, does it need to change for the business to move on?
How to develop your company culture
There is no one size fits all approach, as the nature of culture is individual to each organisation, however it’s worth considering these pointers:
- Plan Ahead – Whether you’re happy with your existing culture or want to make changes, there must be a reason for beginning to look more closely at it, and more often than not it’s about where you want the business to be in the coming years. Define a business plan and then consider what behaviours and outputs you need from your employees to see this plan come to fruition.
- Focus – If you want to see changes happen it’s worth having someone take responsibility for culture in the company. Although it’s not a one-person job, having someone who ensures it’s on the agenda at your quarterly meetings or someone who regularly monitors what is going on in the business and where changes need to be made, is a worthwhile investment.
- Leadership – Although culture runs throughout the business, it is shaped by the leadership team so make sure that whatever principles you want your employees to work to, are being reflected by your senior management team, whether that’s teamwork, transparency or customer service. Make sure to take a do as we do, rather than a do as we say approach!
- Communication – It always comes up in HR one way or another! But it’s really important when you’re looking for people to buy into something that they understand what and why. Ensure that any values that are key to your business are made clear to everyone within your organisation and reflected externally to your stakeholders. It’s worth considering linking benefits and rewards to the realisation of these values to emphasise how intrinsic they are to your organisation.
- Flexibility – Understand that you may not always get it bang on every time. You may nurture an inherent culture but you may still have to adopt variations to your ‘usual way of working’ for certain projects or pieces of work. In a way, try not to let the culture define what your business is but do make sure what you want your business to be is generally reflected in your day to day working practices.
If you want to look at defining your company culture in more detail, we can assist you with ideas and approaches on how best to do this. Contact us on 0203 319 1649 to chat to one of our consultants or use our contact form and someone will be in touch.