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Company culture: how to blow your own trumpet

Published Jan 22, 2024 – By Kasey Cwalina

At its core, company culture is the DNA of your organisation — the unique blend of values, behaviours and traditions that shapes how things get done. It's not just a set of rules; it's the living, breathing essence of your workplace. From the way teams collaborate to the unwritten norms guiding daily interactions, company culture is the intangible force that binds employees together. And while it might be intangible, it's certainly palpable, felt not only by those within the organisation — but also by outsiders.

Company culture is not just a buzzword. It’s a foundational element for long-term success and plays a critical role in shaping a company’s identity — and should be carefully developed, implemented, communicated and monitored. It’s by doing this that we’ve gained industry-wide recognition for our work on company culture and employer brand at the Employer Brand Management Awards. Ignoring or neglecting company culture can have far-reaching consequences, impacting talent attraction, employee engagement, employee performance and innovation, and overall organisational success.

Why is company culture so important?

In today’s candidate-driven market, company culture is often the deciding factor for candidates weighing their employment options.

Why?

While employers once held all the cards, skilled professionals are now spoilt for choice. Thanks to technological advancements, candidates have access to all kinds of jobs all over the world — and are choosing where they’d like to work (factoring in things like company culture, benefits, etc. in addition to compensation), rather than settling for a company with a lack of flexibility, toxic culture or values that don’t align with their own because it pays well.

In short, compensation is no longer enough. The cards are in candidates’ hands, which means they have the power to base their employment decisions on a range of factors.

While this may be intimidating for employers, it shouldn’t be. Cultivating a positive company culture may take a bit of work, but when you get it right, it benefits the entire organisation.

How does company culture impact organisational success?

First and foremost, company culture plays a pivotal role in talent attraction, as people are drawn to workplaces where they resonate with the shared values and feel a connection to the broader mission. It also improves employee retention and reduces turnover, as team members who identify with the organisation are more likely to stay for the long haul.

A strong culture can also foster a sense of belonging and purpose, causing team members to be more engaged, motivated, productive and fulfilled, strengthening their commitment and loyalty to the organisation and positively impacting financial returns. According to studies conducted by Great Place to Work and FTSE Russell, organisations with a positive culture outperform their counterparts. In fact, the 100 Best Companies to Work For have shown a cumulative return of 1,709% since 1998, compared to a 526% return for the Russell 3000 Index during the same period.

Identifying your company culture

Before you can reap the benefits of company culture, you need to make sure you understand your company’s culture — and if it’s not what it should be, make changes. You can start by asking the people who experience the culture every day — your employees.

Gather employee feedback

Conduct employee experience surveys or interviews to get their perspective on the workplace culture. Questions should focus on how they perceive the company's values, communication style, teamwork and overall atmosphere. By asking targeted questions, you can gauge the current cultural landscape and identify areas that may need attention or improvement.

Observe daily interactions

Pay attention to the day-to-day interactions and behaviours within your organisation. This includes how employees communicate, collaborate and handle challenges. These observations may shed light on cultural nuances that may not be captured through formal channels.

Review policies and procedures

Make sure to review your policies, procedures and practices as these may provide insight into whether the culture you intended to create aligns with the culture currently in practice. Remember, the real measure of your workplace lies in the experiences of your people, so look beyond cool perks. Policies related to flexible work hours, for example, show that your organisation values work-life balance. Their absence, however, communicates the opposite.

Revisit company values

Official documents, such as mission statements and value propositions, often articulate the core principles and beliefs your organisation seeks to uphold. You can review these statements to assess how your culture is being communicated to an external audience, and whether this is an accurate portrayal.

Communicating your cultural identity

Developing and maintaining a positive company culture is one thing; effectively communicating it is another. Here are strategies to ensure your message is loud and clear:

Take a top-down approach

The tone is set at the top, so make sure your leadership team embodies and champions your company culture. Their actions, decisions and communication styles should align with the values you want to promote — because when employees see leaders living the culture, it becomes a guiding light for everyone.

Internal communication is key

Open communication is the lifeline of a healthy company culture, so it’s important to regularly share updates, successes and challenges with your team. Creating forums for dialogue, such as town hall meetings where employees can ask questions and provide feedback, is one way to ensure employees feel heard. Make sure to adapt your communication strategies for those at home by leveraging virtual platforms and conducting virtual team-building activities — remember, remote employees should feel just as connected to the cultural heartbeat as those in the office.

With that said, moderation becomes increasingly important when it comes to internal comms. While consistently reinforcing the cultural values that make your workplace unique is, in theory, a good idea, it gets a bit trickier when digital platforms are involved. Sending generic or redundant information in bulk can generate messaging fatigue, appear inauthentic and will increase your company’s digital carbon footprint, so communication should have a clear purpose and target audience — especially within larger organisations.

Physical space as a cultural canvas

In the post-pandemic world, where hybrid and remote working are king, physical office spaces are a thing of the past for many people. Especially since they allow employees to work from the comfort of, well, anywhere they want.

However, while this autonomy and flexibility may work well in some companies, there are plenty of reasons why an employer might want to encourage a return to the office — as it presents increased opportunities for spontaneous interactions and creative collaboration, team building and socialisation, mentorship and training, problem solving and innovation.

For these reasons, many companies, including Google, Meta, Salesforce, Amazon and Disney, have started implementing return-to-office mandates to speed up the process. Even Zoom — the champion of remote working during the pandemic – is requiring employees who live within a 50-mile radius of an office to return two days a week. According to a report by Resume Builder, which surveyed 1,000 business leaders, 90% of companies plan to implement a return-to-office by the end of 2024.

Sending generic or redundant information in bulk can generate messaging fatigue, appear inauthentic and will increase your company’s digital carbon footprint, so communication should have a clear purpose and target audience — especially within larger organisations.

While returning to the office can have a positive impact on company culture, employers shouldn’t leave it to chance. So, how do you make this transition as smooth as possible? How do you create a space that reinforces your company culture? A space where people want to be?

The first step is understanding that your office space is not just a place to work.

Breakout areas, collaborative spaces, open floor plans and even meditation rooms are more than design choices — they are tools for expressing and reinforcing your company ethos.

According to the Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report, over 87% of employees want healthier workplaces. And in the tech industry, 93% of workers said they would stay longer at a company with healthier workspace benefits like wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stand desks, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating.

These spaces speak volumes about your commitment to employee well-being, collaboration, transparency and a balanced work-life dynamic. And yes, employees will notice. In Staples’ latest research report, it found that 68% of respondents would feel more valued at work if their organisation invested in their workspaces.

Go public

Once you’ve nailed down your company culture and have shared it internally, it’s time to go public. Use digital platforms, like your company website and social media channels, to share stories, photos and videos that showcase your work environment and the experiences of your employees. Other options include press releases, media interviews, articles, and blog posts.

You can also leverage brand ambassadors — employees who authentically embody and represent your company culture. By identifying passionate employees and empowering them to share their experiences externally, you can create a more human and relatable narrative, like we did in our employer brand campaign for international events, research and digital services business, Informa. Our work involved creating the ‘Life@Informa’ microsite — which tells the company’s story through curated video interviews with colleagues in various global locations, such as Dubai, New York and Singapore. Participants were nominated by senior management for their passion for and experiences within the company. In the videos, they speak about their life at Informa, using storytelling as a tool to effectively communicate the company’s culture and values in an engaging, memorable way.

To find out how we can support with your company culture, email us at hello@wardour.co.uk.

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