What is corporate culture and why does it matter?

This blog post originally ran on the Greater Memphis Chamber website. View the original post here

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring a topic that is important for businesses of all shapes and sizes – nurturing a positive corporate culture. Creating a culture that makes sense for your business can be difficult, and maintaining it can be even harder. But, if your business operates responsibly, ethically and locally, then you’re already halfway there.

So, what is corporate culture?

According to Inc magazine, “corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.”

Essentially, corporate culture is how your employees connect with your business, its purpose and its customers. If done correctly, your corporate culture and company goals will be intertwined, with the two feeding into each other.

Your company’s culture is most apparent in events and office practices. Do you take employees out to lunch for their birthday, or celebrate spring with a field day? Those events are elements of your corporate culture. Less tangibly, the policies you create to foster a positive work environment are also part of your corporate culture. Allowing employees to take time away from the office for service projects, emphasizing professional development, wellness programs, and even employee benefits are key components in your corporate culture.

Why should I care?

Your corporate culture immediately impacts your most valuable asset – your employees. Without your staff, your organization would be a shell of what it is today. Investment in the wellbeing of your employees, both personally and professionally, will reap great rewards in the form of high-quality work and increased productivity.

Additionally, community engagement makes you memorable. A prospect may not recognize the billboard you paid $5,000 for, but they will likely remember when you donated $100 gift cards to the charity function that supported their local school. Businesses that are engaged with the community and invest in making their city a great place to live and work stand out among the crowd.

And finally, your internal team is your largest public mouthpiece. A huge portion of any public relations campaign should be focused on understanding and adjusting how your employees think about you. Why? Because how your staff talks about your business is equally as, if not more, valuable than any media story or social media post. Word of mouth and the opinion of one’s peers is much more persuasive than an advertisement, so you’re fighting a losing battle if your employees are negatively vocal about you.

That sounds great, but where do I start?

First, know that corporate culture looks different for every company. Small nonprofits can’t have massive block parties, but they can allow their team to pursue personal philanthropic endeavors. Create policies that work for you and your team instead of trying to replicate what other companies do.

Involve your entire team in the development process. Just as corporate culture looks different for every company, employee desires vary as well. Gather input from your team on what matters to them and what they’d like to see from you. This demonstrates your ability to listen, desire to learn and can greatly impact the way your employees perceive you. Then, take the information you collect and create policies that make sense for your organization and align with the needs of your employees.

Finally, build off of what naturally is in place. You likely already have culture policies in place that you didn’t realize were there. Take what you’ve already created and expand upon it. Make sure your employees are aware of policies and clearly articulate why these policies are in place.

Wait! I need more help!

Don’t worry! Creating corporate culture takes patience and practice. Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss corporate social responsibility and employee policies that create rapport. So, you’ll have actionable items to take back and apply to your business.