What Is Company Culture?

Breaking down the elements and importance of a winning company culture
September 4, 2019
Updated: September 6, 2019
Written by Kate Heinz

Company culture is at the epicenter of effective recruiting, and for good reason. Winning corporate cultures have been linked to high retention rates and increased employee engagement. If you want to attract top talent, you have to create an environment that not only excites but engages elite candidates. 

How, you ask? Great question. Before we dive in, let’s get down to the basics, starting with the definition of company culture.

 

Table of Contents

 

What Is Company Culture?

 

Company Culture Definition

Company culture is defined as a set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize an organization.

 

Any given corporate culture from the smallest of startups to global enterprises that top Fortune 500 charts encapsulates the way employees feel about the work they do, the people they do it with and the collective steps they’re taking to push that work further. 

Company culture is influenced by a series of intangible elements a company’s mission statement, core values, beliefs and attitudes and reflected in a variety of physical factors, such as work environment, employee benefits, charitable and social events and even business hours. 

Given that one third of the average American’s life is spent at work, it stands to reason that individuals care about where and with whom they spend that time. 

According to a 2019 Glassdoor global survey, 77% of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying to an open position, and 56% prioritize company culture over salary. 

Before you run off to update your job descriptions with a synopsis of your company culture, keep in mind that your office culture must accurately reflect your organization and employees. Building a solid perks bundle might attract some notable candidates, but a deceptive job posting and description of your company culture certainly won’t keep them for very long.

 

 

Elements of Company Culture

A winning or strong company culture is one based on a meaningful and productive set of core values, beliefs, attitudes and ideas. Together, these elements create an environment that helps employees identify and live out their professional purpose. 

 

Elements of Strong Company Culture

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Because company culture is a priority among modern job seekers, Glassdoor Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain urges organizations to “prioritize building strong company culture and value systems” in order to improve recruitment efforts and retention rates.

Remember, a winning company culture is built around a set of values and a central mission that the company believes in and adheres to. Below are a few key tenets of a strong company culture. Keep in mind that your list may look different depending on your organization’s values and goals.

Inclusivity. From C-level executives to your newest hire, every employee should be made to feel valued and important, both in and out of the office. More than that, your company culture should prioritize and celebrate your employees’ diversity

Passion. Do work that you love and hire people who love the work you do. Putting passion at the heart of your organization’s professional pursuits creates a company culture that motivates and encourages employees to perform at peak levels.

Professional development opportunities. Providing employees with opportunities to further hone their skills signals to job seekers that your company culture not only values its individuals, but cares about them enough to build up their strengths. You’re not just paying a salary, you’re investing in your employees.

“At PEAK6, one of our core values is, ‘approach every day with curiosity.’ We are helping our employees live our core values by giving them opportunities to learn and grow.” – Judi Hart, Chief People Officer at PEAK6

Transparency. No one likes feeling like they’re being left out of the loop, especially employees. If there’s an urgent business matter that directly impacts your employees, bring them into the fold as soon as you are able. Sitting on something for too long will foster a community of distrust.

Communication. Creating a culture of open communication within the office encourages individuals to speak up when they’re unsatisfied, which gives leadership the opportunity to address concerns rather than force the company to scramble and replace employees. An “open desk policy” demonstrates that employee opinions are valued.

 

Indicators of a Weak Company Culture 

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The best litmus test of your company culture is to survey your employees. For as many people as you ask, you’ll likely have as many different answers on what company culture means to them. However, you should be able to discern a few commonalities that will indicate dissatisfaction and areas to improve upon. 

“Not being intentional about culture creates a breeding ground for toxic behaviors and bad habits that become hard to break. Culture is essential to a happy team and a strong product. Why not make sure you do it right the first time?” – Shannon McDonnell, Director of Operations at Yaro

Here are three indicators of a weak company culture that don’t require an employee survey.

You prioritize perks. Though we love them, perks don’t constitute company culture. Rather, they should be seen as a byproduct of the culture you’ve intentionally worked to create. 

Blackbaud, a nonprofit cloud-based software provider, is a strong example of how company culture should dictate employee perks. Because philanthropy is an integral component of its company culture, Blackbaud offers employees time off to volunteer and a company match for charitable giving. 

You still follow the “cultural fit” model. Gone are the days of seeking out employees who neatly fit into your existing company culture. Now, recruiters are more concerned with hiring “cultural adds” individuals who not only share in the company’s values and mission, but enhance the overall employee experience. 

Chances are, if you’re waiting for that perfect fit to come along, you’ll leave vital roles open for too long and pass on some remarkable candidates. However, it’s important to keep in mind that an individual whose values don’t align with those of your company will likely be unhappy and seek alternative employment.

Your efforts dropped off after drafting a list of core values. Outlining your company’s core values is simply the first step toward creating a winning company culture. The majority of your legwork should be dedicated to implementing and adhering to your values. Employees need to know they can count on the company if leadership promises a company culture centered on professional development and doesn’t deliver, employees will begin to distrust management.

 

Why Company Culture Matters – Quick Facts

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90% of employees at strong company cultures report having confidence in leadership (source). If employees believe in the C-suite, they likely believe in the leadership’s ability to take the company further. That’s worth sticking around for.

78% of candidates say the overall candidate experience is a solid indicator of how a company values its employees (source). Your company culture isn’t something you can hide; interviewees will be able to get a feel for your office culture immediately. To ensure you hire the right and best people for the job, create a company culture that attracts and excites your ideal candidate.

74% of HR representatives say a company’s reputation is a crucial part of an effective recruitment process (source). Today’s job seekers are doing their due diligence, and with platforms like Glassdoor and Comparably promoting transparency, recruiters should assume that every candidate has a basic understanding of the company culture and will judge accordingly. 

71% of employees on a global scale say they would look elsewhere if their company culture began to decline (source). A strong company culture gets highly-qualified candidates in the door; maintaining and enhancing the office culture retains top employees. 

A strong company culture is not made overnight, and you can’t slap a bow on a list of core values and call it a day. Take time to think about what matters most to your company, both in the sense of what’s valued today and what you envision down the road. By understanding your mission and aligning on your vision, you’ll be better able to attract elite candidates who share your passion.

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