In its most basic sense, corporate culture (or office culture) alludes to how employees in a company interact with the world inside and outside the office walls. Corporate culture is generally left out of the rulebooks; rather it is implied and drawn from the characteristics of its employees. Superficial elements like dress codes and office setups are just the tip of the iceberg. The better part of corporate culture is reflected in the business values and mission of the company
Why it matters
Corporate culture plays a huge factor into how well a company runs and what sort of clients it attracts. A company will only attract employees whose value match that of the corporate culture and the same goes for clients.
Different types of cultures
Although the term “corporate culture” only emerged in the early 90s, the concept of it dates as far back to the inception of offices. In its short lifespan, Bangladesh has seen two major types of office culture: the relaxed government office and the fast paced environment in the private sector. Recently however, we have also witnessed the emergence of an employee-friendly corporate culture, mostly in start-ups inspired by Silicon Valley. These trends turn away from the individualistic and hierarchical corporate structure that we can see in large private corporations.
To find an example of a contemporary corporate culture we have to look beyond the borders of our country to the United States. Since the tech boom, companies like Apple, Google and Netflix have demonstrated that high rates of growth and an employee - friendly corporate culture can coexist. Instead of pitting employees starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder with entry level jobs against each other, these tech behemoths do away with borders, literally and metaphorically. Hierarchical leaderships, closed cubicles and corporate bureaucracy are done way with to encourage innovation and efficiency. The casual corporate culture of late has found its way into large financial corporations who, along with law firms, have been the most resistant to change in corporate culture. An obvious indicator is JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s change in dress code from business formal to business casual. This should make it easier for them to sit eye-to-eye with clients, most of whom dress business casual anyway, and to attract young millennials.
Components of a positive culture
To create and cultivate an efficient workplace culture, first and foremost the company needs to decide what kind of company it wants to become. Harvard Business Review, suggests six parts towards building a successful corporate culture
A vision (or lack thereof) can make or break a company. Often, a vision is represented by a mission statement or vision statement which gives the company and, in turn, its employees a purpose. If given enough significance, this vision will determine what employees work towards. Mission statements can be short and succinct like “Undisputed Marketplace Leadership” by The Hershey Company or otherwise, like “UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” by United World Colleges. Regardless of how long or how short the mission statement is, the vision of the company should exist in the heart of every employee to ensure that they are working towards achieving something they believe in.
Where a vision points in the direction a company should go, its values guides it towards that goal. A company’s values sets out guidelines for employees on how to interact with each other and clients. While companies will have a diverse range of “visions”, the values of successful companies are, for the most part, alike. Values normally revolve around key topics like professionalism, morals and client relationships.
This goes hand in hand with the previous part. No matter how long a list of values a company promises to abide by, they are useless until they come into practice and are reflected in employees’ practices. As a business owner it is up to you, eventually, to make sure that your business values are practised religiously.\
This, again, links back to the previous point about practices. After all, who will be practising the company values? The employees. And what is better than trying to tirelessly drill your values into an employee? Hiring an employee who is a cultural match! It will be impossibly easier to build a successful company if the people working with you believe in the same future and the same core values as the company.
Every successful person seems to have a story. Right? Steve Jobs. Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi. The truth is, everyone has a story but it is how you connect with your unique story with your core values that can help you succeed. The connection to office culture here is that a company’s employees should also look back at the company history and connect that with the company’s vision and values. As a business owner, make this a part of your company, as an identity to unify your employees.
Silicon Valley is known for its offices with open plans and green environment. While that might have a lot to do with cost saving and sustainability, the real reason behind that is to break down borders (literally) and encourage informal interaction between employees. Even in a non-tech environment, an open environment means more interaction (between colleagues of similar cultural mindsets) and less people watching NSFW videos. The end result here? Increased productivity.
Whether you are a fresh graduate wondering what the hell your seniors were ranting about or you are an entrepreneur looking to build the next Google, you should now know the ropes around corporate culture. That’s one thing off your “to learn” list.