Written by Heidi Wadsworth | 17th August 2021

You might think about culture as your business’ personality or “the way you do things”. It’s what makes your business unique, your values, interactions, behaviours and attitudes.

Being able to describe it is important because it can influence how you make crucial decisions, how management lead your employees and affect who you hire.

As your company grows and evolves, your culture will likely change with it. Even so, it’s important to have a sense of what your culture is and what you want it to be like.

What is good company culture?

A good company culture attracts talent, drives employee happiness and engagement, encourages better productivity and in the end, leads to better company performance. It’s no surprise then that culture is more important than salary for 57% of UK workers, according to research by Glassdoor.

To determine the type of positive culture you want, you might consider the following elements:

Start with your values

In order to properly define your culture, you need to have clear values that are lived and breathed by your employees.

They are essentially the most important things to you about the way that you work – for instance delivering quality service or teamwork. These values help you make important business decisions and they also set the tone for your company’s culture, identifying what your organisation, as a whole, cares about. It’s crucial that your people’s values align with these too.

Your people

Don’t forget that your company culture isn’t only about the mission and values. It’s how these are expressed day to day in your employees’ behaviours and attitudes.

Think about how they interact with one another and how they like to work. Do your employees work well with each other? Do they even know what your company values are?

Don’t assume the answers to these questions and therefore treat everyone the same. As each person’s behaviour and attitudes will be different, you must communicate with individuals to find out their view and interpretation.

During the pandemic, spending less time socialising and collaborating as a team may have had a negative effect on your staff’s drive and work ethic, and also on company culture. If you want a culture focused on strong relationships, collaboration and teamwork you’ll need to keep up the opportunities to engage with staff individually and get everyone together as a team, often, wherever they are working.

Your ways of working

The long period of working during the lockdowns was inevitably a massive change for many businesses and it could also have changed employees’ connection to your organisation’s culture. It’s therefore important to look at how you are working now and in the future.

Hybrid working could leave you with a real mix of employees – some in the office, some at home and others working remotely elsewhere. This means some team members will work together and see each other daily, while other employees will be mostly alone which could potentially cause rifts in the team dynamic.

To avoid this, focus on a culture of autonomy and flexibility – giving the freedom for employees to fit work around the rest of their lives, which then can have a positive impact on engagement. We’ve also seen that flexibility can help to avoid burnout, turnover and support employee mental health and wellbeing.

How you communicate

Internal communication impacts an employee’s ability to work, their feelings about the company, and their work relationships. In other words, how employees and management communicate with each other influences your workplace culture.

Regular 1 to 1 conversations for each team member provides a fantastic opportunity for 2-way communication between line manager and employees, building relationships and trust. Regular team catch ups, meetings and/or social events allow people to get to know each other informally as well as in their work roles, which can help build that important feeling of belonging.

If workers don’t have good lines of communication with each other and management, and don’t feel like they’re being heard, they may not be as committed or loyal to the company. An open culture can’t exist if there is lack of trust between employees and managers.

Management and leadership

As we’ve mentioned above, how managers communicate can directly affect company culture, but let’s not forget their leadership style too.

If you want a culture focused on growth and achievement, are managers motivating and encouraging employees? Are they interested in their learning and development? Do managers trust employees and give them responsibility (not micro-managing)?

Managers can strengthen your business culture by ensuring that their actions line up with your business values. They also need to be setting a good example for their teams to encourage the adoption of the culture.

External factors

Remember, it’s not just factors within your business that define your company culture.

We’ve seen how the pandemic has had a profound impact on company culture, changing the way many businesses operate, how employees work and the size of teams. You can read about the effects of the pandemic on culture in our blog.

But other factors such as Brexit, which is likely to continue having a dramatic impact on the business environment for years to come, enforce change. Change can be hard, and people often resist it. And although culture change has to be driven by leaders, everyone needs to live and breathe it.

Rather than worrying about things out of your control (like Brexit) you can set your business up for success by creating a culture which is able to adapt to whatever happens next – the unexpected!

Once you’ve defined where your company culture is and where you want it to be, you can start developing policies and practices that are in line with your target culture. Read our blog about creating and maintaining company culture.

Keep in mind that culture is always a work in progress, it can and probably will change. Visit our Refocus page for the latest blogs and guidance.

If you’d like to chat to one of our team about your company culture, or any other HR concern, contact [email protected].