A company culture is typically defined as an organizational set of shared ideas, values, beliefs and behaviors within an organization. A work culture influences people in both big and small ways — everything from clothing choices to meeting styles to the systems for getting work done.
While this definition seems fairly straightforward, it’s recently taken on more complex understandings and practicalities in work spaces. Now, offices must consider all aspects of human thinking and creative needs, designing and building out spaces and offering benefits best suited for churning out innovative ideas and behaviors.
This new perception of work culture now factors into how we see a company’s success (no matter how much money you’re making your investors, if you’re employees are miserable, it’s just bad business) and its outside appeal. Some companies like Zappos, Google and REI draw new recruits in just based off of their famed cultures. And studies have shown that flexible work cultures and ones that value further development of their employees’ talents are especially appealing to Millennials. But while we’re all familiar with free lunches, in-office yoga and “unlimited” vacation time, what’s really at the base of a company culture that will make it strong?
Turns out, for a company culture to have the most chance of success, it doesn’t really matter what perks you’re offering. What really determines whether a culture will thrive is how well it’s defined. If everyone feels they’re operating under different, or even competing goals, it can cause conflict and distort expectations. In fact, having a strong company culture is so important, that according to Fast Company, even having a negative company culture can be better than having no company culture at all; at the very least, it provides employees with a structure, and set of values and expectations from which to operate. We’re certainly not advocating for a toxic work culture for anyone, but the fact is, even knowing what you’re working against can help you make something better.
And while there is proof that positive work cultures make people more productive, what employees really want is a sense of consistency and the ability to be part of a work community, where they can contribute to ideas and solutions. In fact, a little push can be just what a business needs. A little candor on everyone’s part, and even some healthy conflict, can start a conversation, get people actively thinking, talking and ruminating on ideas.
So, if your culture isn’t clearly defined, maybe it’s time to sit down and recap your essential principles and define it. Or better yet, invite your team to contribute. By including their input, you may be taking the first step to fostering the strong, community-oriented culture that draws people in and keeps them engaged.