Company Culture: A Case Study
According to Indeed.com, corporate culture is defined as, “….an organization’s values, ethics, vision, behaviors and work environment. It is what makes each company unique, and it impacts everything from public image to employee engagement and retention.”
While this concept is not new, it was recognized around 2015 as shifting from an organic, naturally occurring aspect to a now purposefully created and cultivated component.
Influences & Impact
The influencers of company culture can be, but not limited to, values, behaviors, attitudes, motivators, national cultures and traditions, economic and industry trends, company size, and products. Much like individuals, these components craft unique personalities for each business.
The impact company culture has on the success of an organization is quantifiable. An abundance of research has shown that positivity and happiness absolutely benefit a business.
“Not only does a positive workplace culture help attract and retain employees, but it also has a direct impact on a company’s success. Research shows that employees who love their jobs are more productive and invested in the company’s success,” comments Rebekah Harney, Partner/Chief Business Development Officer at LBMC.
Additional advantages are employee retention, better hiring choices, higher performance quality, employee pride and value, and a favorable company reputation.
The most important workplace culture commonalities found in successful companies often boil down to nuances of the following core items:
- Communication. Open, two-way communications within all levels of the organization keeps negative feelings from festering and conflicts from remaining unresolved. Honest, clear, and courteous discussion advances growth, trust, and value. This includes recognition for individual and company wins.
- Opportunities for Growth. Companies that invest in their employees via development and training, plus the opportunity for professional and financial advancement, tend to remain with a company longer. People desire to feel they are bettering themselves and progressing in their profession.
- A Clear Vision and Mission. It is imperative that every employee understands why their organization exists and what it hopes to achieve. Providing inspiration and understanding in this overarching statement drives purpose and responsibilities from the company level all the way through to individuals.
- Leadership. The best companies don’t just say they value their employees; they show it. This is initiated from the top down by leadership. Strong leaders empower and listen to their employees. They create community cultures through qualities such as concern, care, trustworthiness, appreciation, communication, operational excellence, encouragement, and inspiration.
- Teamwork. A culture of collaboration promotes more efficient task completion and boosts performance and morale. As every individual in an organization is moving towards the same goal; championing unity and camaraderie should be encouraged. Through good communication, team outings, and off-sites, many genuine friendships are forged and help to reinforce positive team and company experiences.
- Good Values – In addition to a Missions Statement, every company also needs a Values Statement stating its core values, professional standards, and behavioral mindsets. This serves as a code of conduct for the company to achieve its goals and should be woven into every activity, decision, and interaction. Values often given high importance include respect, trust, equity, innovation, collaboration, accountability, recognition, integrity, and communication.
Company cultures are continually evolving and a work in progress since social/cultural norms change, companies grow or downsize, products/services ebb and flow, and the economy shifts. To achieve the six components above, sometimes it’s necessary to throw the whole pot of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. It also helps to be flexible enough to pivot often, if necessary.
A Feedback Foundation
The most successful way to gauge your company’s culture is by creating a trusted feedback foundation. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by fostering an open, communicative atmosphere through consistent meetings, performance reviews, open-door policies, and conversations, an environment of honesty and good health will develop. These discussions and feedback requests make employees feel heard and part of the improvement process.
An incredibly useful format for gathering employee thoughts and feedback is the employee survey. Different types of surveys – anonymous, multiple choice, open-answer – provide different results and have a variety of specific purposes. Ultimately, an anonymous, open-answer version provides the most genuine answers.
How a company decides to use the information it receives back is up to them, but it is good to remember that when it comes to negative feedback, consider it an opportunity for change. And responses of any kind shows that employees are invested in their work and the company. However, no negative feedback whatsoever is cause for concern. This implies employees do not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and/or are feeling detached from the organization.
Stratis – A Real World Example
Recently, Stratis Industries, a small, growing manufacturing company situated in rural Wisconsin, polled their employees on a variety of topics, including the six components above. The survey was open-answer and anonymous.
When working with any number of people and personalities, it isn’t always possible to please everyone, but the returned results showed strong, positive themes across the core categories and an encouraging level of trust and feedback that allowed employees to be very honest in their responses. These employees care about their jobs and their company.
Stratis takes the health of their corporate culture very seriously, hence the survey. This information will allow them to continue to promote the positives and look at any constructive criticism as improvement opportunities.
Stratis Survey Says
A sampling of the feedback:
The company’s communication style garnered words and phrases like:
- “Good and fair”
- “Direct and easy-to-understand”
- “All over”
- “A little broken”
- “Dynamic and persuasive”
- “Communication is usually assertive and clear. We do struggle with email communication and people returning emails. I think it is getting better though.”
On Growth & Opportunities
- “Best of any company I have worked at so far. My manager as well as the General Manager took immediate interest in my training. Both personal and professional.”
- “There seems to be a lot of opportunities to people who want to learn”
- “You can grow however you need to take initiative and ask”
- “Opportunities are present, but not always obvious”
- “There are many potential career opportunities”
- “One-on-one training; hands-on”
- “Training is not the best. I feel all the leads need to be up-to-date and trained better before being thrown to the wolves.”
Words used to describe leadership strengths:
- “Situation awareness”
- “Easily relatable”
- “[They] know when you need someone to talk to”
- “I don’t really see leadership too often”
- “The owners genuinely care for their employees”
- “When we are working as a team, you can see the difference. Projects go smoother, everyone feels a bit more energized, we break company records for shipping goals, and there is a certain sense of community at the end of the day. We are all a bit tired at the end of the month, however everyone has a smile on their face.”
- “I've noticed that everyone seems to work well together and if help is needed somewhere someone will pitch in”
- “This is changing for the good”
- “It is essential, and it is very glaring when it does not happen.”
- “Vital. With the rate we are expected to grow we need to have overlap in people’s abilities while maintaining a healthy workflow.”
- “There are many steps from an order to getting it out the door. Each person has a role in that happening and doing it as a team and with a good attitude is very important.”
On Good Values
Words and phrases pertaining to the good values within the company:
- “Respecting each other”
- “Straight forward – no B.S.”
- “Helping everyone”
- “Appreciation: team lunches, pats on the back, personal acknowledgements”
- “I'm fairly new but am enjoying the work and comradery already”
- “People should be encouraged to do better and have a good time at work”
On a Clear Vision & Mission
- “Making a great product”
- “Quality products”
- “Seeing the end product and happy customers”
- “Producing and selling a product made in our local community”
- “The nice stuff going out the door.”
- “Admiration of products, and some sense of accomplishments”
Other Comments on Pride, Accomplishment, and Enjoyment
- “I'm detail-oriented, do precise work, do my best to prevent mistakes and increase productivity. [I’m proud of] getting an order out the door in-time or early.”
- “[I’m proud of] becoming a lead, helping everyone learn and advance in their roles”
- “Engineering Grand Slam: I really put my heart and soul into the project. It made me very happy that the project was error-free. This took a load off the Production Team.…the customer was very satisfied with the project.”
- “I like that I feel important and needed”
- “Cool peeps here”
- “[I enjoy] operating the CNC machine; everyday challenges grow my skills and knowledge”
- “I do enjoy working for Stratis and love my job. I do however wish there were more recognition for people….and less chaos.”
- “[I enjoy] problem-solving with successful results.”
- “[I enjoy] learning new things, seeing what our capabilities are and the end-product going out the door.”
- “I think this is a great place to work”
- “I just appreciate the small company, caring ownership, and management. They are looking to get the job done and looking for growth but always care about you and how you are doing, feeling, etc.”
- “I am very happy I found this place!”
All this information is a golden opportunity for Stratis to take their company to the next level. As Limeade, an immersive employee well-being company, noted, “While it’s not always easy to receive negative feedback, you can’t expect to improve without it. By regularly soliciting your employees’ feedback, being honest about the good and the bad, and taking proactive steps to enact the best ideas, you’ll go a long way toward strengthening your company and improving engagement. That’s the ticket to a spectacularly happy and productive workforce.” And already armed with many positive characteristics, Stratis is well on their way!