It’s tough to define culture in business. If I had to boil it down to one thing I would say: Culture is established by the attitude and behaviour of the leadership of a business.
You could say; change the leadership and you change the culture. I believe this is true, but unless you have a set direction guided by a strong leader, you could be swopping out one bad egg for another.
Company culture isn’t just one thing. Yes, it’s guided by the leader of the organization but it is so much more. It is the character of your company. It’s the collective personality that the customer sees. It’s the vibe. It represents the environment in which you work. It’s the backdrop of your business. Company culture can be created using a variety of elements such as a company mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goals. These are nothing if you don’t have the right people, space and atmosphere. It’s the empowerment of you and your colleagues to do what needs to be done. It’s your buy-in and fit to the company spirit. It’s your daily interactions and sincere passion about what you do.
Amazing culture promotes collaborations and rewards successful initiatives. Amazing culture listens and respects different opinions. Strong cultures celebrate their history and have a strong relationship with their customers. In a letter to his entire team in October 2013, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky defined culture as; ‘Simply a shared way of doing something with passion’. Author of Organisational Culture and Leadership, Edgar Schein, states 3 ways to understand culture:
Firstly, Artefacts; the visible things like what people wear to work or every desk is a tidy desk; Secondly, Beliefs and values; which are more invisible, like respecting opinions and decisions; and thirdly, Basic underlying assumptions; which are usually oblivious, like a belief that you should hire people like yourself or a principle that no product or service should be given without review.
While the day to day running of the business will bring you all sort of issues and problems such as financial strains and product pressure points, they will all pass. What will always be evident is the culture. And a strong culture will solve any problem and unravel any issue with more ease and faster than an uncultivated culture. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, is a famous phrase coined by management guru Peter Drucker and made famous by Mark Fields, President at Ford. I believe both are important and that there is a direct relationship between a healthy culture and a company’s strategy which, in turn, affects profits. That said, culture is a tough thing to balance. It’s a moving target that has different values for different people. It’s something that grows and evolves over years.
To understand your culture, you need to evaluate your current organisational culture. This can be done by electing a Company Culture Officer (CCO) whose task it is to oversee and implement a culture strategy. They need to look at the people. Interview the employees. Look at the space. Are the offices well located and divided? Look at the tools, phones, computers, wall displays and TV screens. Look at the canteens, washrooms, parking and common areas. How do people use these spaces? Are they welcoming? Look at communication. How do you communicate with your colleagues? Is there a positive atmosphere in the business? What interactions do employees have inside and outside the business? Then look at the company from the top down. Does the management team or the CEO embrace transparency? Are employees appreciated and rewarded for valuable contributions to the company? Is there a social club or a team events manager to nurture strong relationships between colleagues? Is there empowerment on the front line and is this supported? Is there flexibility? Does the company communicate the values, goals and purpose? Are they understood and delivered with passion? It’s important to display and communicate core values to all members of the team. When a new employee starts at The City Bin Co. they attend an induction workshop with the CEO of the company to introduce them to the company’s history, values, customer expectations, mission and purpose. This is the beginning of creating a high-level trust between the leadership and all members of the team. It demonstrates open communication.
As a main driver in The City Bin Co., culture-learning ranks high with opportunities for career development, mentoring and training provided through programmes such as ‘Earn as you learn’ and ‘Garbage University’. There is no ‘one fits all’ solution for creating culture but there are a few basics that can be achieved from the get-go, one step at a time:
• Create an environment of trust
• Respect all employees and customers
• Communicate your core values and principals to all
• Empower employees by allowing them to make decisions
• Embrace failure. Make an acceptance for mistakes and risk-taking
• Encourage creativity, innovation and the development of ideas
• Collect feedback and suggestions
• Create a learning environment where the team can grow together
• Measure success by the mood of the camp and not just the sales, KPIs or a P&L sheet
Taken from The ‘Binman’s Guide to Amazing Customer Service’ by Oisin Browne, which can be ordered on Amazon Kindle today. It is stocked in Charlie Byrne’s in Galway, Hana’s Bookshop in Dublin, and O’Mahony’s bookshop in Limerick.