This article was revised and updated on June 23, 2020.
There seems to be a lot of talk about company culture these days. Several builders I've spoken with are trying to define or improve their firm's culture.
With all of the culture talk, I decided to do my usual exhaustive research (sending out a plea for help to people smarter than me) and see what I could find. Here's what I uncovered.
- Great Company Culture Is a Talent Magnet
- 10 Ways to a Customer-Centric Culture
- Leading the Way to Better Customer Service
What Is Company Culture?
Culture is more than just a word; it embodies several ideas:
- Culture refers to the perspectives, practices and products of a social or professional group.
- Culture is the personality of an organization, comprised of the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and values of a company.
- Culture is a group's particular ideas about authority, hierarchy, and communication styles.
- Culture is shared values across an organization, along with consistent business-related (and to some degree social) ways of behaving that express those shared values.
- Culture is the collective conduct of an organization "when outsiders are not watching."
At San Diego-based Newland Real Estate Group, culture translates into caring about quality-of-life issues for its customers and team members. Tim Durie, SVP of organizational development at Newland, explains: "Our customers told us health is more than physical—it also relates to their sense of mental and emotional well-being; spiritual and financial health; and freedom from stress." Those sentiments became a cornerstone by which Newland operates its business internally and externally.
Where Does Company Culture Start?
"Without a doubt, it starts with the observable values and behaviors of an organization's leaders," says Jay Mason, former COO at Texas-based Antares Homes. "HR 'architecture' is a secondary but also critical piece of shaping a culture; a company's systems, policies, practices, and 'rules of engagement' become the field of play within which a culture grows and thrives—or not."
Gary Williamson, managing partner at PSP Metrics, in Pittsburgh, describes it this way: "I think of culture as the unspoken rules of a company; a simple way for everyone to understand those rules is by playing Fill in the Blank."
- The way our company shows how much quality matters is to ___________.
- The way we show respect for each other at our company is to ____________.
- The way we make decisions at our company is to __________________.
- We show our compassion for the community by ___________________.
Attributes of a Positive Company Culture
Whether you call it shared values, attributes, or characteristics, these are some of the more common descriptions of positive culture in a business. How many reflect the flavor of your organization?
Mason says it's "being honest and personally concerned with the experience and well-being of customers, trade partners, and coworkers." Break that statement down and you realize how rarely it applies to most businesses.
Observations About Company Culture
The behavior of your organization today becomes the culture others describe tomorrow. It's not retroactive; you can't go back and change it. It starts with you. As Williamson notes, culture always manifests itself in observable behavior that is repeated over and over again throughout a company, top to bottom."
Rodney Hall is a senior partner with Rodney Hall Executive Search, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, a leading executive search firm specializing in the real-estate development and home building industries.