by Yvonne Nhuta on 23/07/12 at 9:19 am
In any company structure, individuals with unique viewpoints, values and standards are required to work together in one environment. Employees come from various backgrounds, ethnicities and classes that influence the manner in which they choose to approach their work and their workmates. A common misconception held by company leaders is that their stated values and missions equate to corporate culture. However, corporate culture is, in its essence, the shared mind-sets, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of all the employees. When this does not happen within the company structure, mission statements and stated values can just become mere words on a plaque.
What is culture?
Culture is observed when different groups of people come together to carry out an intended purpose. The existence of a shared purpose is inextricably linked to the creation of a culture. Some expressions of corporate culture are more easily observable than others. For example, dress codes, working environments, working hours and the hierarchy in a company are all parts of corporate culture that are easy to spot. The challenging part is creating a strong, cohesive culture that represents each member of a company.
Fostering corporate culture
Creating a corporate culture may be difficult, but it is not impossible. To begin with, a company needs to take into consideration how well a potential employee will fit into the organisation. Considering this will help lessen the chances of conflict in the work environment. A corporate culture is something that should be built on a foundation of trust. Being open and honest with employees, especially in difficult situations, helps establish transparency in the workplace. All feelings of unhappiness or frustration over certain working conditions for example, can be ironed out because employees are encouraged to express themselves freely. Company superiors can find out what their employees are thinking through avenues like surveys, questionnaires, focus group and even just a chat over morning coffee.
Drafting a mission statement
Another aspect of creating a corporate culture involves establishing core values as a team. These values set the tone in every internal and external interaction that the company has. Creating a mission statement need not be overly complicated, but it should guarantee that employees are held accountable to it. The process of creating a mission statement involves collaboration through getting employees and supervisors to work together outside of a normally strict hierarchy. By encouraging employees to help establish core values, company superiors share responsibility and show that they value employee opinions. It is also important that employees understand the overall goals and outcomes they are working towards as they come to a consensus and make decisions together.
Striking a balance
Something that companies may also fail to consider is the importance of a comfortable working environment, which will affect the way employees approach their work. For example, colourful furniture allows for creativity to be cultivated even when employees are not necessarily sitting at their desks. Linked to this is team building. Stronger working relationships can be made away from the work itself. Establishing a sociable culture during and after work can encourage employees to get to know each other on a personal level. Having chocolate Fridays or after work drinks will also encourage the importance of balancing work and personal life.
Company leaders should also ensure that they do not dwell on weaknesses of employees. They should rather encourage them to focus on and build on their strengths. Superiors should also be ready and willing to give recognition where recognition is due. Through being completely genuine in congratulating and celebrating company success, superiors can ensure a higher likelihood of happy and satisfied employees who are able to work together successfully regardless of their differences.
Yvonne Nhuta is part of the academic department at GetSmarter, an online education company. GetSmarter works together with University of Cape Town to present short courses in small business management, project management, internet marketing, financial management and more. View more articles by Yvonne Nhuta.