How Do You Define a Company Culture?

A company culture exists whether you choose to define it or not, but taking the steps to narrow down your core principles is essential.

Future of Work

A company culture exists whether you choose to define it or not.

That’s why it’s important to take the steps to put it onto paper, to narrow down exactly the kinds of behaviour you want to encourage, what’s enabling or blocking people in the process and what your desired outcomes are.

It can be a frustrating and time consuming process to talk about these kinds of things. It can be seen as fluffy, and a waste of time, especially when you are chasing targets, prioritising investor relations and focusing on streamlining operations.

But this kind of work is very important, because it defines the kind of people you want to be working for you, and the kinds of people you want to work with.

Employees will experience the company culture whether it’s put down on paper officially or not, but some might be confused about how to behave if there isn’t a clear set of principles that guide interaction. It’s not about having a piece of paper that hangs on a wall and means nothing either, the principles of a company should define the way you do everything, from communicating with each other internally to the way you deal with tough situations.

In a remote team that has grown organically in different places around the world, it can be even more challenging to define a company culture, as it’s constantly shifting, and influenced by people who interact virtually and not face-to-face.

A virtual company culture is still a culture though, it just plays out differently, and means that disagreements happen over instant message and Skype instead of in person. In a remote working culture it’s also easier to hide your feelings if you aren’t naturally assertive.

We knew this process was important so in putting together a handbook for our growing remote team, especially important for HR onboarding and refining our sales collateral, we followed these series of steps to define our company culture:

  1. Find a tool to help you map the process
  2. Make the time to talk
  3. Summarise and get agreement/approval

The tool:

After some research online we came across this Culture Map by Strategyzer, which gives you a framework to start mapping what your company culture looks like to you. Working with the executive team and HR, we tasked our C-suite to fill in the blanks, to get an idea of what behaviours and outcomes were important to each of them individually.

The conversations:

We adjusted the Culture Map template slightly to suit us, but this formed the foundation of our approach. After looking for key themes and summarising all of their input we then broke down these points into key themes, which we then discussed in three consecutive meetings for 15-30 minutes.

The outcome:

We recorded all of these conversations, then transcribed them, and then once again broke them down into four core principles:

  1. Be Authentic
  2. Be Assertive
  3. Be Disciplined
  4. Be Responsible

The next step? To share this with the team, and turn this into something tangible that everyone can use.

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