As the world is changing and becoming more competitive, companies must strive to be innovative and remain adaptable to those changes. To achieve this, it’s necessary to have a strong team that works under a unified mission. But where does this mission come from? Why should people follow it? Is it perhaps the sense of being part of something bigger than their job at the company? In my opinion, a mission is not just a declaration of a desire or a market goal. The mission is our north, the light that will guide us, and to achieve it, we need a strong company culture.

What does culture mean?

There are theories that compare companies and organizations with live organisms. Following this line of thought, we can define culture as the personality of the company: how the company speaks, how the company moves, and how the company thinks.

In my opinion, we can perceive the company culture through its staff behaviors, policies, values, and processes. Through these, organizations speak and show how they really are. It’s not a speech from the directory, it’s not a paper on a wall, it’s not a manifesto. It’s something more abstract. It’s principles we share, a sense of belonging.

“Your business strategy might be perfect, but without the right culture, you’re dead”.

Can culture be shaped?

There are many ways to answer this question. But if I had to choose one way, I would say yes, it can be shaped. Let me explain my reasons.

We can create a culture based on our own beliefs, principles, ideology, and values and then try to spread it across the organization, and in that way, we will be shaping a culture we desire and we imagine is the best for us. But what happens when those beliefs and values aren’t shared with the rest of the people in your company?

Although you can work at creating your culture, the results won’t be effective if nobody else on your team agrees and feels represented by it. As teams grow and more people join them, the bigger your efforts to shape the culture will be, because it will be influenced by new members.

Here, the hiring process has a crucial role. We must hire those who match with our company culture and not others, even when they are technically perfect. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice short term results in order to protect the culture.

As I affirmed in the lines above, we can shape the culture, but now the question is: can we do it alone? For sure, no. We need people who trust in the culture we are building, who share the values and feel represented. There are factors that are extremely necessary, and these are:

  • Transparency: We must be clear, honest, show what we do and why we do it. We will never establish a culture based on honesty and trust if we´re not transparent.
  • Communications: Establish channels of communications and strive to create an environment where people can express themselves, talk about their concerns, share their ideas. Listen, listen to what your team has to say.
  • Realization: Culture will become stronger if people find in the culture a ¨place¨ to satisfy their personal needs. A place where they can reach their goals and develop their own careers and where their work is recognized as a fundamental part of the company’s vision.

The Benefits

So far, I’ve been talking about what culture is, and how we can create it. Now, it’s time to mention some of the benefits of having a strong culture.

  • Brand: “Culture and brand are just two sides of the same coin.” – Zappos founder Tony Hsieh– How your company culture is, will be reflected in how your collaborators work, the decisions they make. How you take care of your employees is how they will care about your customers and they will impact your brand.
  • Identity: Each organization could be recognized by the product or service it offers, but what really makes an organization unique is its culture. There won’t be another company equal to yours.
  • Boosts employee performance: The stronger your culture is, the more engaged your employees will be.
  • Better decision-making: A strong culture includes a well-defined mission, as well as values, that will guide you in the decision-making process. When there is a doubt or question, the answer can be found in the culture.
    Increased collaborator’s motivation: As I said, in a shared and strong culture, your team members will find their purpose or fulfill their own professional goals, and these factors are crucial for motivation.
  • People retention: Employees who feel represented by the company culture are more likely to stay at your side, even when things go wrong. This is because they are part of something bigger, something that goes beyond a simple job.

“Culture and brand are just two sides of the same coin.”

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh

In my opinion, culture is a crucial asset in every organization. No organization will thrive in this era if it doesn’t have a strong culture that includes a shared mission, a vision, and values that guide us. Your business strategy might be perfect, but without the right culture, you’re dead.
There is no secret formula for creating a great company culture, but you can start by encouraging people to treat others how they’d want to be treated.

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did writing it. I would like to thank Andrés Moschini for all the conversations we had over this topic, which were a source of inspiration for this post, although many times we disagreed with each other.