Six Fundamentals for Nurturing and Creating Corporate Culture

By Mitch Wienick, President

As an executive leader, focusing your time and energy on creating an attractive and engaging corporate culture for your employees is essential these days.  Generally, a vibrant corporate culture attracts the best talent and helps retain your current employees.

A carefully crafted and strategic corporate culture encourages values-based decision making characterized by cooperation, collaboration, communication, resilience and inspiration.

When starting down the path of developing a corporate culture, you want to start with some basic questions that help to shape and drive the right beliefs and behaviors for your organization:

1. What Are Your Company Values?

Are you looking for integrity and honesty?  Professionalism and respect?  These values, and many more, can shape a corporate culture that is reflected in your employees’ relationships with key stakeholders.

Companies like Google publish their company values.  Once the list of company values is defined, they should be endorsed and reinforced from the top and become the dominant drivers of your company culture.  And, of course, leadership team choices are critical to the establishment and perpetuation of corporate culture.

2. Behavior Is Borne Out Of Cultural Norms

Ask these questions about the behavioral aspects of your company:

  • Do you take the time to train and mentor others?
  • Do you provide direct feedback about performance?
  • Do you collectively celebrate success?
  • Do you organize to win in the marketplace?

Generally, the more time you take to create a “kindred spirits” type of corporate culture, the more your employees embrace a sense of purpose at work.  Provide constructive feedback, model desirable behavior and, by all means, organize and celebrate together.

3. What Drives Your Decision-Making Process?

Company culture is often defined by decision-making processes.  Does every decision, big or small, fall at the feet of one individual, or is it a collective effort driven by mutual consensus?  Does your company usually arrive at decisions based on fact and analysis or through intuition alone?  The method and speed by which decisions are made, and the degree to which views and positions are aired, have a profound influence on the level of employee engagement and satisfaction.

4. Internal Narratives, Stories and Heroes

There is immense power in a good narrative.  What is your company’s unique story?  Who are the heroes of your organization? Repeating brings the history of the organization and its unique origins to life.  In those details, you identify your core values and shape and influence behavior.

These are the stories that reinforce and support the culture as you transmit them to individuals and clients as they enter your company and become the future leaders and advocates of your company.

5. Plan For Your Physical Environment

Some companies prefer wide-open atrium-like spaces that encourage employees to interact informally. Other companies boast bullpens, clusters and fishbowls.  The type of physical environment best for your company is going to be based on the level of collaboration and cohesion in the ideation decision-making model you have adopted.

Aesthetic design of your office also matters when creating a company culture.  Do you want to keep it a little whimsical?  Industrial modern?  Is classic and conservative more suitable for your clients?

The point here is, don’t take it for granted, but consider it an important element in shaping your company’s strategy.

6. Your Reward System: Dangling The Carrot

Reward systems should motivate your employees to really stretch for your company.  When they achieve challenging goals instead of settling for average performance, your employees are demonstrating real commitment to your company.

Carefully defining how employees get paid through base salary, bonus and equity compensation undoubtedly influences your culture.  Also consider non-monetary rewards and recognition to keep the magic alive in your company culture, such as some sort of life enrichment program (free art classes, yoga instruction, tickets to a ballgame or concert, etc.).  Incentives don’t always have to be monetary to be motivating.

There are many ways to think about and establish your unique company culture.  However, these six fundamentals establish a great base upon which to build.

No matter how you go about creating your corporate culture, it’s essential to remember culture is integral to your company’s identity.  It’s the value proposition your employees, customers and clients experience, so it’s critical to nurture a culture that reflects and radiates your company’s vision.