A strong company culture goes beyond listing perks and policies. It's about conveying the values, norms, and intangible qualities that define your organization's identity.
So, how do you describe your work culture to promote alignment, trust, respect, and productivity company-wide?
This article covers all you need to know. We also show you how F4S can help you define your culture and improve your team’s performance.
Let’s jump right in.
Put simply, work culture refers to the common values, beliefs, actions, attitudes, and practices that influence your company. It's also known as organizational, corporate, team, or company culture.
Your team culture defines the way employees interact and collaborate with each other, how they approach their work, and how they align with your company's goals. But, with remote and hybrid work the new normal, there’s been significant changes in the concept.
While in-office culture emphasizes face-to-face interactions and immediate feedback, remote culture emphasizes flexibility and technology, and hybrid culture strikes a balance.
Depending on which model your company uses, you have to adapt your practices and values to create a positive work environment where employees thrive.
Work culture is important as it impacts various aspects of your company. Here are 5 reasons why work culture matters:
A positive work culture creates an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and engaged. It’s no wonder employees in positive work environments are 3.8 times more likely to be engaged.1
When employees connect with company values, enjoy their work, and have a good relationship with colleagues, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, leading to higher staff retention and better morale.
Job seekers are pickier about where they work nowadays, they want more than just a paycheck, they want a place that matches their values and offers growth opportunities.
So it’s no surprise that 86% of potential hires wouldn’t work in a company with a negative culture, and 65% of employees would likely leave their company as a result.2
A positive company culture that treats employees well and provides opportunities for meaningful contributions is a strong magnet for attracting and retaining the best talent, unlike a toxic workplace.
Likewise, when employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stay loyal. This results in reduced recruitment expenses and a decreased likelihood of losing institutional knowledge and experience.
For your company to be successful, you need a strong work culture.
Employees are more productive and committed to achieving common goals when they feel connected to the company's mission and values. This motivates them to go above and beyond, resulting in highly engaged teams. When teams are highly engaged, there is less absenteeism and internal theft.3
Corporate cultures that encourage open communication, risk-taking, and idea-sharing are forums for innovation and creativity. Employees are more likely to think outside the box when they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts without fear of judgment.
A positive organizational culture translates into better customer service. When employees feel content and motivated, they provide good customer experiences. Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend the company to others, contributing to increased revenue.4
Work cultures vary widely from one company to another, and fall into different categories based on their predominant characteristics and values.
Here are some common types of work culture:
In a collaborative culture, teamwork is highly emphasized. Employees work together across departments and roles, sharing ideas, knowledge, and resources to achieve common goals. Open communication and cross-functional collaboration are key features.
An innovative culture encourages employees to think creatively and come up with new ideas. Experimentation is valued, and there's a willingness to take calculated risks to achieve breakthroughs. This culture fosters an environment of continuous learning and adaptation.
In a results-oriented culture, the focus is on achieving outcomes rather than adhering to strict processes. Employees are empowered to work autonomously and are evaluated based on their performance and impact.
A customer-centric culture places a strong emphasis on understanding and meeting the needs of customers. Every decision and action is driven by a commitment to delivering value and exceptional experiences to clients or users.
An adaptive culture thrives on flexibility and the ability to respond quickly to changes in the external environment. This culture encourages employees to be open to change and willing to adapt strategies as needed.
An inclusive culture promotes diversity and inclusion, where employees from various backgrounds are valued, and their perspectives are sought. This type of culture fosters an environment where everyone feels respected and included.
A work-life balance culture prioritizes the well-being of employees and encourages them to maintain a healthy equilibrium between their professional and personal lives. Flexible working arrangements and wellness initiatives are common in such cultures.
A hierarchical culture is characterized by clear chains of command and decision-making authority concentrated at the top levels of the organization. Communication follows a top-down approach, and employees have defined roles and responsibilities.
A learning and development culture places a strong emphasis on continuous growth and skill enhancement. Training, mentorship, and opportunities for career advancement are integral components of this culture.
A fun culture values an enjoyable and dynamic workplace. Playful elements, creative spaces, and team-building activities contribute to a positive and creative environment.
Many companies have a blend of these culture types, and their culture evolves over time based on leadership changes, market conditions, and other factors.
Work culture can be difficult to describe, as it encompasses many different elements. It's not just about the tasks people perform but also the relationships they form, the attitudes they have, and the values they share.
Plus, there are often unspoken norms that exist within a workplace, which can be hard to articulate. Nonetheless, it's important to understand work culture, as it has a significant impact on job security, satisfaction, and wellbeing.
There are two types of culture or ways to describe your company culture: the top-down and bottom-up approach. Let’s explore each in detail.
The top-down approach to company culture is one where the management team sets the guiding principles, values, and behaviors of the organization.
Put simply, the leadership team defines the company mission, vision, and core values, and these elements then trickle down to influence the behaviors, policies, and practices of employees, shaping the overall culture of the company.
Here, employees know what is expected of them and how their work aligns with the organization's overall mission. The structure and stability are reassuring to employees and helpful for new hires in understanding the company's values and norms.
When leadership consistently embodies the cultural values they promote, it earns respect and trust from employees, and if there’s any change, the leadership team guides the process to ensure a smooth transition.
But this approach isn’t without drawbacks. The rigid culture often results in a lack of employee ownership, resistance to change, cynicism, disengagement, stifled creativity, and a lack of flexibility.
A bottom-up approach focuses on involving employees at all levels to shape the values, behaviors, and atmosphere of the organization.
Rather than culture being dictated solely by leadership, it is co-created through the active participation of all employees. It emphasizes the input, perspectives, and ideas of employees to create an inclusive culture and collaborative environment.
When employees have a say in shaping the culture, they feel a sense of ownership and commitment. They become more invested in the success of the organization. Plus, when their voices are heard and ideas respected, they feel a stronger connection to the organization and its goals.
While a bottom-up approach has benefits, there are potential drawbacks.
Without strong leadership, there can be a lack of consistency and coherence in the cultural values and behaviors across different teams or departments. And, involving multiple voices in the decision-making can create complexity and slow down the process.
Other cons include resistance to change from leadership and employees, the risk of different teams or departments developing their own subcultures that don't align with the overall organizational culture, and a lack of strategic focus.
Whether to describe your workplace culture as top-down or bottom-up depends on your organization's goals, values, size, industry, and the preferences of your leadership team and employees.
Each approach has its advantages and drawbacks and the right choice will depend on your context.
Follow these steps to create a comprehensive and authentic portrayal of your organization's work culture:
Identify the core values that drive your organization. These are the guiding principles that inform decision-making and behavior. For example, if one of your core values is ‘innovation’, explain how your organization encourages creative thinking, rewards new ideas, and implements innovative solutions to challenges.
Highlight the intrinsic motivational traits that define your work culture. If ‘collaboration’ is a trait, explain how teams work together on projects, share knowledge, and support each other. If ‘autonomy’ is another trait, elaborate on how employees are empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
Alternatively, you can use technology to describe and promote your company culture. By inviting employees to take the free F4S assessment, you'll gain an evidence-based understanding of each of your employees’ work styles and motivations to provide you with a detailed analysis of what drives behavior at your company around the globe.
The F4S assessment measures motivation levels across 48 distinct traits, so you can benchmark your team against the local culture and other offices.
To take it one step further, F4S can produce a Culture Map for your organization.
This report includes recommendations on bonding even for globally distributed teams with different cultures, highlights areas holding you back and advises which coaching programs will increase team performance.
These insights will help you make data-driven decisions around the hiring process, management, workflows, and team building.
Discuss the specific behaviors and norms that employees should adhere to. For instance, if punctuality is important, explain how showing up for meetings on time demonstrates respect. If there's an open-door policy, explain that employees can approach managers with questions or concerns.
Explain the leadership approach within your organization. If your leadership style is ‘transformational’, clarify how leaders inspire and motivate teams to achieve their full potential. If it's ‘servant leadership’, outline how leaders prioritize the needs of their teams to foster a supportive environment.
Detail the various communication methods and tools used for collaboration. If you rely on virtual communication, discuss the platforms used for video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management.
The integration helps you understand how each meeting attendee likes to communicate, so you can tell the best way to work together. Plus, it lets you adjust your messages based on their communication style. It shows you how they prefer to make decisions during the call, so you can respond in a way that suits them. This helps eliminate communication barriers and promotes teamwork.
You should also communicate the mission, vision, and values to your employees and make it a part of the onboarding process for new hires.
Provide insights into how teams are structured and how they collaborate. If cross-functional teams are common, describe how they bring together diverse skill sets to tackle complex challenges. If your organization encourages team-building activities, explain how these activities strengthen relationships and run a team dynamics workshop.
Explain how your organization supports employees to foster a growth mindset. Detail training programs, workshops, and resources available to enhance skills. Describe how performance reviews are conducted and how they contribute to employees' professional development paths.
Discuss your organization's approach to work-life balance. Explain if flexible work hours, remote work options, or wellness programs are offered to help employees maintain a healthy equilibrium between their professional and personal lives.
Elaborate on your organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion. Describe policies and initiatives that promote equal opportunities regardless of race, gender, or background. Highlight employee resource groups and efforts to create an inclusive environment.
Detail how achievements are recognized and celebrated within your culture. Whether it's through public acknowledgments, awards ceremonies, or team events, explain how your organization fosters a positive atmosphere by recognising and rewarding successes.
Discuss your organization's attitude towards team conflict and setbacks. If there's a culture of learning from failures, provide examples of how lessons learned from past challenges have led to improvements. Emphasize the importance of maintaining a positive outlook even in difficult situations.
Include authentic testimonials or anecdotes from employees. This adds a personal touch and gives potential candidates a more relatable perspective on your work culture. Quotes or stories from current employees can provide insights into what it's like to work in your organization.
Review and update your work culture description periodically to ensure it remains accurate. As your organization evolves, new practices, values, and initiatives might emerge, and it's important that your description stays up-to-date.
Atlassian describes its culture as ‘values in action’.5 That’s because these values guide everyone’s actions in the organization, including its founders and team leads.
Atlassian’s 5 values are:6
Atlassian also offers various employee benefits, including health coverage, paid volunteer days and parental leave, flexible work schedules, a program for children and adults with learning, social or behavioral differences, and fitness classes.7
As a result, Atlassian gained a reputation as one of the best places to work,8 with an employee growth rate of more than 2,400 employees in 2022 alone.9
242 of its employees rate working at the company highly on Comparably, which puts Atlassian’s culture in the top 5% compared to similar-sized companies on Comparably and in the top 25% compared to other companies in San Francisco.10
And they have a loyal customer base of more than 200,000 organizations around the world.11
Atlassian uses people analytics tools such as Fingerprint for Success (F4S) to measure and improve its company culture. F4S helps Atlassian identify each team member’s strengths and growth opportunities and spot areas where the company can improve to foster a positive work culture.
Canva promotes a flexible, rewarding company culture that empowers employees to balance their work responsibilities with their personal lives.
Here are some ways Canva does this:
As a result, Canva was named #1 Best Workplace for Innovators by Fast Company in 2023,15 and it attracts more than 300,000 job applications in a year.16
Canva uses F4S as the core of its people strategy through executive coaching, and including recruitment, people development, and team dynamics. The team uses F4S to run its internal coaching program.
This has helped the company eliminate the need for a long repertoire of other online coaching tools. It has also enabled the team to gain an accurate understanding of each team members’ motivations as well as what drains their energy at work.
Communicate your work culture in simple and direct words.
Instead of saying:
‘We are a dynamic, innovative, and customer-centric organization that strives to deliver excellence in everything we do.’
‘We are always looking for new ways to solve problems and delight our customers. We care about quality and results.’
Demonstrate how your work culture description supports your vision and goals.
Instead of saying:
‘We are a leading provider of cloud-based solutions for businesses of all sizes.’
‘We believe in the power of cloud computing to transform the way businesses operate and grow. Our mission is to help our customers achieve their full potential with our innovative and reliable cloud solutions.’
Use your work culture description to showcase what makes your organization stand out from the competition.
Instead of saying:
‘We offer competitive compensation, flexible work arrangements, and professional development opportunities.’
‘We reward our employees with generous pay, bonuses, and stock options. We support our employees with flexible work hours, remote work options, and unlimited vacation days. We invest in our employees with continuous learning, coaching, and mentoring programs.’
Your work culture description should appeal to the motivations of your ideal candidates.
Instead of saying:
‘We are looking for talented, motivated, and passionate individuals who share our vision and values.’
‘If you are looking for a challenging, rewarding, and fun place to work, you will love working with us. You will have the opportunity to work on exciting projects with smart and friendly people who care about your success. You will have the autonomy to make decisions and take risks that make a positive impact on our customers and our company.’
Build an authentic company culture from the ground up using F4S. Invite everyone to take the free F4S assessment to learn about the workstyles, motivations, and blind spots of your team, so you can improve the employee experience.
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