If asked to define your organization’s culture, could you do it? Do you have rules that define it? If so, how have they developed and changed over time? The culture, and the perception of it by both employees and the public, are vital to the success of a company. But where do you start if you don’t have answers to those questions? Examining company culture takes time. But it’s time well invested. Before you can improve your community, you need to understand it. And there are multiple ways of gathering that data. Read on to see four methods to help you dig in. .
Be an outsider
You can gather a lot of information about a company just by scanning their publicly available information. Start with the website. See if it’s well designed, friendly, and open about what the company does and for whom. Do they have short biographies of employees? If so, are they professional, yet friendly? Move on from the website and look for annual reports, news articles, and press releases. Even reviews from Yelp or the Better Business Bureau. All of these public faces are clues to internal culture.
Do you want to work there?
Imagine you’re interviewing for a job at your company. While walking through the building, you pay attention to the employees and their interactions. You notice their dress code, and whether or not they seem to have fun while working. Body language of managers while they address subordinates. Overall environment, such as lighting and layout. Everything you see and hear is a piece of the company culture. What would you see and hear at your company?
Be an insider
Of course, you’re already an insider. But think of a different position. If you’re on the maintenance staff, a receptionist, or a C-level executive. How are you seen and treated in each situation? Think about whether everyone in the organization is given a voice and a vote in their area, and in the overall direction of the company. Where are opinions and ideas shared? How are they received? How is company information, like struggles and successes, shared with employees?
Hiring and retiring
When you hire new people for the organization, are you looking at ways in which they’ll contribute to your community? Make sure they are filling in missing spaces that complete the organization. Also look at how employees leave. Pay attention to how many of them stick around for more than a few years. Find out why they leave, and whether some cultural changes would compel them to stay.
We’re posing a lot of questions, and rightly so. If you’re going to hold an honest critique of your company’s community and culture, you need to be thorough, pointed, and carry it through with the tenacity of an investigative journalist. Glossing over mistakes or exaggerating the high points won’t give you accurate data.
Culture is different in every business. Some are tight knit, others loosely organized, and still others have the atmosphere of a public library. In the end, it’s up to your company to decide the culture that best serves its employees and customers. Just remember that there is always room for more listening, learning, and improving.