According to Frances Frei and Anne Morriss at Harvard Business Review, “Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”
There was a point in time when companies dictated the corporate culture, and then there was a phase when employees rebelled against this phenomena called “culture”… eventually becoming a culture in themselves.
When we talk about corporate culture, the following few points stand out to me.
Right Talent, Right Attitude
I know there are companies that used to hire candidates based on talent and skill-set, their attitude wasn’t important criteria. This became an issue when newly hired employees started working in teams or were required to interact with other teams. Not only are they a part of the team where they are expected to work in total harmony, interact and depend on each other to get the task done, they also represent the team while working on cross-team projects. In the recent past with a lot of changes being made to the recruiting and hiring process, companies and organizations have started leaning towards a more interactive team hiring process – they have the candidates come and meet with the team, if need be to work with the team for few hours and to see if they all fit together like a good jigsaw puzzle.
Another thing that companies are slowly catching up on is living up to their Vision statement. Jack Welch used the mantra of “speed, simplicity, and self-confidence” as the beacon for his transformation of GE’s culture in the 1990’s — in stark contrast to the company’s analytical, bureaucratic, and hierarchical culture at the time. This aspirational vision sparked dialogue at every level of the company about what people needed to do to make GE successful — and to be personally successful at GE. (Source: HBR.com)
A Company is not run by a single person
Even though the top management wants you to believe that they run the company single-handedly, it’s far from the truth. If you ever talk to them about how they handle the topic of “corporate culture” you can hear stories of struggle. The management body has changed and evolved over the years and the one thing they agree on is that they cannot force corporate culture within their team, the maximum they can do is influence it in the right direction, set the right example and hope that the others take a cue. The most debated topic in recent years has been work timing; if you take any large organization, and compare any two teams, you can see how different they are when it comes to work timings. Some managers come to work early and leave early – they hold meetings and team outings are at a preferred time. The team adjusts and starts working around this, and before long they become are a well-oiled machine, in other teams the manager comes late and works late, and this will be true for the team too. There is no right and wrong here, it’s a culture they follow and the bottom line is to get the work done.
We also hear a lot about how Managers are hiring people who are smarter and more talented than them, when this is the case, it is a given that decisions are collective and everyone needs to be open-minded, have the ability to listen and at the same time have the courage to voice their opinions.
Meet outside the office
Teem outings, team building activities and morale events are pretty common these days, so much so that employees expect it. This happens to be a great opportunity for employees to interact with each other outside of work and build a network. One of the reasons why employees change teams is because they felt they weren’t very close to their team members and it was easier for them to move out. When employees don’t feel like they belong in the team, their efforts and performance also suffers. Getting together outside the office is probably the best solution a lot of companies have found in order to improve team collaboration, communication and productivity. There is so much more to a person than what he or she brings to the office, and these opportunities are where they can talk and express their lifestyles freely.
Every company has a culture, and while the employers look for people with the right attitude to join them, candidates who are seeking out job changes or a career change are also looking for specific cultures to be a part of. This eventually shapes the industry in general, no matter how much you want to ignore it, it’s the plain fact. Google search for “corporate culture” and close to 35M articles and research papers show up.