“As part of my role in leading people strategies for Wasson Enterprise, I also work closely with our portfolio companies or “partner companies.” I am often asked about building company culture, maintaining or improving culture, or articulating a culture that has already been established. Based upon my range of experience in HR leadership roles in multinational corporations to building startups from the ground up, I have found one unwavering consistency when it comes to culture: If you don’t define your culture, it will define you.
To say it a different way, companies of all stages, sizes and tenures must be willing to put both effort and time into defining, measuring and living their company culture. If you don’t take the time to write down and communicate the company vision, employees will inevitably create their own and each team’s version will vary. If employees of a mature company don’t know and live the core values or principles of the organization, the teams will naturally begin to form their own as well. Employees will see what is being rewarded, valued and recognized and begin to act accordingly. This is risky and inadvertently can create an ‘every man for himself’ or ‘win at all costs’ culture.
We usually begin our culture conversations with partners with ‘how’ they want to build, change or advance their culture. I think it’s important to avoid using the word ‘maintain’ because I do not believe you simply maintain a culture that is effective in the long-term. Companies and their employees are continuously developing and the environment in which they operate constantly changes as well. When a culture is lived, it can either get better and support the company vision or hinder progress.
That said, the ‘how’ can often be quite simple: talk about it, every – single – day. With partners that are in the beginning stages of defining their culture, these conversations are typically centered around core values creation. With cultures that are already well developed and documented, the ‘how’ must be included into your everyday decision making and actions. In both circumstances, the ‘how’ must be built into your people strategies and your team’s normal activities. This begins as early as the hiring process, where interviewers can determine if applicants values coincide with the organizations. From there, the company core values can be built into the fabric of everyday life at the company. Making operating decisions, discussing advancement opportunities and providing feedback to team members are all opportunities for referencing the company’s values. In my experience in working with a wide range of companies, the organizations that spend the time to define mission, vision and values and then build mechanisms to live those values on a regular basis will far outperform others and thrive in challenging situations.
In summary, a unique company culture must be established and driven from the top of the organization, but cannot be scaled and lived only in the C-suite. Leaders within an organization must create mechanisms and an environment that empowers leaders and employees at all levels to live the organization’s culture. Building a great culture is also a job that is never finished – it’s a journey that must evolve as the business and climate does, but is well worth the work!”
– Josh Salyer, VP of People Operations